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Thread: What Did the National Socialists Mean by the Term "Aryan"?

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    Question What Did the National Socialists Mean by the Term "Aryan"?

    My correspondence with a German man on the National Socialist meaning of the term "Aryan".

    Dr. [...], Germany:

    Whatever anybody might mean by the word „Aryan“ today, in the Third Reich it was explicitely and officially defined as describing “the central European type of man”. The document “Ariernachweis” (proof of “Aryan” descendance), which each German had to try to present, contained this explicit definition. Any relation to the linguistic use of the word is likewise explicitely excluded. I have seen such documents and read, that descendance from (or marriage to) people from Poland, France, Italy or Great Britain was allowed and by no means considered a breach of the “Aryan” descendance. Only Jewish and Gipsy (and, besides, Asian, Red Indian, or negroe) descendance was considered “non-Aryan”. There was practically nobody living in these days in Germany of Asian, Red Indian or negroe background, except the diplomatic corps...

    The use of these laws in practice gave however room for some liberal interpretation. Even in the highest ranks of the Third Reich one could point at individuals who clearly had Jewish background, like, allegedly, Heydrich or Milch. Quite a few Germans, who found to their astonishment a Jewish grandfather in old documents, had merely to provide some circumstantial evidence of “extramarital descendance”. Goebbels (not a Jew) looked more Jewish than many of the assimilated Jews. In the Third Reich one could be “German by doing”, the desendance could, to a certain extent, be secondary to the abilities of an individual. Göring claimed “Wer Jude ist, bestimme ich!” (I will define alone, who is to be considered Jewish!)

    Dr. [...], Germany


    I have read your email (see below) with interest, since I've often wondered whom the National Socialists deemed as Aryan (I had the impression that only Germanics were admitted into that category). However, if Poles (and other so-called "Slavs") were accepted into the Aryan family why is it that relations between Germans and Poles were illegal during WW II?

    The second question I have concerns people of "related blood" (Nuremberg Laws); who were they? Would an Iranian, for e.g., be accepted as being of "related blood"? If you could direct me towards some sources that could enlighten me on the National Socialist views of race (namely what did they mean by "Aryan") that would be most appreciated.

    Thank you in advance.

    Dr. [...], Germany:

    Your name is German, should we not discuss in German?

    What I mentioned in my letter was the official use of the term “Aryan”, following the definition of the “ARIERNACHWEIS”, a document, in which all Germans had to prove their German ancestry. It is said in the introduction to this document, that “Aryan” is officially defined contrary to the meaning in linguistics. Aryan was meant to relate to the “central European typus of man”. Therefore, Iranians were excluded from this definition, they do not belong to the Central European typus. People from Poland are in many cases fair-haired, blue-eyed tall and in any case belong to this typus. Therefore, if one had a grandmother that had been Polish, French or Italian, nobody cared. These were the nations of “related blood (“…artverwandten Blutes”). If one had grandparents, that had been Negroes, Japanese, Jews, Gypsies, Turks, Iranians, aborigines from Australia or North America (and so on), the”Aryan” ancestry would not have been acknowledged. Of course in the society in Germany of these days, only Jews and Gypsies were at issue, there were only some dozens negroes or Asians in Germany apart from the ambassadors.

    Of course, there was a lot of mystification about the terms “race”in the Third Reich. Everybody could coin his one view of “German blood” and race and so on. One can easily find quotations of the officials of the state or of the National socialist party by the dozen, in which differing definitions were proclaimed. However, the official use was the one described above.

    I can provide you with a facsimile of the chapters in the “Ariernachweis”, if you are interested.

    Dr. [...], Germany

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    I don't know what he means with that the "Aryan" was explicitely defined as "Central European", though I don't doubt that there may were documents where explicitely the Central European (mitteleuropäisch) racial complex of Germany was ascertained as Aryan (however I doubt that in any NS document Northern European Scandinavians were described as somehow "less Aryan" than Central Europeans).

    Aryan was used indeed normally as antithesis to the Jews in Europe (and to non-European, coloured races, though here also the term "white" was used for the Europeans); the European peoples generally were considered as "Aryan peoples". In the officialdom law of 1933 the term "Aryan" was still used, in the Nuremberg Laws not anymore. Here it was deutsches oder artverwandtes Blut ("German or kind-related blood"). Europeans generally were considered as kind-related blood, though for a possible future Germanisation of individuals the standards were set higher, and one certainly prefered the Nordic way of being. The SS and the race bureaucracy used normally for the European context the racial terms of Günther (nordisch, fälisch, dinarisch, westisch, ostisch, ostbaltisch). I also know of a memorandum of the race bureaucracy where it was suggested to establish between "German blood" (generally all ethnic Germans) and "kind-related blood" (generally all Europeans) a third level, with which one could operate race- and folk-politically: stammverwandtes Blut (tribe-, stock-, descent- or stem-related* blood), which should apply as a general term for all Germanic peoples.

    * I'm not certain about the most adequate translation for the ethnic-ancetral term Stamm, as I know that the English historiography calls the German Stammesherzogtümer of the early MA "stem duchies", however all my German-English dictionaries give as translation for the figurative use of Stamm only "tribe", "race", "stock" respectively "family", "clan", "house", "line", "lineage".
    Man ſei Held oder Heiliger. In der Mitte liegt nicht die Weisheit, ſondern die Alltäglichkeit.


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