World War II Theaters: Europe--Racism


Figure 1.--This photograph is unidentified, but it looks like a scene in an unidentified Polish ghetto, perhaps being loaded onto transports to the death camps in 1942. This looks like a photograph taken by a German to document the historic process of desroying the Jewish people. Many Germans were very proud of what they were doing.

Racism was a key aspect of World War II. Racism was a primary factor within the Axis military alliance. Except for the Haitain Revolutiinary wars and American Civil War, race has not been a factor in many wars. This thanks primarily to the NAZIs and Facist allies, made race a major factor in the War. World War as conceived by Adolf Hitler was a racist war. It was not a foot note in the history of the War, tt was a primary German war goal. Hitler clearly conceptualizes a great killing campaign conflict against Jews and the only slightly less objectionable Slavs. The Jews Hitler believed had to be purged from German life. This process evolved into the Holocaust. The German hatred of the Jews and the Holocaust is well known, but only a part of the race war they launched. They planneda ahd had begun a much larger killing program in Eastern Europe--Generalplan Ost. And that was to be just the beginning if their race war. At least some of the Slavs would be allowed to survive because slave labor was needed for the new Reich and NAZI war effort. And Hitler saw the War as not a German war, but an Aryan war. For this reason, the people of the Nordic countries, the Netherlands, and the British would fit into the new Aryan nation. America entered the War as a still largely racist country. These racist ideas, unlike Germany and Japan, did not significantly affect its foreign policy. The South was still strictly seggregatated with black Americans denied civil rights and precvented from voting. America fought the War with a segregated military. The anti-Japanese prejudice of the time was often intense and sharply reflected in American war propaganda that is today very disturbing. There are lots of blatantly racist images of slanted, weaked eyes Japanese with over-sized glasses. Of course this was exacerbated by Pearl Harbor. Anti-German propaganda was not racist, of course, because so many Americans looked like Germans. Anti-Japanese racism was reflected in the disgraceful internment of Pacific-coast Japanese-Americans simply on grounds of their ethnicity. he Soviet Union needs to be considered as a third force in World War II. It was the Soviets along with the Germans who launched the War as a result of the NAZI-Soviet Non-aggression Pact (August 1939), as unlikely allies. The Soviet Unuin unlike Germany was a multi-national state. Both countries, however, proceeded to carry out a long series of aggresons against neighboring countries and terrible attrocities in the countries they occupied. The NAZI attrocities were more race based than the Soviets, but the Soviets carried out ethnic attrocities of their own, deporting several national groups and like the NAZIs set you to destroy Poland as a nationality. And Stalin sought to alter the ethnic balance in the Baltics by deportung Balts and incouraging Russian emigration. The NAZI-Soviet alliance was abruptly broken with the German invasion. And as a result, the Soviets finished the War as key part of the victorious Allied coalition. The racial policies in the Soviet Union is more difficult to assess. Communist doctrine was race neutral which was one reason that it appealed to many Jews. And none other than Lenin was of mixed race origins, includung central Asian ancestors. Of course Communist ideological neutrality on race does not mean that racist beliefs were not prevalent among Soviet officials or as we have noted, Stalin did not pursue a range of racist policies.

The Axis

Racism was a key aspect of World War II. Racism was a primary factor within the Axis military alliance. World War as conceived by Adolf Hitler was a racist war. Hitler clearly conceptualizes a great conflict against Jews and the only slightly less objectionable Slavs. The Jews Hitler believed had to be purged from German life. This process evolved into the Holocaust. At least some of the Slavs would be allowed to survive because slave labor was needed for the new Reich and NAZI war effort. And Hitler saw the War as not a German war, but an Aryan war. For this reason, the people of the Nordic countries, the Netherlands, and the British would fit into the new Aryan nation. Hitler was frustated at the beginning of the War because he found himself fighting the British and allied with the Soviets. What he wanted of course was to be allied with the British and fighting the Soviets which he saw as the worst possible combination of Jewish Bolshevicks overseeing the Slavic masses. Not all the people in Germany and racially acceptable countries were acceptable to Hitler. Gyneology became big business in Germany. To enter the SS one had to prove an Aryan ancestry back centuries. Had the NAZIs won the War, the SS would have evolved as a new aristocracy in Germany. The Japanese also had highly racist attitudes which showed in their treatment of Koreans, Chinese, and other subject peoples. Japanese attrocities are less publicized, but resulted in the deaths of even more people than fell victim to NAZI racist policies. Italy was less affected by racist notions. Italian Fascism rather emphasized Italian nationalism and cultureal identity, but Italy proved to be a largely ineffectual military partner in the Axis war effort. Racism was not, however, limited to the Axis.

