This coursework did some damage to my near-perfect grade-point average, because it meant studying under a professor who considered “C” an adequate reward for mastering the material. I knocked myself out for him, studying obsessively, and reading all the best books about that era – everything from Allan Bullock’s acclaimed Hitler: A Study in Tyranny to Albert Speer’s fascinating Inside the Third Reich.
Yet somehow, I don’t remember hearing much about the philosophy underlying Hitler’s attempt to exterminate the Jews. Maybe if I’d ever read Mein Kampf, I would have had a clue, but not one professor ever recommended it. Maybe they believed, with George Eliot, that cruelty requires no motive.
But Eliot was wrong, and I’m afraid my beloved professor was, too. The “why” of the Holocaust is critically important, both for evaluating our past errors and for doing everything possible to prevent another, perhaps even deadlier, catastrophe.
That’s why I so appreciated Hitler and the Nazi Darwinian Worldview: How the Nazi Eugenic Crusade for a Superior Race Caused the Greatest Holocaust in World History. The latest work of Dr. Jerry Bergman, it is one of those books that explores what should be obvious – but, like the proverbial elephant in the room, is for some reason rarely discussed in polite company.
Hitler and the Nazi Darwinian Worldview explains the inexplicable, makes sense out of the nonsensical, and reveals the thought that allowed the unthinkable to come to pass. It should be mandatory reading in college history classes. And it should top the reading list of anyone who understands that what we believe really does matter.
Dr. Bergman exhaustively documents his contentions about “doctrinaire Darwinist” Adolf Hitler – including this foundational premise:
"A central goal of Hitler and his government was the development and implementation of eugenics to produce a 'superior race,' often called the Aryan, Teutonic or Nordic race. At the very least, this goal required preventing the 'inferior races' from mixing with those judged superior in order to reduce contamination of the gene pool. Hitler believed that what we today recognize as the human gene pool could be improved by using selective breeding, similar to how farmers breed superior cattle."[i]
In the process, Dr. Bergman makes an airtight case that this was indeed the philosophy driving Hitler’s murderous machine – the philosophy that unfortunately “culminated in the Final Solution, the extermination of 6 million Jews and over 5 million Poles and others who belonged to what German scientists judged were ‘inferior races.’”[ii]
Acknowledging that there were many circumstances leading up to the Holocaust, Dr. Bergman points out that “Of the many factors that produced Hitler’s eugenic and genocidal [programs], according to his own writings, one of the more important was Darwin’s notion that evolutionary progress occurs primarily as a result of the elimination of the weak in the struggle for survival and allowing the strong to flourish ... Darwin-inspired eugenics clearly played a critical role.”[iii]
He then goes on to prove it, point by frightening point, in a book that’s both terrifying and compelling. He uses excellent techniques to pull the reader through, for instance by foreshadowing what we’ll learn in subsequent chapters to give context to the subject at hand. And in addition to setting the stage generally, he provides up-close-and-personal analyses of Hitler’s most important and influential henchmen – Mengele, Bormann, Himmler, Goebbels, Göring, Heydrich, Rosenberg and Streicher.
Dr. Bergman closes his book with a weighty chapter titled “What can be learned from attempts to apply Darwinism to society.” This chapter alone is worth the cost of the book.
Hitler and the Nazi Darwinian Worldview is full of surprises. The margins of my copy are filled with exclamation points to highlight facts about, for instance, the German government subsidizing reproduction among “racially and biologically desirable” couples,[iv] perfecting its Lebensborn program to advance the breeding of the Nordic super-race,[v] and sponsoring mass kidnapping of “racially valuable” children.[vi]
Another recurring (and not at all surprising) theme was the enthusiastic support that members of the scientific establishment gave Hitler. Germany was known in the first part of the 20th century as the home of the most accomplished scientists in the world, including the majority of Nobel Laureates. These were the experts who gave Hitler the scientific justification he needed to advance his horrific programs.
Noting that some Nazi scientists received accolades and awards long after the fall of the Third Reich, Dr. Bergman provides this chilling insight from Dr. Susanne Heim: “Scientists are highly vulnerable to intellectual and moral corruption – opportunities will be used if they promise more influence and success.”[vii]
Apparently not even medical doctors could resist. Forget the Hippocratic oath; “the psychiatric and medical professions were among the most enthusiastic supporters of Nazi race programs.”[viii]
Dr. Bergman is far from alone in believing that Darwinism influenced Hitler and his supporters. He quotes other authorities extensively throughout his book, and notes that scholars such as Professor Richard Weikart have also documented Darwinism’s role in Nazism.[ix] Even outspoken Harvard professor Stephen Jay Gould noticed. As he wrote in his book Ontogeny and Phylogeny, “’Biological arguments for racism … increased by orders of magnitude following the acceptance of evolutionary theory’ by scientists in most nations.”[x]
But Hitler and the Nazi Darwinian Worldview may be the first to gather all this evidence under one convenient cover and to make such a persuasive case for what happens when Darwinism is taken to its logical conclusion.
It’s not a book I’d recommend for bedtime reading.
In the midst of reading Hitler and the Nazi Darwinian Worldview, I had the chance to watch Ray Comfort’s powerful pro-life documentary 180, in which he uses the Holocaust as an apt analogy for abortion (watch it at www.180movie.com/). Ray opens with clips of interviews with young people. Astoundingly, almost none knew who Hitler was.
And there you have it. We are raising a nation of people who don’t know who Adolf Hitler was, or what he did; yet they have been raised on the same existential philosophy that drove his killing machine.
If Dr. Bergman is correct about the parallels that he and others are drawing to events in our world today, this is a problem of potentially tragic proportions.
Consider, for example, the alarming increase in reports of Antisemitism in many parts of the world.
Or consider the “weaning of Americans from Christianity by banning public display of Christian symbols and ritual.” This is, he points out, “remarkably reminiscent of what Nazi Germany did.”[xi]
Or consider any of the other steps that the western world is taking, from gun control legislation to interfering with (and in some cases persecuting) home-schooling parents – all echoes of Hitler’s own policies.
Then read Hitler and the Nazi Darwinian Worldview, and consider the similarities between the philosophies underlying the Third Reich, and those prevailing in our culture today.
What do you think? Is there cause for concern?
Many in Germany, early on, recognized the harm of Darwinism, and the Prussian Minister of Education for a time in 1875 forbade the “schoolmasters in the country to have anything to do with Darwinism … with a view of protecting schoolchildren from the dangers of the new doctrines.” A significant question is this: Would the Nazi Holocaust have occurred if this ban had remained in effect?[xii]
Great question – one that I believe Dr. Bergman answers affirmatively and persuasively in this very important book.
[i] Bergman, J. Hitler and the Nazi Darwinian Worldview. Kitchener, Ontario, Canada: Joshua Press Inc., 2012, 38.
[iii] Ibid. 51.
[iv] Ibid., 84.
[v] Ibid., 256.
[vi] Ibid., 257.
[vii] Ibid., 126.
[viii] Ibid., 121.
[ix] Ibid., 125.
[x] Ibid., 83.
[xi] Ibid., 16.
[xii] Ibid., 96.