The Great Aryans.
The supremacy of the Nordic Aryan was first proclaimed in a book (Inequality of Human Races (1854)) by a French author and diplomat (count Joseph Author Gobineau) thirty-five years before Hitler was born. Gobineau picked up the notion, set forth sixty years earlier by the English philologist, Sir William Jones, that in antiquity there had been a great and pure Aryan race. Gobineau insisted that just as the Aryans were superior in the past they were still so in the present. He propounded the doctrine that different races are innately unequal in talent, worth and ability. Gobineau argued that only the "white Aryan races" were capable of creating culture and that the "darker races" only borrow. He proclaimed that races change their innate character only by crossbreeding and that the white race was "exhausted" because their racial composition was no longer pure.
The nationalism of the time led most white intellectuals to accept Gobineau's view. They attempted to prove that their own national group had most closely preserved its pristine racial purity and virtue. In France, racialist interpreters (Pictet in 1859 and Lapouge in 1899) "proved" the innate superiority of the "French race." In Great Britain and in the United States there were "numerous supporters of the view that the 'Anglo-Saxons' were the human cream of the 'racial' crop; among these were the British historians J. A. Froude (1818-1894) and J.R. Green (1837-1883), and the later American writers Madison Grant, Homer Lea, and Lothrop Stoddard."1 In Russia, racialist tinged publications like Nikolai Danilevsky's Pan-Slavism Russia and Europe (1869), coupled with a nationalistic populist movement, proclaimed the "Slavs as one of the finest products of civilization."2 In Germany and Austria, pride in one's alleged Aryan origins also found its proponents in men like Wagner who declared the superiority of the German race.
During Hitler's period in Vienna, race theories numbered in the hundreds. One brief theory, which would attract a wide popular following, basically held that prehistoric "Nordic Aryans ... were the chief ancestors of most Europeans and most white Americans."3 These ancient people spoke a primary-language called Aryan (now called Indo-European) from which all dominant European languages originated. Since it was acceptable to experts at the time to deduce that people who had once spoken the same language were of the same race, it was concluded that these "taller and fairer Aryan speaking people"4 originated in the northern part of today's Black Sea area around 9,000 BC. By 5000 BC these Aryan tribes had moved into North Russia and Central Europe. By 2500 BC they had spread throughout all parts of Europe, breeding with the thinly spread tribes of shorter "dark white"5 races and in time developing their own customs, religion, appearances and different versions of the Aryan language.
By the time Hitler began to "research" race theories, large groups of people who happened to speak the same language (more or less), who had a common history (more or less), and had developed certain modes of thought and social behavior were seen as the same "race." It was estimated that only 7% of Europe was populated by non-Aryan language/race groups such as Ural-Altaic (Hungarians, Turks, etc.), Semitic (Jews, Arabs, etc.), and other "darker-skinned" types who, for the most part, had followed the Aryans into Europe. It was propounded, however, that "three great racial groups" accounted for 93% of the total population of Europe. First were the Nordic or Germanic races which for the most part consisted of the Germans, English, Dutch, Swedes, Norwegians, Danes, some Swiss and "probably" the Albanians and the "hopelessly mixed" Greeks. Second was the "Latin race" which included the French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and Romanian. And third, the "Slavic races" consisting mainly of the Russians, Czechs, Yugoslavs, Bulgarians, and Poles.6
(Interestingly, even scholarly "art" works, published as late as 1937, contained phraseology that reminded its readers that even "England," was made up of "different mixtures of Celtic, Roman, Anglo-Saxon, Danish, and Norman-French race elements found on the island."*)7
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1 Tschan, Grimm & Squires 1142
2 Burns & Ralph 853
3 Wells 221
4 Ibid 218
5 Ibid 219
6 Van Loon, Geography 84
7 Rich 538