Biocentric Political Thought in the Third Reich: A Review of Johann Chapoutot’s The Law of Blood

The Law of Blood
Johann Chapoutot
La loi du sang: Penser et agir en nazi
Paris: Gallimard, 2014
(English translation by Miranda Richmond Mouillot
Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2018, in press)

“I mean, say what you want about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it’s an ethos.” — Walter Sobchak

In today’s culture, any nationalist activist, or really anyone who is politically incorrect, is liable to be labeled a “Nazi” and compared to Adolf Hitler. This is so even when the comparison is patently absurd and the person in question is obviously not a “Nazi”: whether the conservative French patriot Jean-Marie Le Pen, the anti-Zionist mixed-race Franco-Cameroonian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala, or indeed the populist civic nationalist Donald Trump. Comparisons to fascism are also de rigueur whenever the Western politico-media Establishment wishes to demonize a foreign leader who refuses to kneel, such as Slobodan Milošević or Vladimir Putin.

The reason such individuals are called “Nazis” and compared to Hitler is typically not because of any formal ideological similarities — none of those above have ever championed a totalitarian dictatorship or any kind of systematic racial or anti-Semitic politics — but for more emotional, civil-religious reasons.[1] In the current culture, “Nazi” or “Hitler” is simply the meanest name one can call someone (hence the phenomenon of Godwin’s law) — the designated term for anyone violating the orthodoxies of political correctness. Political correctness, in turn, has steadily shifted leftwards and radicalized over the years. This means that, today, if people adopt the opinions of prominent anti-Nazis like Charles de Gaulle or Winston Churchill (who were both racialist proud of their White identity and moderately Judeo-critical), they will, however absurdly, be sure to be called “Nazis.”

However, eventually a reaction sets in. Nationalists and free-thinkers will tend to become curious: what did Hitler and the National Socialists actually think? Am I, the so-called Nazi heretic, really like them? Were they — the designated worst evil of human history —  really that bad? These questions — as writers such as Irmin Vinson and Greg Johnson have noted —  are irrelevant to the legitimacy of ethnic Europeans’ right to live and prosper in their own homelands.[2] Furthermore, and quite obviously for anyone who examines the topic, the fact is that there are innumerable differences between historical German National Socialism and contemporary European nationalisms and White advocacy.

Nonetheless, National Socialism remains a historically and politically important subject, the genesis and downfall of which remains crucial to understanding the development of Western civilization in the twenty-first century. We can then salute the French historian Johann Chapoutot who in his La loi du sang: Penser et agir en nazi has provided a formidable intellectual history of official thought in the Third Reich.[3] Chapoutot, who had previously written a somewhat less fair-minded but still useful book on National Socialist Germany’s infatuation with Greco-Roman civilization,[4] can be credited for showing why and how so many Germans found National Socialism to be both intellectually and emotionally compelling.

The merit of Chapoutot’s work lies in not limiting his study to Adolf Hitler and the top National Socialists, who really were just the tip of the iceberg in terms of intellectual history. Chapoutot has examined the works of the innumerable upper-middle level practitioners, philosophers, political scientists, lawyers, doctors, scientists, and others who thought and debated in the Third Reich. Chapoutot emphasizes that National Socialist Germany’s intelligentsia produced material which, far from being mere verbose propaganda, must be taken seriously intellectually. Strikingly, this work was utterly sincere: “the conviction of these authors cannot be doubted” (522). He has gone through a “colossal” body of sources, including “1,200 books and articles, 50 or so films” (25–26).

The basic gist of the National Socialist narrative was the following: with the decline of Christianity and the limitations of a materialistic Enlightenment, Europe in general and Germany in particular were affected by a growing sense of nihilism. The National Socialists proposed a total reformation of society around biocentric norms. This was based on the revolutionary insights of Darwin (which Hitler himself compared to the Copernican revolution), which revealed the natural evolutionary forces which had shaped all life, including all human life.

