In our age of ignorance, it is understood that Hitler killed all those millions because of how passionate he was about hate crime. Apparently, once you hate Jews, Slavs and psychiatric patients enough you can’t help yourself but want to kill them.
In reality, Hitler ran the first public health state and his killing programs (and foreign policy as a whole) proceeded logically, and with scientific dispassion, from that one fact.
His particular brand of public health was eugenics which posited that different people were of different genetic value, and that great human advances could be made if the overall genetic value of a nation could be raised. Conversely, if the overall genetic value of a people fell, doom would follow.
In that worldview, every feat of civilization was accomplished by people of a superior genetic value, and every civilization then fell when its genetic value declined.
This genetic decline before the fall could occur because of interbreeding with inferior conquered peoples, or through excessive, prolonged warfare and losses among the most genetically valuable individuals in combat. (In Hitler’s view it was precisely those most genetically valuable who were the most likely to perish in war due to their greater propensity to sacrifice for the whole.)
Thus in Hitler’s view, the ancient Aryans who had conquered India wisely shielded themselves from interbreeding with a rigid caste system, but then nonetheless genetically declined through continuous multi-generational warfare precipitating their fall.
Aryan Romans meanwhile committed the opposite mistake of diluting their blood by mixing freely across the Empire, especially once the Jews had infected them with their Trojan Horse of pacifist and cosmopolitan Christianity.
This, in Hitler’s view, illustrated the Jews’ mortal threat to public health perfectly. In Hitler’s view the Jews’ ingrained group strategy in the great Darwinian competition of nature was to spread cosmopolitan, internationalist ideologies like Christianity, Communism and Capitalism which encourage interbreeding and deny the very existence of the Darwinian struggle between peoples. However while the Jews spread these ideas to others they keep their own blood pure, and then gained control of societies they had bamboozled from within, as had happened in 1917 in Russia. However, unlike the genetically valuable Aryans, the Jews have no capacity to maintain civilizations they hijack, leading to their swift collapse as had happened to Jewish-occupied Rome. (This was supposedly because Jews, unlike Aryans, had no capacity to sacrifice for the whole and would soon after the takeover succumb to a war of one against all.)
Thus it was a matter of public health urgency for Hitler to subdue and eliminate the Jews. Firstly to stop more Jewish blood from being introduced into the pool of Aryan genes that existed in Germany (which was largely accomplished by the race laws), and secondly to once and for all eliminate the major source of the ideas that blinded people to the dangers of cosmopolitanism, internationalism, interbreeding and meekness in a world where there raged a continuous and merciless Darwinian struggle for existence that was by no means guaranteed to be won by peoples capable of advancing or even maintaining human civilization. (Which required the Jews’ physical elimination and precluded expulsions.)
You will remember from elementary school that Nazis pursued a genocide against Jews and Gypsies both. But of the two, the one against Jews was pursued with much greater urgency and vigor. The Roma were to be ended where they were found as a clear-cut example of genetically inferior “life unworthy of life,” but they did not constitute an urgent and existential threat as incubators of dangerous ideas that they were capable of successfully infecting the Germans with.
Hitler’s planned clearing of the East European Plain and the Slav genocide it would entail was another public health measure stemming from Hitler’s concern for the nation’s overall genetic value.
Hitler was convinced that Germany’s genetic (he would say racial or biological) value was decreasing. He was convinced this was happening because Germany had become overpopulated and overly urban, causing Germans to be less fertile and for much of that population gain to be lost to emigration to the Americas.
Not only was the drop in fertility costing Germany many potential civilization-advancing future geniuses, but the mass emigration was actively diminishing German genetic value since in Hitler’s opinion it was precisely the most courageous, industrious, and vigorous who were the most likely to emigrate. (The German emigration was however feeding the pool of Aryan blood in the United States but in Hitler’s view that pool was in great danger of falling pray to “mulattization” and would thus be of no great benefit to human civilization in the future.)
In Hitler’s understanding of the world then Germany, or more precisely the reservoir of high-value Aryan DNA in Germanic Europe, was subject to highly dysgenic forces. The status quo would mean doom, not just in the long term, but already in the mid term. Standing still was not an option. Radical action was needed and fast, no matter the how risky. Since absent action the continental Aryan DNA was already surely doomed anyway there was nothing to be lost by having a go at it and failing. Emigration could be banned and the decline of German racial quality arrested in the immediate in that way, but the underlying problem needed a systemic solution and quickly so.
The cold logical scientific solution was to capture the East European Plain, depopulate it, and create a vast space that Germans could emigrate to internally, and build rural — and thus highly fertile — communities.
