Nazi Ancestral Proof: Genealogy, Racial Science, and the Final Solution

Nazi Ancestral Proof: Genealogy, Racial Science, and the Final Solution

by Eric Ehrenreich
     
 

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How could Germans, inhabitants of the most scientifically advanced nation in the world in the early 20th century, have espoused the inherently unscientific racist doctrines put forward by the Nazi leadership? Eric Ehrenreich traces the widespread acceptance of Nazi policies requiring German individuals to prove their Aryan ancestry to the popularity of ideas about

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Overview

How could Germans, inhabitants of the most scientifically advanced nation in the world in the early 20th century, have espoused the inherently unscientific racist doctrines put forward by the Nazi leadership? Eric Ehrenreich traces the widespread acceptance of Nazi policies requiring German individuals to prove their Aryan ancestry to the popularity of ideas about eugenics and racial science that were advanced in the late Imperial and Weimar periods by practitioners of genealogy and eugenics. After the enactment of Nazi racial laws in the 1930s, the Reich Genealogical Authority, employing professional genealogists, became the providers and arbiters of the ancestral proof. This is the first detailed study of the operation of the ancestral proof in the Third Reich and the link between Nazi racism and earlier German genealogical practices. The widespread acceptance of this racist ideology by ordinary Germans helped create the conditions for the Final Solution.

Indiana University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Choice
Thoroughly researched and vigorously argued, this study seeks to explain how the National Socialist regime institutionalized its racial ideology, why it met with virtually no opposition, and how this contributed to genocide. Attorney Ehrenreich shows that, as with many other developments, 1933 was not the absolute watershed scholars usually assume it to have been. Tracing the history of genealogical practices, eugenics, and "scientific" racism from the imperial era (1871-1918) into the Weimar years (1919-33), the author reasons that Germans had become thoroughly accustomed to these discourses. Notwithstanding their scientific worthlessness, the Nazi version of these theories met with no meaningful resistance, as millions upon millions of Germans complied with the regime's demands regarding the racial purity of their ancestors. Compliance may have rested on a "combination of perceived benefits" rather than enthusiasm for the ideology, but whatever the basis for public acceptance, it allowed the Nazis to implement thousands of racial laws with virtually no opposition from either institutions or individuals. Whole new branches of commerce emerged to service a new public need—providing the proof that one was untainted by "Jewish blood." Ordinary Germans thus helped identify and isolate Jews, steps that led to their extermination. An important book, accessible to general readers. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries.R. S. Levy, University of Illinois at Chicago, Choice, November 2008

— R. S. Levy, University of Illinois at Chicago

H-German

"Ehrenreich's book carefully and clearly enumerates scientific racism's fallacies of logic.... [His book shows that] although racist eugenics was less logically coherent than hereditary health eugenics, greater numbers of ‘racially acceptable’ Germans appear to have been willing to accept racist eugenic doctrine in order to come to terms with their own failure to act in the face of their neighbors' suffering. In other words, Ehrenreich concludes.... racial antisemitism was an indicator of what people sincerely hoped to be true. I find this thesis both terrifying and plausible.... [The] book is an extremely well-argued, insightful exposition of the institutionalization of racism in everyday life during the Third Reich." —H-German

German Studies Review
"In this important study, Eric Ehrenreich demonstrates how genealogical studies and racist eugenics converged to help institutionalize racism in Nazi society." —Richard Weikart, GERMAN STUDIES REVIEW, 2008

— Richard Weikart

Shofar
Eric Ehrenreich traces the widespread acceptance of Nazi policies requiring German individuals to prove their Aryan ancestry to the popularity of ideas about eugenics and racial science that were advanced in the late Imperial and Weimar periods by practitioners of genealogy and eugenics. This is a detailed study of the operation of the ancestral proof in the Third Reich and the link between Nazi racism and earlier German genealogical practices. The widespread acceptance of this racist ideology by ordinary Germans helped create the conditions for the Final Solution.Joseph Haberer, Book Editor, SHOFAR, Vol. 27, 2 Winter 2009

— Joseph Haberer, Book Editor

National Jewish Post and Opinion (KY ed.)
... Washington-based lawyer Eric Ehrenreich has produced the most exhaustive study available on the way in which 19th- and early 20th-century German pseudo science and its Nazi successors carried out a war against non Aryans, particularly Jews.—Arnold Ages, National Jewish Post and Opinion (KY ed.), April 15, 2009

— Arnold Ages

Central European History
"The ancestral proof... formed the bedrock of the regime’s racial policies... It is... surprising that this issue has not received more scholarly attention, and Ehrenreich has made an interesting and valuable contribution by elucidating it." —Lars Fischer, University College London, Central European History, Vol. 42 2009