Chapoutot’s account is in significant accord with Kevin MacDonald’s description of National Socialism as a self-conscious group evolutionary strategy (GES) designed to further the interests a genetically-defined German people:[5]

All these manuals, treatises, pamphlets, doctrinal articles, brochures, films, etc., answer however in one way or another a common tacit or explicit question: what must be done to prevent the death of Germany? What norms should be followed so that German life grows and multiplies, and so that the Germanic race can project itself into a certain, distant, or even infinite future? (27)

By this criteria, German thinkers came to the horrified conclusion that the values of the past — namely of Christianity and of bourgeois modernization — both tending towards individualist-egalitarianism — were utterly maladaptive for the German people as a whole (“counter-selection” is a favorite term). These officials offered “a very profound Kulturkritik” of the past and a future-oriented, long-term project to reestablish society on firm foundations through a cultural and normative revolution (29).

Judges, doctors, policemen, teachers, and policymakers in general were invited to recenter their work — not on vestigial religious superstition or vague humanistic sentiments, nor on the abstract and ultimately arbitrary legal formalism of liberalism — but on biological realities. In particular, this meant making the German people, as a genetically-defined entity which would outlive the individual and was a prerequisite for culture, the be-all-end-all of all thought and activity. The Third Reich then had an entire class of intellectuals, in numerous fields and organizations, thinking, researching, and debating on the implications of heredity for public policy:

Having passed through the Academy, generally ennobled with the doctorate, many other authors of our corpus were high civil servants, an intellectual and practical elite who powerfully served Nazi political projects, and who established and legitimized them by using law, biology, and history. Werner Best, a doctor in law and a high official in the SD [Sicherheitsdienst, the SS’s intelligence agency], was no doubt the archetype, of one who did not content himself with doing, but who, always, explained, in numerous articles, how and why he acted. (26)[6]

These intellectuals did not feel themselves to be immoral opportunists in the service of the Third Reich, but were indeed proud of their contribution to a fundamental ideological and sociopolitical revolution.

There was considerable debate among these intellectuals, such as on the role of Christianity, the origins of Prussian virtues, the place of Charlemagne, Luther, or Kant in German history, foreign policy and imperialism, and the implications of Nordicism. A number of themes recur. The National Socialists considered their approach to be holistic, life-centered, scientific, particularistic, “consequential,” and sacred. The National Socialists emphasized, with absolute sincerity, the morality and quasi-religiosity of their approach. This justified ruthless killings in defense of Germany and the targeting of groups deemed undesirable. The latter was done, not out of sadism, as so many “Hollywood Nazi” portrayals falsely suggest, but as an emotionally-difficult task to be accomplished with a stoic sense of duty. The National Socialists observed that in Nature, violence is absolutely fundamental to the survival and development of life, and they sought to be in harmony with this cosmic reality. I propose that the National Socialist revolution must be understood not only as a nationalist phenomenon, but also a civil-religious one.

Chapoutot summarizes National Socialist ethics:

The life of the race was therefore the principle and the end of an openly particularistic and holistic normativity: one must act for the Germanic-Nordic race alone (or for the German people) and not for humanity — which is a dangerous and subversive chimera; one must act for the community, and not for one’s sole personal interest. These simple principles allow one to answer the questions posed by modernity. (23)

Hitler and the National Socialists attributed great idealism, cultural fertility, and state-building power to the Nordic race (but not superior intelligence). This was explained by the idea that northern Europeans’ Ice Age ancestors had been selected by a harsh, low-population environment for traits such as physical strength and social morality. Karl Astel — the rector of the University of Jena and a prominent eugenicist and anti-smoking activist — argued that during the Ice Age: “He who abandoned his companions, he who lied and tricked them, he was abandoned, and rightly so, when he himself needed his comrades, and he disappeared” (73). Historically, Nordicism was justified by observing that northwestern Europeans (more-or-less corresponding to nations within the famous Hajnal Line) and their descendants had contributed a massively disproportionate amount to Western civilization’s dynamism and innovations since the fall of the Roman Empire.

