By John O’Sullivan
Very few people today understand that environmentalism was a core feature in Adolf Hitler’s tyrannical NAZI plan. A truly eye-opening new book, ‘The Green Swastika: Environmentalism in the Third Reich‘ (William Kay) chronicles the early years of the German environmentalist movement under Hitler and draws on the findings of around two dozen well-established historians.
Author, William Kay, adroitly presents five short chapters detailing the ecological views and efforts of leading Nazi personalities that allows readers to make their own comparisons with the fanatical activism of today’s ‘green warriors.’
The Kindle version of ‘The Green Swastika: Environmentalism in the Third Reich’ is now available to buy on Amazon for a mere $5.99. This book would make a terrific gift this holiday season for anyone who loves history and is concerned about extremist thought pervading modern environmentalism.
Below we feature a sample chapter which focuses on Adolf Hitler:
After 40 years in the customs service, Alois Hitler sank his savings into a piece of the German dream. In 1895 Alois moved his family including young Adolf, then just past his sixth birthday, into a 4 hectare farm outside the Austrian market town of Limbach. Dream turned nightmare. Like many small farms, Alois’ could not turn a profit, its value falling below what Alois had paid. Stress took a toll. Alois suffered a fatal heart attack in 1903, age 64. His departure did not improve the farm’s viability. Adolf celebrated his 19th birthday in a homeless shelter.
Anti-Semitism was neither Hitler’s foundation nor principal intent. His driving passions were anti-Marxism; Social Darwinism; and most fundamentally, anti-liberalism. Jews were scapegoats. The real enemy was free-market capitalism. There were plenty of German capitalists and German liberals, but rather than confront these people head-on, Hitler racialized his anti-liberalism. The epicentre of his animosity was modern civilization. He attacked modernity through the Jews. Hitler’s Judeo-Bolshevik myth is well-acknowledged, but his Judeo-liberal myth is avoided.
Hitler despised globalization for forcing farmers to become urban workers. Corporations crushed traditional property forms in their drive to globalize Germany’s economy. Globalization made commerce:
“…the ruling mistress of the state and money the false Mammon for whom incense was being burned.”
Hitler faulted even Kaiser Wilhelm II for sanctioning the:
“…rule of money (and) by bringing the nobility under the influence of the new finance capitalism.”
Hitler was not an original thinker. The arguments, symbols, gestures, uniforms, and rituals that define Nazism appeared within German fascism years before Hitler assumed leadership of the movement. Pathologically xenophobic authoritarian credos abounded in early 20th century Germany. A prize-winning essay in 1900 recommended forced sterilization of weaklings. The top-selling If I Were Kaiser (1913) made the case for shooting striking workers and restricting the vote to the rich. Politicians routinely exploited socio-biological jargon to justify domestic repression and imperial conquest. Hitler’s trademark agro-utopian “Blood and Soil” doctrine (which claimed peasants inherited good traits from healthy rural environments) circulated widely before Hitler was born.
Mein Kampf (1925) rehashes the 1903 Russian forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Hitler appropriated, verbatim, Alfred Rosenberg’s theories of an omnipresent Jewish conspiracy. Hitler also appropriated much from Guido von List, the neo-paganist prophet of Aryan Wisdom. (Himmler’s stylized “SS” also came from List.) A homeless shelter roommate recalled young Adolf staying up all night sketching pagan sacrifice scenes.
Hitler recited Counter-Enlightenment clichés negating reason and progress – preferring intuition and nostalgia. He transported this dogma from salon to beer hall. Hackneyed critiques of liberalism and democracy became venomous condemnations of the Weimar Republic.
As did his forbearers, Hitler saw Marxism as the culmination of the Enlightenment. He saw liberalism and Marxism as differing only by degrees and in personalities. He too dutifully placed aristocratic principle over democratic right. Democracy facilitated Marxism. According to Hitler:
“The Jewish doctrine of Marxism denies the aristocratic principle of Nature and sets mass and dead weight of numbers in place of the eternal privilege of strength and power.”
Hitler publicly spouted biblical rhetoric, but privately bashed Christianity. The Nazi Party line downplayed Darwinism, but privately Hitler embraced it.
Hitler saw Darwinism entirely through the distorting lens of pseudo-scientist Ernst Haeckel, the founder of Ecology. Hitler invoked Darwin but quoted Haeckel. For political reasons Hitler rarely referenced Haeckel, although he obviously read Boelsche’s biography of Haeckel and the writings of Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen – a devout Haeckelian. Hitler accused Boelsche of diluting Haeckel’s Ecology to make it palatable to urbanites. Hitler embraced Darwinism at a time when Haeckel’s writings enjoyed their peak popularity. Being a voracious reader, Hitler must have read classics like Riddle.
