By Martin Durkin – Re-Blogged From http://www.martindurkin.com
Picture the scene. At the edge of a forest, German soldiers point their guns at rows of naked people who follow the Jewish religion. Among them are young mothers clutching their babies. The shots echo through the woods and the dead bodies fall into the ground. Down the road, while this is happening, their German army comrades are busy establishing nature walks and bird sanctuaries and planting trees. The Nazis conducted horrific experiments on children (I have seen footage so upsetting it can’t be shown on TV) but at the same time they banned medical experiments on animals. The same Nazi monsters who committed crimes of unimaginable barbarity also advocated vegetarianism, organic agriculture, forest preservation and homeopathic healthcare. How can we possibly explain this? What was the connection between the inhuman brutality of the Nazis and their gushing idealization of ‘Nature’?
The purpose of exploring Nazi environmentalism is not just to upset the greens. If environmentalism were a curious but peripheral aspect of National Socialism, it would be of no real historical interest. Environmentalists could be forgiven for saying, Ah well, it just goes to show, there’s a little bit of good in the worst of us. But environmentalist ideology was not an accidental, optional-extra to National Socialism. As we shall see, green ideas were at the core of Nazi thinking. The German Volk and Nazi movements marched beneath the banners of ‘Nature’ and the ‘organic’. However, what follows here is not simply a potted history of Nazi environmentalism. It is, at the same time, a brief history of early environmentalism writ large. As will become clear, it is not so easy to draw a line between two types of green thinking.