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Ariel Kest

May 29, 2023


Measuring heads in Nazi Germany - the science of propaganda from the theory of Hans Guenther

One of the devices most identified with the Nazi race theory is the Caliper - a device specially designed to measure the width of the skull, the width of the chin, the length of the nose, and even the color of the eyes. The history books dealing with the study of Nazi anti-Semitism are full of black and white photographs documenting German scientists measuring the heads of men, women, and children in order to determine their racial affiliation. The anthropometric measurements were carried out by the Nazis in concentration camps, in the occupied territories, in villages in Germany, and in local laboratories. Contrary to the common belief that the measurements began to be carried out in order to characterize who is a Jew according to the width of the skull and other characteristics related to the face, the first measurements were actually carried out in order to filter the candidates for the ranks of the SS itself, as well as to obtain the status of a "new farmer" according to the Nazi agricultural settlement laws. The measurements were the way in which the Nazis practically carried out their racist plan to rebuild Europe by removing the foreign racial elements they called the "destroyers of culture" who are not part of the German people according to their new definition "the creators of culture". Since the rise of the Nazi Party to power, scientists at universities have been engaged in shaping the guiding principles of racial theory, and establishing the physiognomic characteristics of each race, so that it was possible, so to speak, to distinguish between the different races based on measurements and tests ("rules" and "laws" that were completely disproved within Germany itself during the war).

In the 1930s, the study of racial types became an integral part of the German education system, including the youth organizations, which presented it as an exact science and were educated in light of its principles. The principles were designed by race theorist Hans Gunther. Despite the Nazis' vision of presenting a clear future of "black" and "white" they encountered a realistic problem - the German population itself was racially mixed even according to the Nazis' own definition. The Nordic, Dinaric, or Alpine type were defined as types that existed in the past and their characteristics were passed from generation to generation while mixing with each other, so that in fact most of the students resembled the racial ideal only partially. Therefore, in the textbooks themselves, the Nazis made sure to qualify the words and wrote: "Look in the mirror and look around at the circle of your friends! Only rarely will you find the characteristic signs of one or another race attached together in one person..." (Hans Heinz, Rasse und Erbe, 1934 p. 18). The Nazis themselves recognized the weakness of the new race science they were trying to dominate and even addressed the teachers themselves with the instruction that the measurement is only an auxiliary means, and that there should be no rules based on it regarding the origin of the subject being measured. At the same time, of course, the students created the spontaneous desire to "show completely Nordic". The purpose of the Nazis in introducing the measuring devices in the places where they were used in practice was to make it clear to the students that the ability to distinguish racially is a professional matter that embodies the practical form of scientifically based racial theory, even if the students did not exactly know Razia themselves. The devices also made it clear to the students that racial identification requires training and expertise, and that it is a matter for "scientists" who know how to arrive at an accurate diagnosis.

In order to create a feeling of "elite", the Nazis applied the measurement of heads to the candidates to be accepted into the ranks of the SS, which considered itself the racial elite of the Nazi society. Candidates for the ranks of the SS were required to provide proof of an Aryan genealogy until the year 1800, and to pass an examination of physical fitness, and political loyalty. Beginning in 1934, the physical characteristics of SS candidates were examined to confirm their racial makeup. The screening was carried out by the race examiners from the SS Main Office for Race and Settlement. The purpose of the screening was also to determine who is eligible to immigrate to Germany and receive citizenship, who will be deported to the East, who will be able to keep their assets and who will be forced to give them up, who will be recruited into the Wehrmacht, who will receive a plot of land , who could be admitted to the youth movements and the Nazi educational institutions and who could marry a German. The examination was done according to a method developed by SS officer anthropologist Bruno K. Schulz, and it included an examination of twenty-one physical parameters - among them: the shape of the head, the shape of the face, the bridge of the nose, The shape of the hair, the color of the hair, the color of the eyes, the color of the skin, etc. Here too it seems that the examiners did not have clear instructions and "cut-off" criteria that determine the definition of the subject according to criteria known in advance, and the test was done more "for the sake of the test". To create a "scientific" atmosphere It is said that whoever is found suitable for the ranks of the SS, this is determined according to "fixed" characteristics that cannot be changed, and is a "blue blood". The German researcher Bastian Hein examined 338 files of SS recruits in East Prussia, and discovered that even before the outbreak of the war, the forms were filled out Ethnicity was only partially filled, certain indices were not recorded at all, and many times even those who had no Nordic characteristics at all were accepted into the service. It was also discovered that a racial test that was supposed to take about an hour actually lasted a few minutes. Bastian concluded that "the anthropometric screening was done hastily, carelessly, or only partially." Due to the fact that the Nazis themselves recognized the weakness of these tests, in orders and internal circulars of The organization from late years emphasizes the need to keep the results of the racial examination confidential, and specifically requests that a rejection based on race be presented as a rejection for medical reasons.The cases in which facial