Hitler expressed himself with Haeckel’s words. Here are two examples:
Haeckel: “Among the Spartans all newly born children were subject to a careful examination and selection. All those that were weak, sickly, or affected with any bodily infirmity were killed. Only the perfectly healthy and strong among the children were allowed to live and they alone afterwards propagated the race.”
Hitler: “Sparta must be regarded as the first Volkish state. The exposure of the sick, weak, deformed children, in short their destruction, was more decent and in truth a thousand times more humane than the wretched insanity of our day that preserves the most pathological subject.”
Haeckel: “Mental differences between the lower men and the animals are less than those between the lowest and the highest man.”
Hitler: “Differences which exist between the lowest so-called men and the highest races is greater than that between the lowest men and highest apes.”
Both Haeckel and Hitler defined science as the unwrapping of Nature’s laws. Both sacralized Nature. Neither acknowledged a gap between organic and inorganic realms. Both elevated evolution to a religion. Both bemoaned Man’s violation of Natural Law and considered Christianity to be the chief culprit.
Haeckel and Hitler both saw Europe’s descent as the counterweight to papal ascent. Both contended Jesus was the illegitimate son of a Roman soldier. Hitler believed the Church’s preaching against Natural Law destroyed Imperial Rome and threatened Germany. The Church’s imposition of inconsistent dogmas constituted the worst repression. Christianity, “the invention of sick brains,” made a mockery of the noble idea of the God-head.
Both men condemned Christians for opposing the teaching of evolution, which both men deemed to be the hallmark of science. The Fuhrer, like Haeckel, argued Christianity’s replacement should be pantheism:
“Man has discovered in nature the wonderful notion of that all-mighty being whose law he worships. Fundamentally in everyone there is the feeling for this all-mighty, which we call god (that is to say, the dominion of natural laws throughout the whole universe).”
Hitler was a militant vegetarian and resolute enemy of cruelty to animals. He detested hunting. He signed one animal protection law after another. No surprise then, that Hitler’s favourite philosopher would be Arthur Schopenhauer.
Schopenhauer defended “animal rights” in diatribes laden with anti-Semitic and anti-Christian sentiment. He believed the mistreatment of animals to be Christianity’s greatest defect and that the Jewish perspective on Nature needed to be expunged from Europe. Schopenhauer claimed:
“The morality of Christianity has no consideration for animals.”
“We owe the animal not mercy but justice, and the debt often remains unpaid in Europe, the continent that is permeated with Jewish odor.”
“In Europe a sense of the rights of animals is gradually awakening, in proportion to the slow dying and disappearing of the strange notions that the animal world came into existence simply for the benefit and pleasure of man.”
“A man must be bereft of all his senses or completely chloroformed by the odor of the Jews not to see that, in all essential respects, the animal is absolutely identical with us and that the difference lies merely in the accident, the intellect, not in the substance which is the will.”
Hitler’s ecological orientation is further evidenced by his choice of Rudolf Hess as his trusted deputy. Hess joined the Nazi Party in 1920. He held membership card number 16. Hess co-wrote Mein Kampf. For 21 years Hess was Hitler’s aide-de-camp. Between 1933 and 1941 every Third Reich law and decree first passed over Hess’s desk.
Hess ate a strict organic vegetable diet. Even Hitler’s rigorous vegetarian standards were not good enough for Hess. He accepted only homeopathic medicine. He fervently believed in Naturism and Anthroposophy. His staff included several leading ecologists whom he directed to draft reports on the need for ecologically sound land usage. Hess preached that soil was the foundation of the nation.
Hitler’s devotion to wilderness-preservation and Nature-worship is beyond dispute. Mein Kampf exalts Nature. Hitler disappeared into the Alps whenever possible.
Here is the Fuhrer on Nature:
“Man’s role is to overcome Nature! Millions thoughtlessly parrot this Jewish nonsense and end up by really imagining that they themselves represent a kind of conqueror of Nature.”
“Assuredly, however, by far the harder fate is that which strikes the man who thinks he can overcome Nature, but in the last analysis only mocks her. Distress, misfortune, and disease are her answer.”
“When people attempt to rebel against the iron logic of Nature, they come into conflict with the very same principles to which they owe their existence as human beings. Their actions against Nature must lead to their own downfall.”
