Sunday, March 22, 2020

Was Hitler Aryan?

(Quora, 20 March 2020)

Question: "Was Hitler even Aryan, or was that what he just wanted for the country?"

My answer:

Adolf Hitler spoke an Indo-European language, and that made him an Aryan as defined by the coiner of the term, Friedrich von Schlegel, 1808. The same counts for, say, Barack Obama. Later, race became all the rage, with Charles Darwin's discovery of evolution and Benjamin Disraeli's observation that race is the key to all of history. The Indo-European speech community was obviously not identical with a physical type, being roughly half-white and half-brown, so some tried to distinguish between real, original Aryans, of a recognizable physical type, and all the racial flotsam that had adopted the Indo-European language. This emphasizes the importance of the Homeland question, as physical types come about in certain climate zones, e.g. if you claim that real Aryans are blonde, an Indian Homeland becomes unlikely. Linguists like Friedrich Max Mueller were embarrassed when they saw this racial twist given to their science, but the spirit of the times favoured this aberration. The identification of the Aryan type as blonde, tall, long-skulled, straight-nosed and with a backhead knob prevailed and ended up becoming official in Nazi Germany's courses of “racial science". But by that criterion, Hitler was not a very good example.
This question would hardly have been worth answering, were it not that today we note a return to this identification of language with race. The last few years have seen, in the remaining Euro-nationalist fringe but esp. in India, a wave of enthusiasm for supposed new genetic evidence deciding the Homeland debate. We now get to read deadly serious claims that a skeleton found in Rakhigarhi in the Harappan culture “was Dravidian" because of his genes. Certain supposed immigrants from Central Asia (we express no opinion on the correctness of these genetics-based claims) are found to have the gene R1a1, like the East-European and Central-Siberian populations. Like the blonde long-skulls of yore, this gene is now routinely called “Aryan". R1a1 counts as an indicator of Indo-European speech, as “the Aryan gene". When studying Indo-European linguistics, we were always warned against this identification of language with a physical type.

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