— Lars Fischer, University College London

Holocaust and Genocide Studies
"... each contribution builds either explicitly or implicitly on the shared working assumption that conventional distinctions between (religious) anti-Judaism and (racialist) antisemitism may conceal as much as they reveal. Traditional anti-Judaism, these scholars agree, both framed and exploited politically instrumentalized forms of cultural and racial antisemitism, reflecting a 'Christian failure to understand and acknowledge Judaism on its own terms'...." —David J. Diephouse, Calvin College, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Vol. 23. 1 Spring 2009

— David J. Diephouse, Calvin College

Journal of Genocide Research
"Peter Fritsche calls Ehrenreich's book 'an excellent contribution to our understanding of racism in the Third Reich'... Richard Weikart, [on the other hand,] while praising Ehrenreich's explication of [the] Nazi 'ancestral proof,'... rejects his argument that scientific racism ligitimated but did not lead to the Holocaust. That two reviewers can provide such markedly different assessments of the book suggests that something interesting is going on. And indeed, whether one agrees with Eherenreich or not, his book is worth reading." —Dan Stone, Journal of Genocide Research, 2009

— Dan Stone

American Historical Review
"Ehrenreich tells a fascinating story, and his book is a model of patient research and meticulous archival investigation.... a major contribution to the intellectual and social history of Nazism." —DANIEL GASMAN, John Jay College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York, American Historical Review, Vol. 114.4 October 2009

— DANIEL GASMAN, John Jay College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York

National Jewish Post & Opinion (Kentucky Edition)
"... Washington-based lawyer Eric Ehrenreich has produced the most exhaustive study available on the way in which 19th- and early 20th-century German pseudo science and its Nazi successors carried out a war against non Aryans, particularly Jews." —Arnold Ages, National Jewish Post & Opinion (Kentucky Edition), April 15, 2009

— Arnold Ages

Choice - R. S. Levy

"Thoroughly researched and vigorously argued, this study seeks to explain how the National Socialist regime institutionalized its racial ideology, why it met with virtually no opposition, and how this contributed to genocide.... An important book, accessible to general readers.... Highly recommended." —R. S. Levy, University of Illinois at Chicago, Choice, November 2008

Beth A. Griech-Polelle

"[A] fascinating study which will contribute to the general understanding of how a technologically advanced, sophisticated German people were capable of complying with many of the racial policies instituted by the National Socialist regime." —Beth A. Griech-Polelle, author of Bishop von Galen: German Catholicism and National Socialism

GERMAN STUDIES REVIEW - Richard Weikart

"In this important study, Eric Ehrenreich demonstrates how genealogical studies and racist eugenics converged to help institutionalize racism in Nazi society." —Richard Weikart, GERMAN STUDIES REVIEW, 2008

SHOFAR - Joseph Haberer

Eric Ehrenreich traces the widespread acceptance of Nazi policies requiring German individuals to prove their Aryan ancestry to the popularity of ideas about eugenics and racial science that were advanced in the late Imperial and Weimar periods by practitioners of genealogy and eugenics. This is a detailed study of the operation of the ancestral proof in the Third Reich and the link between Nazi racism and earlier German genealogical practices. The widespread acceptance of this racist ideology by ordinary Germans helped create the conditions for the Final Solution.Joseph Haberer, Book Editor, SHOFAR, Vol. 27, 2 Winter 2009

National Jewish Post and Opinion (KY ed.) - Arnold Ages

"... Washington-based lawyer Eric Ehrenreich has produced the most exhaustive study available on the way in which 19th- and early 20th-century German pseudo science and its Nazi successors carried out a war against non Aryans, particularly Jews." —Arnold Ages, National Jewish Post and Opinion (KY ed.), April 15, 2009

Central European History - Lars Fischer

"The ancestral proof... formed the bedrock of the regime’s racial policies... It is... surprising that this issue has not received more scholarly attention, and Ehrenreich has made an interesting and valuable contribution by elucidating it." —Lars Fischer, University College London, Central European History, Vol. 42 2009

Holocaust and Genocide Studies - David J. Diephouse

"... each contribution builds either explicitly or implicitly on the shared working assumption that conventional distinctions between (religious) anti-Judaism and (racialist) antisemitism may conceal as much as they reveal. Traditional anti-Judaism, these scholars agree, both framed and exploited politically instrumentalized forms of cultural and racial antisemitism, reflecting a 'Christian failure to understand and acknowledge Judaism on its own terms'...." —David J. Diephouse, Calvin College, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Vol. 23. 1 Spring 2009