The excesses of German and Nordic ethnic-genetic particularism are probably the single most important cause for the fall of the Third Reich. Hitler took German identity and the existence of a north-south cline within Europe as essentially justifying the subjugation of Eastern European humanity as a whole as expendable inferiors, rather than as potential allies. In contrast, Western Europeans were treated much more gently. Fellow Germanic nations were sought out as allies.  Hitler was throughout his life a somewhat naïve Anglophile and dreamed of an alliance with the British Empire. Danes, Norwegians, Dutch, and Belgians were to be made fellow-citizens of a “Greater Germanic Reich of the German Nation.”[7] Indeed, by the end of the war, the Waffen-SS had recruited non-Germanic soldiers to the extent that it began to resemble a genuine European Army. The Germans failed, however, to make any serious efforts (i.e., by giving them a stake in the New Order) to enlist Poles and Russians, despite them being similarly anti-Semitic and anti-communist. It seems that Hitler’s disgust with multicultural Vienna and the Austro-Hungarian Empire made him opposed to any kind of Polish or Russian nation-statehood, considered to be unacceptable potential threats to Germany and/or to the Reich’s unity.[8] This reflected a monstrously misguided and self-defeating form of racialist thinking which failed to recognize the genetic closeness among Europeans. This was all the more tragic for Europe in that Hitler was quite cognizant of our continent’s smallness in the world. Far-sighted observers like Lothrop Stoddard had already identified the beginnings of the relative demographic decline of European humanity worldwide due to the rise of far, far more genetically-distant Asians and Africans.[9] I will write in the future on the reasoning, sometimes quite astute, behind Hitler’s tragically misguided European policy and his attitude towards the White race.

All this having been said, I would emphasize that political thought in the Third Reich, while contestable, is far more graspable and less “kooky” (“pseudoscientific”) than Allied propaganda or Hollywood-type narratives suggest. This is clear as soon as one clarifies a few terms which have, through a fairly conscious propaganda effort, acquired extremely negative connotations. The “Aryans” correspond to the virile pagan conquerors, now referred to by the no doubt intentionally clunky term “Proto-Indo-Europeans,” who gave Europe the majority of her languages and a considerable percentage of her genes (indeed, concerning India, mainstream historians still happily use the term “Aryan” to refer to the conquerors of the Sub-Continent). The term “Nordic” can be understood to mean northwest Europeans and was deemed a valid concept at the time by men as diverse Charles de Gaulle and John F. Kennedy.[10] The Germans tended to conflate Nordics and Aryans together, whereas recent genetic evidence suggests Europeans are descended from three distinct founder populations: Ice Age hunter-gatherers (particularly in northeast Europe), Indo-European conquerors (or Aryans), and Old European farmers (particularly in southeast Europe).

The Third Reich furthermore founded its action on a particular interpretation of history which, while often idealized and mythologized, was also partly based on facts. Many German intellectuals had long believed that the ancient Greeks and Romans had declined through miscegenation and dysgenics, and were generally intoxicated by reports of the blondness of Alexander the Great and the early Roman Emperors.[11] Furthermore, they observed that, after the fall of the Roman Empire, the historical fact was that the wandering Germanic tribes had founded the bulk of the great nations and/or monarchies of Europe including not just the German Reich but Frankish Gaul, Lombardian Italy, Visigothic Spain, Anglo-Saxon Britain, and Kievan Rus.[12] Furthermore, Germanic settlers had indeed proved a factor for civilization and commerce in Eastern Europe in areas such as Transylvania and the Baltic countries. The National Socialists were haunted by the belief that all these conquests and achievements had been made vain by miscegenation.

Chapoutot’s book gives us a sense that National Socialist Germany had within it, not just an intellectual subculture, but an entire intellectual universe of not only racial politics, but indeed biopolitics, borne by one of the most culturally advanced nations in the world. This intellectual subculture within Western civilization was completely smashed and effectively outlawed after 1945. Many of these intellectuals were driven by despair to commit suicide. Similar racialist subcultures, though typically not enjoying this level of state support, gradually declined in the United States, France, and other Western countries, in the wake of egalitarian liberal-communist consensus imposed by the victors of World War II.

Originally posted November 24

[1] Éric Zemmour, “The Rise of the Shoah as the Official Religion of the French Republic,” The Occidental Observer, May 12, 2015.