Not only would thus Germany retain the most genetically valuable portion of its natural increase, but it was hoped that fertility itself would grow by leaps and bounds which would allow the state the space to comfortably deploy the full arsenal of its eugenic instruments: sterilization, infanticide, and “involuntary euthanasia”.* In other words, a high natural increase was needed because it was intended to have public health experts discard a very significant portion of that increase in order to fast-track the genetic evolution of German Aryans.
Hitler did not fantasize about ruling the world, or even of breeding billions of Germans. As a eugenist man of science, he valued quality above quantity. His greatest ambition was nothing more fantastic than to preside over a gigantic public health laboratory stretching from the Rhine to the Volga to practice scientific selective breeding of his own people in the pursuit of the future race of genetic Übermenschen.
To make way for his continent-spanning laboratory the relatively low-value Slavs who possessed only a smidgeon of valuable Aryan blood would have to give way, but Hitler harbored no particular hatred of them, and a claim to the contrary would have offended his pro-science sensibilities.
It wasn’t a matter of passion to take over their lands and largely see them exterminated but simply a matter of natural science. So as a man takes over habitat from wolf and bear, so the Aryan would take what is necessary for his flourishing from the less evolved Slav. But so as a man does not hate the bear so there would be no particular hatred of this one race of man, nor any particular lament for its fate.
Such was simply the fate of nature’s beings in possession of a resource in urgent need by another, stronger, and in this case, more deserving, race. To show the Slav undue compassion would only serve to jeopardize future human evolution and the continued existence of human civilization (which only Aryans were capable of forming and advancing but not Slavs). Generplan Ost was no hate crime. It was landscaping for a coming public health lab in which the Germans themselves would be the lab mice.
Indeed Hitler’s very first mass killing campaign was not against the Jews, Roma, or any other racial aliens but against the Germans themselves. When war broke out in September 1939 it became inevitable that a certain portion of the most genetically valuable — those most willing to risk themselves for the whole — would perish. There was nothing that could be done about that thus the killing-off of the least valuable became all the more urgent. Hitler could not prevent the permanent loss of some of the best available genes, but at least he could offset that somewhat by killing many more of those on the bottom rungs of genetic value.
Starting in October 1939 public health experts and medical practitioners proceeded to murder hundreds of thousands of Germans — to serve the interests of national health. The medical professionals involved saw no contradiction in this task and their profession for they had accepted the Nazi notion that as doctors their loyalty was not to their patient but to the common good, the overall biological health of the nation. This meant that so as they were to do everything to save genetically valuable individuals for the sake of the nation, it was of equal importance to terminate and otherwise prevent from breeding their opposites.
Of course, Nazi public health interventions against Germans were more expansive than just the T4 killing program. There was a war on “vagrants,” “asocials,” and the “habitually criminal” which merited imprisonment and/or sterilization. Marital and sexual relations were highly regulated, particularly those of German women, first barring relations with Jews (and encouraging divorce) and then with foreign workers. But this too was only the very beginning. In the SS marriage had to be approved by the organization meaning members had to provide their bride’s ancestry and health certificates and approval could be withheld for something as trifling as the bride’s short height.
There is no doubt that this system subjecting marriage to prior public health approval would have been expanded after the war to the general population. Hitler deemed his system “National Socialism” for good reason. Hitler deemed himself a Socialist because he regarded capitalism as a nefarious Jewish-invented system in which many genetically valuable Germans were put in a position where they could not have more children due to material constraints. He would change that by a variety of means including generous payments to child-bearing families. However, his Socialism was National because it was there — not for the benefit of the social payment recipient — but for the benefit of the nation, specifically its racial health. Hitler had no interest in breeding (and paying for) those of low genetic value, and the primary reason he wanted desirables to be more bountiful was so that he could then apply yet more stringent selective breeding pressures to their offspring (without causing depopulation that would follow if he attempted the same against the Germans’ current low fertility rates). In other words, the greater number of Germans that were born each year, the greater the number the Nazi public health experts could dispose of, the faster the artificially-aided evolution of human stock would progress.
In 1945 the Slavic Red Army brought Communism to Germany and the Germans, but the fate it saved them from was an even more dystopian one, one in which they were to be the playthings of all-powerful common-good “scientists” who would regulate the most private aspects of their lives and hold the power of life and death over their newborns.
Why has this ugly ideology been allowed to raise its ugly head again after it had caused the bloodiest war in history of mankind with well over 30 million dead in Europe alone?
On the evidence, of all the world’s fallacious ideologies, “public health” is the most dangerous and the most lethal so far.
* Once prenatal screenings were invented abortion would have doubtlessly been added to the toolbox.
For further reading see especially Hitler’s Ethic: The Nazi Pursuit of Evolutionary Progress by Richard Weikart.