[Marxism] Nazi ecology?

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Mar 31 09:48:20 MST 2006

(From a fascinating review of David Blackbourn's "The Conquest of Nature: 
Water, Landscape and the Making of Modern Germany" in the latest London 
Review. It shows how even as the Nazis conceived of their plans in terms of 
nature worship, they were violating some basic *ecological* principles that 
have left modern Germany in the terrible shape it is in today.)

For Nazi ideologues, the traditional contrast between ‘natural’ landscape 
and sites of development or settlement was old-fashioned. They decided to 
collapse it. Starting from the idea that the ‘right’ sort of development 
should be considered ‘cultural’, they went much further. The distinction 
between natural and non-natural should no longer be defined by the mere 
fact of human intervention. Instead, the distinction should be what Nazis 
called ‘political’ – in other words, racial. A landscape shaped by a race 
destined by inexorable laws of nature to dominate was ‘natural’. The 
environment in which inferior races lived was in contrast degenerate and 
backward. Where Germans had shaped the earth, they had done so ‘in harmony 
with nature’. Konrad Meyer, the leader of the fanatically confident team in 
charge of the Pripet plan, wrote:

     If the new living spaces of the settlers are therefore to become a new 
home, the planned and close-to-nature design [Gestaltung] of the landscape 
is an essential precondition. That is one of the foundations for the 
securing of Germandom. It is not enough to settle our race in those areas 
and eliminate people of an alien race. Rather, these spaces have to take on 
a character that corresponds to the nature of our being.

The war turned against the Germans before the plan could be put into 
effect. The only detail to be carried through was the ‘elimination’ of the 
Jews. (As early as August 1941, the SS had murdered some fifteen thousand 
Jews in the Baranowicze-Pinsk area of Polesie alone.) No marshes were 
drained, and few German settlers arrived. But had the General Plan for the 
East been realised, only a Nazi eye could have recognised the new landscape 
as ‘natural’. On the reclaimed marshland, a Frederican chequerboard of 
squared-off fields and identical villages would have appeared. The 
Large-Scale Green Plan set aside conservation land in each village, 
ordained the planting of deciduous trees and proposed to convert poor 
arable fields into pasture, in order to prevent desiccation after drainage. 
Nazi development policy was often enlightened in detail. It is startling to 
learn from Blackbourn that Hitler himself launched a plan to generate 
energy with windfarms (but this was in 1942 and nothing came of it), and 
that – apparently – he ordered the cancellation of the Pripet scheme in 
late 1941 on environmental grounds, fearing that it would create a dustbowl 

full: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v28/n07/asch01_.html



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