[2] Irmin Vinson, Some Thoughts on Hitler and Other Essays (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2012). Greg Johnson, New Rights vs. Old Right (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2013).

[3] The book will apparently be published in English in April 2018 as The Law of Blood: Thinking as Acting as a Nazi (Harvard University Press).

[4] Available in English: Johann, Chapoutot, Greeks, Romans, Germans: How the Nazis Usurped Europe’s Classical Past (Oakland, California: University of California Press: 2016). First published in French: Johann Chapoutot, Le national-socialisme et l’Antiquité (Presses Universitaires de France, 2008).

[5] Kevin MacDonald, Separation and Its Discontents: Towards an Evolutionary Theory of Anti-Semitism (Westport, CT: Praeger, 1998; Bloomington, IN: 1st books, 2004), chapter 5: “National Socialism as an Anti-Jewish Group Evolutionary Strategy,” pp. 161–212

[6] Other examples of these scholarly officials and warriors include:

  • Lothar Stengel von Rutkowski: “Eugenics specialist, for a time a lecturer at the University of Jena, he was also a poet and thinker, bard of the Germanic race, but also a practitioner appointed to the medical services of the Waffen-SS during the war” (37).
  • “In charge of ‘studies on the enemy’ (Gegnerforschung) within the RSHA [Reich Main Security Office], Franz-Alfred Six, university professor and SS lieutenant-colonel” notably published in 1942 the seventeenth-century texts of the treaties of Münster and Osnabrück, which had finalized Germany’s political division (361).

[7] A grandiose title which sounds less redundant in German: Großgermanisches Reich Deutscher Nation.

[8] On which see Brigitte Hamann’s excellent Hitler’s Vienna: A Portrait of the Tyrant as a Young Man (London: Tauris, 2010).

I would note in passing that Hitler’s reluctance to allow a Polish or Russian nation-state was in some respects quite rational: these would feed Europe’s unstable, war-prone balance of power system between states or, if integrated within a “Greater Reich,” would lead to the same problems that plague all multi-ethnic/-cultural states, from Canada to Yugoslavia. I note an irony however: multinational polities are typically most problematic precisely to the extent a society is democratic, because then journalists and politicians are free to stoke and appeal to ethnocentric sentiment. In contrast, multinational states can often thrive for a considerable time, so long as they remain confident autocracies, as one could see in communist Yugoslavia or in Singapore today. Perhaps a “Greater European Reich” including Slavic nations could have succeeded, though this went completely against Hitler’s own petty-German, aesthetic, and perfectionist sensibilities.

[9] Lothrop Stoddard, The Rising Tide of Color Against White World-Supremacy (1920).

[10] See Guillaume Durocher, “Nordicism Today,” Counter-Currents, March 2, 2016. I was shocked to learn that upon assuming power in Allied-occupied France in June 1945, one of De Gaulle’s first actions was to order the institution of a more “Nordic” immigration policy, partly inspired by the example of the United States:

In terms of ethnicity, it is appropriate to limit the arrival of Mediterraneans and Orientals who have for half a century profoundly changed the composition of the French population. Without going so far as the United States in using a rigid system of quotas, it is desirable that the priority be given to Nordic naturalizations (Belgians, Luxembourgers, Swiss, Dutch, Danish, Germans). One could consider a proportion of 50% for this element. [Quoted in Alain Drouard, “La création de l’INED,” Population, n. 6, 1992, 1458.]

For Kennedy, see the reports on the future president’s diaries, e.g.: Tony Paterson, “A Berliner in 1963 — but did former US president John F Kennedy once admire Adolf Hitler?,” The Independent, May 23, 2013.

[11] Some historical sources also suggest Genghis Khan was red-haired and gray-eyed, a fact to be borne in mind for Hitler and Heinrich Himmler’s otherwise incomprehensible belief that the Mongol was part-Aryan.

[12] On the enormous role of the Germanic Franks in founding Europe as we know it, see: Robert Bartlett, The Making of Europe: Conquest, Colonization, and Cultural Change, 950 — 1350 (London: Penguin, 1994).

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