Journal of Genocide Research - Dan Stone

"Peter Fritsche calls Ehrenreich's book 'an excellent contribution to our understanding of racism in the Third Reich'... Richard Weikart, [on the other hand,] while praising Ehrenreich's explication of [the] Nazi 'ancestral proof,'... rejects his argument that scientific racism ligitimated but did not lead to the Holocaust. That two reviewers can provide such markedly different assessments of the book suggests that something interesting is going on. And indeed, whether one agrees with Eherenreich or not, his book is worth reading." —Dan Stone, Journal of Genocide Research, 2009

H-German - Peter Fritzsche

"Ehrenreich's book is an extremely well-argued, insightful exposition of the institutionalization of racism in everyday life during the Third Reich." —Peter Fritzsche, H-German, 2008

American Historical Review - DANIEL GASMAN

"Ehrenreich tells a fascinating story, and his book is a model of patient research and meticulous archival investigation.... a major contribution to the intellectual and social history of Nazism." —DANIEL GASMAN, John Jay College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York, American Historical Review, Vol. 114.4 October 2009

From the Publisher
Thoroughly researched and vigorously argued, this study seeks to explain how the National Socialist regime institutionalized its racial ideology, why it met with virtually no opposition, and how this contributed to genocide. Attorney Ehrenreich shows that, as with many other developments, 1933 was not the absolute watershed scholars usually assume it to have been. Tracing the history of genealogical practices, eugenics, and "scientific" racism from the imperial era (1871-1918) into the Weimar years (1919-33), the author reasons that Germans had become thoroughly accustomed to these discourses. Notwithstanding their scientific worthlessness, the Nazi version of these theories met with no meaningful resistance, as millions upon millions of Germans complied with the regime's demands regarding the racial purity of their ancestors. Compliance may have rested on a "combination of perceived benefits" rather than enthusiasm for the ideology, but whatever the basis for public acceptance, it allowed the Nazis to implement thousands of racial laws with virtually no opposition from either institutions or individuals. Whole new branches of commerce emerged to service a new public need—providing the proof that one was untainted by "Jewish blood." Ordinary Germans thus helped identify and isolate Jews, steps that led to their extermination. An important book, accessible to general readers. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries.R. S. Levy, University of Illinois at Chicago, Choice, November 2008

"... Washington-based lawyer Eric Ehrenreich has produced the most exhaustive study available on the way in which 19th- and early 20th-century German pseudo science and its Nazi successors carried out a war against non Aryans, particularly Jews." —Arnold Ages, National Jewish Post and Opinion (KY ed.), April 15, 2009

"The ancestral proof... formed the bedrock of the regime’s racial policies... It is... surprising that this issue has not received more scholarly attention, and Ehrenreich has made an interesting and valuable contribution by elucidating it." —Lars Fischer, University College London, Central European History, Vol. 42 2009

"Ehrenreich tells a fascinating story, and his book is a model of patient research and meticulous archival investigation.... a major contribution to the intellectual and social history of Nazism." —DANIEL GASMAN, John Jay College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York, American Historical Review, Vol. 114.4 October 2009

"Peter Fritsche calls Ehrenreich's book 'an excellent contribution to our understanding of racism in the Third Reich'... Richard Weikart, [on the other hand,] while praising Ehrenreich's explication of [the] Nazi 'ancestral proof,'... rejects his argument that scientific racism ligitimated but did not lead to the Holocaust. That two reviewers can provide such markedly different assessments of the book suggests that something interesting is going on. And indeed, whether one agrees with Eherenreich or not, his book is worth reading." —Dan Stone, Journal of Genocide Research, 2009

German History

"[P]rovides interesting insights into the institutionalization of racism in Nazi society." —German History

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780253349453
Publisher:
Indiana University Press
Publication date:
10/28/2007
Pages:
264
Product dimensions:
6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x 0.95(d)

What People are saying about this

Peter Fritzsche
"Ehrenreich's book carefully and clearly enumerates scientific racism's fallacies of logic. ... [His book shows that] although racist eugenics was less logically coherent than hereditary health eugenics, greater numbers of 'racially acceptable' Germans appear to have been willing to accept racist eugenic doctrine in order to come to terms with their own failure to act in the face of their neighbors' suffering. In other words, Ehrenreich concludes that .... racial antisemitism was an indicator of what people sincerely hoped to be true. I find this thesis both terrifying and plausible. ... an extremely well-argued, insightful exposition of the institutionalization of racism in everyday life during the Third Reich."--(Peter Fritzsche, H-German author of Germans into Nazis (2008))

Meet the Author

Eric Ehrenreich holds a law degree from the University of California, Davis, and a Ph.D. in history from the University of Wisconsin. He was Douglas and Carol Cohen Postdoctoral Fellow at the U.S. Holocaust Museum's Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies. He currently practices law in Washington, D.C.

Indiana University Press

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