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Darwinism and Death: Devaluing Human Life in Germany 1859-1920

Darwinism and Death: Devaluing Human Life in Germany 1859-1920 The debate over the significance of Social Darwinism in Germany has special importance, because it serves as background to discussions of Hitler's ideology and of the roots of German imperialism and World War I.1 There is no doubt that Hitler was a Social Darwinist, viewing history as a struggle for existence among unequal races. All Hitler scholars agree on this point, and it is too obvious to deny when one reads Mein Kampf.2 Whether Social Darwinism contributed to imperialism and militarism is less clear, though some have argued it did, at least as a justification for them.3 Some Anglo-American writers during and immediately after World War I blamed Social Darwinism for inflaming German militarism.4 Richard J. Evans, "In Search of German Social Darwinism: The History and Historiography of a Concept," in Medicine and Modernity: Public Health and Medical Care in Nineteenthand Twentieth-Century Germany, ed. Manfred Berg and Geoffrey Cocks (Washington, 1997), 55-79. In this paper "Darwinism" refers exclusively to the theory of evolution by natural selection, although non-Darwinian theories of evolution, such as Lamarckism, were sometimes compatible with Darwinism. 2 See Eberhard Jäckel, Hitler's Weltanschaung: A Blueprint for Power, tr. Herbert Arnold (Middleton, Conn., 1972), ch. 5; Brigitte http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal of the History of Ideas University of Pennsylvania Press

Darwinism and Death: Devaluing Human Life in Germany 1859-1920

Journal of the History of Ideas , Volume 63 (2) – Apr 1, 2002

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Publisher
University of Pennsylvania Press
Copyright
Copyright © 2002 The Journal of the History of Ideas, Inc.
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1086-3222
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Abstract

The debate over the significance of Social Darwinism in Germany has special importance, because it serves as background to discussions of Hitler's ideology and of the roots of German imperialism and World War I.1 There is no doubt that Hitler was a Social Darwinist, viewing history as a struggle for existence among unequal races. All Hitler scholars agree on this point, and it is too obvious to deny when one reads Mein Kampf.2 Whether Social Darwinism contributed to imperialism and militarism is less clear, though some have argued it did, at least as a justification for them.3 Some Anglo-American writers during and immediately after World War I blamed Social Darwinism for inflaming German militarism.4 Richard J. Evans, "In Search of German Social Darwinism: The History and Historiography of a Concept," in Medicine and Modernity: Public Health and Medical Care in Nineteenthand Twentieth-Century Germany, ed. Manfred Berg and Geoffrey Cocks (Washington, 1997), 55-79. In this paper "Darwinism" refers exclusively to the theory of evolution by natural selection, although non-Darwinian theories of evolution, such as Lamarckism, were sometimes compatible with Darwinism. 2 See Eberhard Jäckel, Hitler's Weltanschaung: A Blueprint for Power, tr. Herbert Arnold (Middleton, Conn., 1972), ch. 5; Brigitte

Journal

Journal of the History of IdeasUniversity of Pennsylvania Press

Published: Apr 1, 2002

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