How Nazi Ideology Lives on in Post Modern Environmentalism

Rational discussions about National Socialism are often hard to come by.  The word “Nazi” has become a vitriolic buzzword that only the Left has a license to use, especially against conservatives where many on the so-called political right are metaphorically and wrongfully characterized as present day fascists.  All too many have since precluded that Nazism was a right wing Christian racist capitalist movement of some sort, even though the very name, the National Socialist Worker’s Party, betrays that presumption.  The fear of leftist reprisal against any and all discussions about the Nazi revolution has only further promoted the vitriolic propaganda of the Left.  This has left a huge gaping hole in the minds of many as to what the National Socialist experiment was historically all about.

Modern historical scholarship has largely ignored the ideology of the Nazis.  Most books dealing with National Socialism speak far more about historical events wrapped around raw power politics and its economic war plan without ever describing what it was the Nazis actually thought they were doing.    Leftist historians always reduce history to the miserable realm of economics so they can criticize Capitalism, presuming the Marxian primacy of economics as a total explanation for anything and everything.  In 1986, Dr. Robert Pois contended (National Socialism and the Religion of Nature) that too many historians have reduced the study of Nazism to the “following fundamental assumption: the National Socialist ideology, as expressed by Hitler, various high National Socialist party officials, and the SS, was either a sham or, at most, a poorly contrived rationalization for motives rooted in economic self-interest, personal aggrandizement, or nihilistic drives towards self-destruction, essentially opaque to meaningful historical investigation.”  These attitudes have invariably led to simplistic caricatures that have shown little regard for the great historical complexities that was National Socialism.

Such historical negligence and outright political propaganda has hidden the fact that the National Socialists viewed themselves as a political movement not only rooted in Nature, but also in harmony with it.  National Socialism was deeply entrenched in the German Romantic movement that valued Nature over humanity.  Romanticism is an early form of what is otherwise known today as environmentalism.  National Socialism also borrowed heavily from the anti-Semitic environmental ethics and natural existentialism of Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) together with the atheistic earth based superman values of Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900).  Schopenhauer and Nietzsche were the Fuhrer’s favorite philosophers.

Nietzsche strongly believed that biological instinct and willpower based on existential earthly realities needed to replace what he considered to be an overemphasis upon abstract western rationality wedded to the Judeo-Christian tradition.  In both Schopenhauer’s and Nietzsche’s worldview, the facticity of the earth and its existence trumped rational thought so that the concept of will is far more crucial than the intellect with regard to human behavior.  Closely connected, Nietzsche himself wanted to stem the tide of what he believed to be an ever-increasing European cultural weakness which had borrowed too much from the meek slavishness of Judeo-Christian morality.  What was needed was a strong earth based ethic based on biology and/or the superman “will to power” drive which could confront the nihilism of the modern age which had already demonstrated the death of the Judeo-Christian God.  Nazis were in complete agreement with such an assessment as they took it upon themselves to become the very supermen that Nietzsche prophesied about.

National Socialism also drank deeply from the evolutionary wells of Ernst Haeckel’s (1834-1919) Social Darwinism (called Monism) where biological determinism and hereditary impulses were the only moral guidelines to promote an allegedly ‘scientific’ view of racism where eugenic action coupled with state control could strengthen the nation and cure it from its growing degeneracy.  In the Nazi mind, the natural laws of Social Darwinism emphasized racism rather than humanism.  As such, the Nazis harnessed ‘modern’ science in order to help resolve the alleged cultural crisis of racial softness through a state controlled politicized biology.  Hitler also believed that the state should control the economy for the same eugenic reasons.

Thus with the help of modern scientism rooted in Romanticism and Social Darwinism coupled with the existentialism of Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, the Nazis converted this ‘scientific’ political biology into a gigantic triumph of the will that would regenerate the entire German nation.  The weak and sickly would be cut away from the German herd, and the Fuhrer himself would be the very wolf to do just that.  Wolves were Hitler’s favorite predator.   He often absent mindedly whistled to himself, “Who is afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?”  In fact, Aldo Leopold (1887-1948), the father of deep ecology who told Americans to “think like a mountain” in his Sand County Almanac, dragged the “Never Cry Wolf” cult home from his 1935 visit to Nazi Germany.  The Third Reich was the first country in the world to protect wolves.

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel’s (1770-1831) evolutionary pantheism also helped define the collective role of the state for National Socialism.  Hegel ignored the significance of the individual in favor of the all-powerful state, which was progressing and/or evolving through the synthesis of warring contradictions found everywhere in the philosophies, religions and politics of world history.   Hegel believed that all human history had finally culminated into the rational state of the modern age in which Germany was sitting on top of the evolutionary totem pole.  However, instead of deifying man as Hegel had done, the Nazis deified Nature instead.  In the Nazi mind, man was to evolve through the proper separation of the races into a new and better species – a veritable racial salvation based on Hegelian political evolution, Nietzschean existentialism, Social Darwinism, and modern ‘science.’

