In a culture where Darwinism is almost a religious belief, and the name “Hitler” has become a byword for “evil,” one point that will be hotly contested is how these two men are tied together. Darwinian Evolution is seen as scientific, intelligent, and “left wing,” while Nazism is seen as anti-scientific, unintelligent, and “right wing” — and there’s no way the two can ever meet, except on the battlefield.
Richard Weikart explodes the mythical separation of evolutionary thought from Hitler in this well researched and well documented book. Working from Hitler’s writings and speeches, he shows how Hitler attempted to follow what he considered to be an “evolutionary ethic;” that by placing an evolutionary framework around Hitler’s thought, we can make sense of the many apparently contradictory strands. From compulsory sterilization to the promotion of childbirth, Hitler had one aim in mind: the dominance of his race. He believed the dominance of one race over all others was part and parcel of the evolutionary project.
The author takes his reader through eight distinct areas of Hitler’s thought, using not only Hitler’s speeches and writings, but also the writings of those who interacted with Hitler, to carefully analyze what Hitler believed about each one. Once this is established, he examines others in the same era who upheld these same thoughts, returning time and again to Darwin and his champions throughout the scientific world, and the world of social evolutionary thought that paralleled the rise of evolution as a thought system.
He begins by documenting how Hitler was a moral crusade even through his lies — how the two are attached through the concept of discarding lower moral concepts for higher ones. From here, the author examines the concept of evolutionary progress as an overriding concern among intellectuals of the time, and continues into the idea of racial struggle so prominent in Hitler’s thought. Weikart deals with “the Jewish question,” next, showing how the outworking of Hitler’s thought on racial struggle became his attempt to destroy the Jews in the world — how he saw the Jews as a sort of “anti-evolutionary type,” tearing down what nature was building the future of man.
Hilter’s socialism is next, with an extended discussion of how Hitler saw socialism as the most advanced economic system, even though he allowed private enterprise as a matter of expediency. The next two chapters deal with the apparent contradictions in Hitler’s policies on children and families, explained by noting that Hitler wanted to increase the German population while reducing other populations through abortion, sterilization, and birth control. It’s interesting that many Christian leaders accepted Hitler on this single point of agreement, without ever examining the basis for his rants against birth control and abortion. In the final two chapters, Weikart works through why Hitler went to war, and how he justified the murder of millions in the name of his social programs.
Overall, this is a well written, and well documented book. Agree or disagree with the author’s thesis, there is a lot of material here that needs to be dealt with intelligently to separate Hitler from the evolutionary ethic he so clearly endorsed and implemented.