Subhuman, sub-human, underman, and under-man are translations of the German word "Untermensch". In politically correct descriptions, it is claimed to be a racial term and concept in National Socialist Germany and to refer to "inferior people".
Etymologically, the politically correct interpretation is problematic, since the term indicates something which is not completely human, which does not make biological sense, since all humans belong to the same species.
Especially in a German and National Socialist context, Untermensch should likely be interpreted as the opposite of the concept of Übermensch, which is a fundamental part of the philosophy of the famous German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. Nietzsche's philosophy had great influence on National Socialism. Übermensch is not a very clear concept and has been interpreted in various ways, but at the very least it is a much more complex concept than a purely genetic/racial one.
Lothrop Stoddard, and in particular his 1922 book The Revolt Against Civilization: The Menace of the Under-man, has also been argued to be an influence on National Socialist use of the term. Stoddard may also have been influenced by Nietzsche's Übermensch. The book discussed the recent takeover of power by the Bolsheviks in Russia, which was described as part of a more general trend towards ideological egalitarianism and dysgenics and which threatened Western civilization. Stoddard defined an Under-Man as a "man who measures under the standards of capacity and adaptability imposed by the social order in which he lives" and the term was thus not primarily racial.
Use by National Socialists
National Socialists applied the term to non-racial groups, such as Communists. Thus, in a speech in 1927 to the Bavarian regional parliament, the National Socialist propagandist Julius Streicher used the term "Untermensch" when referring to the Communists of the German Bavarian Soviet Republic: "It happened at the time of the [Bavarian] Soviet Republic: When the unleashed subhumans rambled murdering through the streets, the deputies hid behind a chimney in the Bavarian parliament."
"Untermensch" was also used in a more racial sense in some National Socialist propaganda material. One example is the 1942 propaganda pamphlet "Der Untermensch". However, it contains phrases such as "Although it has features similar to a human, the subhuman is lower on the spiritual and psychological scale than any animal", indicating Nietzschian or derogatory senses rather than serious genetic/racial senses.
Furthermore, the English translation of the pamphlet has been criticized and a more correct translation is argued to show that "Far from being anti-Slavic, the reader will see that the SS Head Office publication portrayed Russians as victims of Communism—and then specifically blamed Jews as being behind Communism, and, ideologically speaking, inheritors of a far older, far eastern attack on Europe which had started with Genghis Khan and the Mongols. Nowhere in the SS book are the Slavic people denigrated, and in fact many of the traditional Slavic nations are mentioned in text and photograph as being part of the greater European family. [...] The suffering of ordinary Russian people under the Soviet system forms a large focus in this work, and at all times great sympathy is evoked for these victims of Communism: men, women and children alike. Special mention is made of their awful living conditions, inflicted by the Soviet economic collectivization system, and always condemned only as the result of Communism."
A 2011 revisionist article argued that "As for the Untermenschen, here is what Hans Fritzsche stated at the IMT: “German propaganda, and under that I understand official German propaganda, did not even preach racial hatred. It only spoke about racial distinctions, and that is something quite different; but I will admit that there was a certain type of German propaganda which went beyond that and which did preach the clear-cut and primitive racial hatred[…]" and "While the term Untermenschen was used, it was never officially sanctioned – Alfred Rosenberg confirmed this."
Also, the National Socialists were not a monolithic or unchanging group regarding race questions. Thus, National Socialist interpretations of the term Aryan and the later term "German or related blood" have been argued to vary greatly regarding which peoples should be included.
|“||Question: Is it true that the Germans referred to the Russians as "subhumans"?
Answer: Nonsense! The Russians are human beings just like everyone else.
Your question, whether we called the Russians "subhumans," is nonsense. We had a first-class relationship with the Russian people. The only exception, which was a problem we dealt with, was with the Soviet Commissars, who were all Jews. These people stood behind the lines with machine guns, pushing the Russian soldiers into battle. And anyway, we made quick work of them. That was according to order. This was during a war for basic existence, an ideological war, when such a policy is simply taken for granted.
There was sometimes talk about the so-called Asian hordes, and ordinary soldiers sometimes spoke about subhumans, but such language was never officially used.
- Stoddard, Lothrop (1922). The Revolt Against Civilization: The Menace of the Under Man. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons.
- "Kampf dem Weltfeind", Stürmer publishing house, Nuremberg, 1938, 05/25/1927, speech in the Bavarian regional parliament, German: "Es war zur Zeit der Räteherrschaft. Als das losgelassene Untermenschentum mordend durch die Straßen zog, da versteckten sich Abgeordnete hinter einem Kamin im bayerischen Landtag."
- Paul Meier-Benneckenstein, Deutsche Hochschule für Politik Titel: Dokumente der Deutschen Politik, Volume 4, Junker und Dünnhaupt Verlag, Berlin, 2. ed., 1937; speech held on 10th of September 1936; In German: "... das Untermenschentum, das in jedem Volke als Hefe vorhanden ist ...".
- Rosenberg, Alfred (1930). Der Mythus des 20. Jahrhunderts: Eine Wertung der seelischgeistigen Gestaltungskämpfe unserer Zeit [The Myth of the Twentieth Century] (in German). Munich: Hoheneichen-Verlag. p. 214.
- Der Untermensch http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/holoprelude/deruntermensch.html
- Der Untermensch / The Underman http://ostarapublications.com/der-untermensch-the-underman/
- Wilfried Heink. The latest effort to combat “denial”, i.e., Holocaust revisionism (Part II). http://revblog.codoh.com/2011/02/the-latest-effort-to-combat-denial-i-e-holocaust-revisionism/
- Eric Ehrenreich (10 October 2007). The Nazi Ancestral Proof: Genealogy, Racial Science, and the Final Solution. Indiana University Press, 10–. ISBN 978-0-253-11687-1.
- An Interview With General Otto Ernst Remer. Institute for Historical Review. Retrieved on 14 March 2012.