Nazi "ecology" and American Indian affinities

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Thu Aug 5 14:45:26 MDT 1999

"What we today call 'environmentalism' is ... based on a fear of change,"
says Frank Furedi. "It's based upon a fear of the outcome of human action.
And therefore it's not surprising that when you look at the more xenophobic
right-wing movements in Europe in the 19th century, including German
fascism, it quite often had a very strong environmentalist dynamic to it.
Fascism, animal rights and human rights The most notorious
environmentalists in history were the German Nazis. The Nazis ordered
soldiers to plant more trees. They were the first Europeans to establish
nature reserves and order the protection of hedgerows and other wildlife
habitats. And they were horrified at the idea of hydroelectric dams on the
Rhine. Adolf Hitler and other leading Nazis were vegetarian and they passed
numerous laws on animal rights."

Before we begin to organize workers militias to defend against nudists,
vegetarians and people who won't wear fur coats on principle, it's worth
examining this Nazi-ecology connection in some detail.

Nature worship in Germany goes back to the origins of modern romanticism.
It was felt almost everywhere, from the writings of Goethe to the
symphonies of Mahler. Students at the University of Heidelberg had hiking
clubs through the entire 19th century. The Social Democracy had such clubs
as well and they were viewed as an integral part of the character
development of young Marxists. A recent biography of Walter Benjamin points
out how important such nature hikes were to him. It was part of the general
German culture, which influenced the both socialist and ultraright parties,
including Hitler's.

It is important to understand that the feeling of loss that the industrial
revolution brought on was very widespread throughout Europe and was not
peculiar to Germany. Thomas Carlyle articulated this feeling of loss and
the pre-Raphaelite school was a movement based on such a desire to return
to pre-industrial roots. Carlyle influenced John Ruskin and William Morris,
two important anti-capitalist thinkers. He also strongly influenced
Frederic Engels' "Condition of the Working Class in England" and is cited
frequently and quite positively.

In "The New Ecological Order," French philosopher Luc Ferry also made the
discovery that the Nazis were enthusiastic about American Indian rights
Ferry's book is a general assault on the environmental movement, which
tries to draw out every reactionary tendency and place it in the
foreground. An affinity between Nazis and the American Indian would be a
very serious business indeed.  Ferry states:

"We have to be ignorant or prejudiced not to see it: Nazism contains within
it, for reasons that are in no way accidental, the beginnings of an
authentic concern for preserving 'natural,' which is to say, here again,
'original' peoples. In the chapter devoted to this subject in his book,
Walther Schoenichen cannot find words harsh enough to condemn the attitude
of 'the white man, the great destroyer of creation': in the paradise he
himself is responsible for losing, he has paved only a path of 'epidemics,
thievery, fires, blood and tears!' 'Indeed, the enslavement of primitive
peoples in the 'cultural' history of the white race constitutes one of its
most shameful chapters, which is not only streaked with rivers of blood,
but of cruelty and torture of the worst kind. And its final pages were not
written in the distant past, but at the beginning of the twentieth
century.' Schoenichen proceeds to trace, with great precision, the list of
the various genocides that have occurred throughout the history of
colonialization, from the massacre of the South American Indians to that of
the Sioux--who 'were pushed back in unthinkable conditions of cruelty and
infamy'--and the South African bushmen."

Who was Walter Schoenichen exactly? He was an aide to Heman Goering, who in
his capacity as Minister of the German Forests supervised the
"Germanization" of forests in conquered territories. In 1941, the Nazis
took control of the Bialowieza forest in Lithuania and they resolved to
turn it into a hunting reserve for top officers (Schama 1995: 71-72). Open
season was declared on the Jews, who made up 12 percent of the population
in this region and who violated the ethnic purity of the proposed game
farm. Five hundred and fifty Jews were rounded up and shot in the courtyard
of a hunting palace operated by Battalion 332 of Von Bock's army division.
Goring decided that the purified forest should be altered into an extension
of the East Prussian forests. An SS team led by Konrad Mayer, who had been
Minister of Agriculture at Berlin University, planned a colonization
program that would "Germanize" the forest. Poles, and any remaining Jews,
were reduced to the status of barnyard animals to be penned up or slaughtered.

Schoenichen jumped at the opportunity to administer this program. This
"total landscape plan" would first empty villages and then the unpopulated
forest would be stocked with purely "Teutonic" species, including eagles,
elk, and wolves. Since there was a painting of a bison on Goring's wall, it
was crucial to include this beast in the menagerie.

Any reasonable person would understand that the gangsters terrorizing Jews
and Poles in order to set up a "Teutonic" zoo have nothing in common with
today's greens, even those who embrace some of the more reactionary aspects
of deep ecology. Nazi "ecology" is a contradiction in terms. The Nazis did
not want to protect nature, but to transform large swaths of it into
something resembling Wagnerian opera backdrops. Furthermore, the murderous
assault on peasants who had the misfortune to live in these vicinities is
just the opposite of what groups such as Greenpeace or Survival
International fight for today. They seek the right of indigenous peoples to
live in peace in their natural surroundings. While some conservative,
well-financed environmentalist groups have unfortunately neglected the
rights of indigenous peoples in campaigns to protect endangered species,
the more radical groups have a relatively spotless record.

Furthermore, the notion of importing "Teutonic" animals into the Lithuanian
forest is antithetical to genuine ecology, which attempts to preserve the
natural balance between indigenous species and their environments. Finally,
on American Indian-Nazi connections, we should be aware that the top Nazi
was not all sensitive to American Indian justice, if we can believe John
Toland's account in Adolf Hitler:

"Hitler's concept of concentration camps as well as the practicality of
genocide owed much, so he claimed, to his studies of English and United
States history. He admired the camps for Boer prisoners in South Africa and
for the Indians in the Wild West; and often praised to his inner circle the
efficiency of America's extermination--by starvation and uneven combat--of
the 'Red Savages' who could not be tamed by captivity."

Louis Proyect


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