Even Immanuel Kant’s (1724-1804) Critique of Pure Reason that placed limits on Enlightenment rationality by emphasizing the subjective character of all knowledge, helped facilitate the growth of German mysticism that fed directly into this quasi-scientific-religious Nazi worldview so that few people seemed to question the great dangers posed by mixing scientific views with modern Romanticism and Existentialism.  More crucial today, with former Nazi philosopher Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) leading the charge, the National Socialist revolution bridged the historical gap between German Romanticism of the 1800’s and Post-Modernism that now has permeated all levels of academia and politics today.  Since Kant had allegedly shown reason to be very subjective, in the post-modern existentialist worldview, emotions, feelings, struggles, and contradictions have since become far more important than reason and logic in characterizing what people truly are in their innermost essential being.  This has had a devastating impact on the modern western world where a misanthropic, irrational, if not insane, cultural politics deconstructs society and makes it subject to the existential passions of the heart together with many of its anxieties.  When conservatives incredulously scratch their heads over leftist ‘logic’ that has permeated the entire present society, the conversion to Post-Modernism is at the heart of the matter, and Martin Heidegger is one its chief spokesmen.

Heidegger held that thought must not arrogate itself above what he called “being” or existence.  In Explaining Postmodernism, Dr. Stephen Hicks points out that Heidegger called “for us to be obedient to Being, to feel guilty before Being, to pay homage to Being, and even to ‘sacrifice man for the truth of Being.’”  In Heidegger’s existentialist irrational worldview, “being” is barely defined, or opaquely understood at best.  Since Heidegger believes that “being” is more important than logical or rational thought, his own views are not far removed from Leopold’s “think like a mountain” deep ecology.    Ironically enough, being an environmentalist himself dating all the way back to the 1920’s, Heidegger wrote much of his fascist existentialism from his mountain hut at Todtnauberg, which means “Mountain of Death.”

After the war, Heidegger became anti-technology.  Heidegger became disillusioned with the Nazi infatuation on existential willpower that helped feed the destruction of World War II as competing technologies on all sides left Germany in complete ruins.  Following such widespread destruction, Heidegger wanted to tame the will with a new environmental existentialism that he characterized as “letting it be.”  What exactly is left of the human being after thought and willpower has been removed?  Not much, if anything.  Dr. Hicks acutely remarks that sacrificing oneself for the truth of Heidegger’s “being” is to essentially sacrifice oneself to Nothing.

In his controversial book entitled Heidegger, Dr. Emmanuel Faye concludes, “In the work of Martin Heidegger, the very principles of philosophy are abolished.   No place is left for morality, which is openly and radically annihilated.”  That Martin Heidegger was also involved in book burning ceremonies in Nazi Germany is thus not so curious.  At that particular time, Heidegger wanted to become the spiritual Fuhrer of National Socialism.  While Alfred Rosenberg (1893-1946), the doctrinaire on all things Nazi, pushed him aside, Heidegger has since become the Fuhrer of post-modern western thought instead.  His philosophical and spiritual influences have far surpassed the geopolitics of National Socialism.  Dr. Faye aptly concludes, “We now know that Heidegger, in his unpublished seminar on Hegel and the state, meant to make the Nazi domination last beyond the next hundred years.  If his writings continue to proliferate without our being able to stop this intrusion of Nazism into human education, how can we expect them to lead to yet another translation into facts and acts, from which this time humanity might not be able to recover?  … Hitlerism and Nazism will continue to germinate through Heidegger’s writings at the risk of spawning new attempts at the complete destruction of thought and the extermination of humankind.”

Since there is no absolute philosophical, moral, or religious truth that can be objectively or rationally defended, existentialism, deconstruction and nihilism invariably becomes the cultural inheritance that is passed down to the children of modern times. This also explains why modern environmentalism, which strongly opposes humanistic and economic endeavors across the board, has become so entrenched in western society today.  With such nihilistic views, is it any wonder the proliferation of windmills and renewable energy schemes has replaced the engineering of dams, nuclear power, engine horsepower, etc.?  Thanks largely to western civilization’s infatuation with German Romanticism and Existentialism, modern environmentalism is well on its way into deconstructing the western world into nothing.  In their mixing of racism and environmentalism, it was the Nazis who were the first to implement sustainable development practices and policies that were to be extended into the newly conquered territories of Poland, Ukraine, Byelorussia, the Baltics and western Russia.  Such activities followed on the heels of a green Nazi revolution that characterized the early to mid-1930’s with significant new environmental legislation that made the Third Reich the greenest regime on the planet.

Though Hitler fancied himself to be an artist and architect, thanks largely to the beastly character of Germany’s godless philosophies that percolated deeply into the culture for well over 100 years, he ushered in destruction and annihilation instead.  His pathological hatred for modern ugliness became far worse than the alleged racial-cultural disease he was trying to cure.  With an anti-Semitic Romanticism and Existentialism coupled with a pseudo-scientific Aryan racism purportedly rooted in Nature, National Socialism wanted to beautify the world through the violent overthrow of  a civilization that had become materialistically degenerate on the one hand, technologically ugly on the other hand, and hopelessly humanistic in between.  What any of this has to do with so-called right wing politics or even Christianity itself is a connection only a post-modernist could make, and the very fact that few historical books even bother to describe Nazi ideology is all but proof of how much modern scholarship has been permeated with German existential thought.  The ideology of National Socialism did not die on V-Day 1945.  It is still alive and well in post-modern existentialism and its political superstructure known as environmentalism.


Mark Musser is a contributing writer for the Cornwall Alliance, which is a coalition of clergy, theologians, religious leaders, scientists, academics, and policy experts committed to bringing a balanced biblical view of stewardship to the critical issues of environment and development. Mark is the author of Nazi Oaks: The Green Sacrifice of the Judeo-Christian Worldview in the Holocaust and Wrath or Rest: Saints in the Hands of an Angry God.

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