The Allies

America entered the War as a still largely racist country. These racist ideas, unlike Germany and Japan, did not significantly affect its foreign policy. The South was still strictly seggregatated with black Americans denied civil rights and precvented from voting. America fought the War with a segregated military. The anti-Japanese prejudice of the time was often intense and sharply reflected in American war propaganda that is today very disturbing. There are lots of blatantly racist images of slanted, weaked eyes Japanese with over-sized glasses. Of course this was exacerbated by Pearl Harbor. Anti-German propaganda was not racist, of course, because so many Americans looked like Germans. Anti-Japanese racism was reflected in the disgraceful internment of Pacific-coast Japanese-Americans simply on grounds of their ethnicity. The internees included American citizens and not only Japanese nationals resident in America. One interesting aspect is that with all this anti-Japanese feeling, is that racist attitudes toward Asian Americans declined sharply atter the War. And this process continued even when the Korean War turned into a war with China. All kinds of restrictions on Asians as to citizenship, employment, university admission also disappeared. It is a phenomenon I do not fully understand, but have been meaning to address. Such overt descrimination did not exist in Britain, but Britain at the time did not have a substantial minority population. The situation in the colonies was different. We are less sure about France.

The Soviet Union

The Soviet Union needs to be considered as a third force in World War II. It was the Soviets along with the Germans who launched the War as a result of the NAZI-Soviet Non-aggression Pact (August 1939), as unlikely allies. The Soviet Unuin unlike Germany was a multi-national state. Both countries, however, proceeded to carry out a long series of aggresons against neighboring countries and terrible attrocities in the countries they occupied. The NAZI attrocities were more race based than the Soviets, but the Soviets carried out ethnic attrocities of their own, deporting several national groups and like the NAZIs set you to destroy Poland as a nationality. And Stalin sought to alter the ethnic balance in the Baltics by deportung Balts and incouraging Russian emigration. The NAZI-Soviet alliance was abruptly broken with the German invasion. And as a result, the Soviets finished the War as key part of the victorious Allied coalition. The racial policies in the Soviet Union is more difficult to assess. Communist doctrine was race neutral which was one reason that it appealed to many Jews. And none other than Lenin was of mixed race origins, includung central Asian ancestors. Of course Communist ideological neutrality on race does not mean that racist beliefs were not prevalent among Soviet officials or as we have noted, Stalin did not pursue a range of racist policies. As far as we can tell, however, they were based on his assessment, not without some justifictions, tht ethnoc groups in many cases held anti-Soviet views. His repressive policies were this not biological, but political. Of coure the same is partially true of the Germans who vilified the Jews as part of their stab-in-the back charge regarding World ar I and their World War II belief that the Jews were a traitorous group. This was, however, only an adjunt to biological racism. It is probably fair to say that racist sentiment was probably less important in the Soviet war effort than in any other of the major combatant countries. The Red Army was composed of many nationalist-formed units including the Ukranian and Polish formations. And we see mixed ethnicities in Red Army units. Unlike the Allies, there were no segregated units. We see many Asian faces in the photogrphs of Red Army soldiers who so valiantly fought the Germans. And we have not noted accounts of racial tension among Red Army soldiers in the World War II literature. Of course this would have been supressed in Soviet historiography if it existed, but it is a topic we have not noted. We do know that after the fall of Communism in ussia, we see vitriolic racial sentiments being expressed.







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Created: 7:30 PM 8/1/2019
Last updated: 7:30 PM 8/1/2019