Courtesy Reuters

Who Are the Germans?

THE Aryan myth is not an invention of the Nazis. These neo-Teutons merely exploited a widely-held German belief which dates back to the nineteenth century, when it was developed by the Frenchman Gobineau and later elaborated by the Englishman Chamberlain. Prussia and her sympathizers, then struggling to weld the innumerable German "states" into a nation, found in the doctrine of Aryan, or Nordic, superiority a powerful political weapon. Heine proved himself a tragic prophet when he said: "In a certain tavern in Göttingen I had the opportunity of admiring the precision with which my friends 'the ancient Teutons' prepared the lists of those who would be proscribed by them as soon as they arrived in power. Anyone who was descended, even seven generations back, from a Frenchman, a Jew, or a Slav was to be condemned to exile."

There was a profound psychological reason for the spread of the Aryan race-myth in Germany. Fifteen hundred years of German history had left unhappy memories in the minds of the people who, by the end of the Middle Ages, were split into some two hundred separate principalities with their "particularist" loyalties. As Thomas Mann has pointed out, there seems to be something anarchic in the German character which drives it to extremes. The inability to form a united state, as did France and England and even Russia, gave the Germans a sense of national inferiority. Only against their historical background can their fanatical acceptance of the idea of Aryan superiority be understood. For Aryan -- a purely philological term -- soon was applied to race and became identified with German. Here at last the Teutonic people, smarting under political and social humiliation, found a secular religion which gave them psychic satisfaction. The French and the English dominated land and sea, but the Germans were the chosen race. All contributions to culture, in all ages and in all civilizations, so said the preachers of the Aryan cult, came from a select group "blessed

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