“Man should never fall into misconception that he has really risen to be lord and master of Nature… rather he must understand the fundamental necessity of the rule of Nature and comprehend how even his own existence is subordinated to these laws of eternal struggle.”
Here is the Fuhrer on conservation:
“We shall therefore let the marshlands continue to exist, not only because they will be useful to us as fields for manoeuvres, but also in order to respect the local climatological conditions, and to prevent the desert from gradually encroaching on the fertile regions.”
“So when a people begin to cut down their trees without making provision for reafforestation – and thus rob nature’s wise irrigation system of its most essential prerequisite – you may be sure that it is a sign of the beginning of their cultural degeneration.”
“As far as possible, one must avoid ruining landscapes with networks of high tension wires, telpher railways and machines of that sort.”
“It is imperative to preserve German landscape, for it is, and always was the ultimate foundation of the power and the strength of the German people.”
“…if by help of the Marxist faith the Jew conquers the peoples of the world, his crown will be the burial wreath of mankind and our planet will again move uninhabited through the ether, as it did millions of years ago.”
Hitler thought Germany’s “overflowing population” aggravated class conflict. Mein Kampf is riddled with Malthusian arithmetic. Hitler saw too many Germans eking out a living in too small a Lebensraum. This perception did not change after he acquired power. In 1942 he contended:
“Our country today is overpopulated… once we are in a position to start colonizing in the East, most of our difficulties will disappear.”
His obsession with Lebensraum reflected a gut hostility to industrialization, urbanization, and organized labour. Overpopulation presented Germans with two options: more industrial urbanization or more Lebensraum. Only Lebensraum could arrest Germany’s decay by restoring its hardy peasant class.
Conquering Russia would give every German man a farm. There was no holier right than to own the “soil which one wants to till oneself” and no holier sacrifice than to shed blood for it.
For our final witness we shall call Professor Timothy Snyder who, for better or worse, has emerged as the West’s resident expert on the Third Reich era. In 35 passages Snyder’s Black Earth (2015) affirms the Hitler-ecology connection. Here are five examples:
“Hitler’s scheme of international relations was derivative of his ecology.”
“An instructive account of the mass murder of the Jews of Europe must be planetary, because Hitler’s thought was ecological, treating Jews as a wound of nature.”
“The Judeobolshevik conception allowed Hitler’s portrait of a planetary ecosystem polluted by Jewish ideas to crystallize as planning. The Judeobolshevik myth seemed to define the point where the application of German force could win an empire and restore the planet.”
“In Hitler’s ecology, the planet was despoiled by the presence of Jews, who defied the laws of nature by introducing corrupting ideas. The solution was to expose Jews to a purified nature, a place where bloody struggle rather than abstract thought mattered.”
“By presenting Jews as an ecological flaw responsible for the disharmony of the planet, Hitler channelled and personalized the inevitable tensions of globalization. The only sound ecology was to eliminate a political enemy; the only sound politics was to purify the earth.”
According to Snyder, Hitler always thought on a planetary scale and discussed current affairs using ecological references. Hitler contended that politics was biology. His favorite word, “Lebensraum,” derived from the French Naturalist’s word for “habitat.”
Snyder also affirms Hitler’s basic Malthusian orientation:
“Nothing can be known about the future, thought Hitler, except the limits of our planet: “the surface area of a precisely measured space.” Ecology was scarcity and existence meant a struggle for land.”
“Even ‘in the best case,’ he (Hitler) insisted, hunger must outstrip crop improvements. There was a ‘limit’ to all scientific improvements. Indeed, all of ‘the scientific methods of land management’ had already been tried and failed. There was no conceivable improvement, now or in the future, that would allow Germans to be fed ‘from their own land and territory.’”
Hitler’s core ideology consisted of:
(a) Profound commitment to Ecology;
(b) Hostility to free-market capitalism;
(c) Belief in an overpopulation crisis;
(d) Disdain for modern agricultural technology;
(e) Deification of Nature; and
(f) An overriding phobia that industrialization was destroying the planetary ecosystem.
Hitler promoted renewable energy, mainly micro hydro-power plants, as alternatives to fossil fuels. He dubbed “water, winds, and tides” the “energy path of the future.” Bio-methane was another promising energy source. The Third Reich’s wind energy department began early in Hitler’s reign and worked to perfect windmill technology until the bitter end.
A modern person espousing Hitler’s worldview would be defined as a “militant environmentalist.”