Science and political ideology: The example of Nazi Germany

Ute Deichmann


Although in their basic framework Nazi anti-Semitic and racist ideology and policies were not grounded in science, scientists not only supported them in various ways, but also took advantage of them, for example by using the new possibilities of unethical experimentation in humans that these ideologies provided. Scientists’ complicity with Nazi ideology and politics does, however, not mean that all sciences in Nazi Germany were ideologically tainted. I argue, rather, that despite the fact that some areas of science continued at high levels, science in Nazi Germany was most negatively affected not by the imposition of Nazi ideology on the conduct of science but by the enactment of legal measures that ensured the expulsion of Jewish scientists. The anti-Semitism of young faculty and students was particularly virulent. Moreover, I show that scientists supported Nazi ideologies and policies not only through so-called reductionist science such as eugenics and race-hygiene, but also by promoting organicist and holistic ideologies of the racial state.


academic anti-Semitism; ecology and holism in Nazi Germany; science and values

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