"Blood and Homeland": Eugenics and Racial Nationalism in Central and Southeast Europe, 1900-1940

By Marius Turda; Paul J. Weindling | Go to book overview

German "Race Psychology" and Its
Implementation in Central Europe: Egon von
Eickstedt and Rudolf Hippius

Egbert Klautke

"Race psychology" claims to explain the characteristics, cultural abilities, and mental traits of nations and peoples by analysing their racial composition. It postulates that these characteristics or mental traits are linked to races in a hereditary and naturally determined fashion, thus existing independently of "external," social factors. From this perspective, the physical characteristics of people, in which traditional physical anthropology was predominantly interested, are perceived as indicators of mental and intellectual qualities. For proponents of "race psychology," the specific mental quality of a nation constitutes its identity; at the same time, mental differences constitute the essential differences between nations. Thus defined, "race psychology" formed the core of scientific racism which dominated disciplines such as anthropology and psychology in the first half of the twentieth century. Fritz Lenz (1887–1976), who in 1923 became the first associate professor of racial hygiene in Germany at the University of Munich and later a departmental director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Human Heredity, Anthropology, and Eugenics in Berlin, never described himself as a "race psychologist," and indeed rarely used the term at all. Yet in the most important German textbook on "Human Heredity" (Menschliche Erblehre), Lenz insisted that: "if it was only about physical racial differences (…) then the whole question of race would be meaningless."1 In this text, Lenz dedicated a long chapter to the "inheritance of mental traits," thus demonstrating his belief that the main principles of "race psychology" were the core of all racial studies.

Lenz's position is indicative of the general attitude of academics towards the field of "race psychology" during the Third Reich. While its principles formed the basis of almost all academic and political theories of race––including those of the best-known Nazi ideologues––

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