The Holocaust: Lebensraum and Genocide

Hitler’s world may not be so far away is yet another phenomenal long read from the Journal in The Guardian. As Timothy Snyder explains: Hitler’s alternative to science and politics was known as Lebensraum, which meant “habitat” or “ecological niche”. Races needed ever more Lebensraum, “room to live”, in order to feed themselves and propagate their kind. Nature demanded that the higher races overmaster and starve the lower. Since the innate desire of each race was to reproduce and conquer, the struggle was indefinite and eternal. At the same time, Lebensraum also meant “living room”, with the connotations of comfort and plenty in family life. The desire for pleasure and security could never be satisfied, thought Hitler, since Germans “take the circumstances of the American life as the benchmark”. Because standards of living were always subjective and relative, the demand for pleasure was insatiable. Lebensraum thus brought together two claims: that human beings were mindless animals who always needed more, and jealous tribes who always wanted more. It confused lifestyle with life itself, generating survivalist emotions in the name of personal comfort. the article explains further: the German murder of five and a half million Jews, more than three million Soviet prisoners of war, and about a million civilians in so-called anti-partisan operations all took place in stateless zones. As Timothy Snyder clarifies:

The dominant stereotype of Nazi Germany is of an all-powerful state that catalogued, repressed and then exterminated an entire class of its own citizens. This was not how the Nazis achieved the Holocaust, nor how they even thought about it. The enormous majority of the victims of the Holocaust were not German citizens; Jews who were German citizens were in fact far more likely to survive than Jews who were citizens of states that the Germans destroyed. The Nazis knew that they had to go abroad and lay waste to neighbouring societies before they could hope to bring their revolution to their own. Not only the Holocaust, but all major German crimes took place in areas where state institutions had been destroyed, dismantled or seriously compromised. The German murder of five and a half million Jews, more than three million Soviet prisoners of war, and about a million civilians in so-called anti-partisan operations all took place in stateless zones.

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