Measurements that were taken for the purpose of identifying Jews

Jewish students in Nazi Germany know how to tell about this kind of measurements they experienced. Especially famous is the scene in the movie "Europe Europe" in which a Nazi teacher is seen explaining the differences between the privileged Harry and the Lowlife Jews according to "science". For the sake of demonstration, he chooses the Jewish student who is afraid lest his true identity be revealed. At the end of the measurements, the educator announces that, according to the results, pure Aryan blood flows through his veins. The scene is based on a true story that happened with the boy Shlomo Perel and was adapted to what is described in his book (it should be noted that the teachers in the German schools did not always have measuring devices at their disposal, and that Shlomo Perel himself stated in his memoirs that the measuring devices that appear in that scene in the film are an addition of the producers, and that in reality, being A student at the German school, he was chosen to demonstrate in his facial features the "classic type of the Eastern Baltic race", but this was done without instruments - see Shlomo Perl Europe Europe, Tel Aviv 1994, p. 102). In the book "The School in the Third Reich" translated by Ze'ev Vardi (Tel Aviv 1997) in the chapter "Racism and Enoch to Death" there are several similar stories of Jews who were students in Nazi Germany - how as part of a class study they were asked to face this type of measurements. And see also in Hans Christian Harten's book: Rassenhygiene als Erziehungsideologie des Dritten Berlin 2006 - many quotes from the Nazi textbooks in which the various charts for measuring the parts of the face appeared.

As we know, Jewish identity in Nazi Germany was made according to records which proved that a person had three Jewish grandparents in order to make a person a full Jew, or alternatively two such grandparents with circumstantial evidence of the person's belonging to the Jewish community. For this purpose, the Nazis used genealogical records, and not physical measures. If so, in what cases did the Nazis rely on head measurements to determine Jewish racial identity? And when were such measurements made?

With the worsening of the anti-Semitic measures in Germany, there were Jews who managed to escape their racial affiliation by claiming that their legal father was not their biological father. In such cases, the subject, his father and mother were invited to the Anthropological Institute for a race test. The anthropologist would collect the physical indices of all the subjects - which include the structure of the face - the head, eyes, ears, lips, and chin, hair and eye color, blood type, and fingerprint pattern. At the end of the examination, the anthropologist assessed the likelihood that the legal father is the biological father or not. In most cases, the Nazi inspectors did not have "early" data about what was considered to meet the criterion of "Jew" in terms of dimensions, and what did not, because they preferred to take a cautious stance. The tests were designed to find a similarity between the son's traits and the father's traits, the identity of the father was already known, and if there was such a similarity, then the doctor determined that the subject was Jewish. The shape of the examinee's head did not directly associate him with the Jewish or Nordic/Aryan race, but helped link him to a certain father, whose racial identity was already known.

In Nazi Germany, the identification of Jews was usually done on the basis of birth certificates and personal documents, and the Ministry of the Interior was directly responsible for the identification. The Nazis preferred to rely on documents and not on tests of external signs because they themselves recognized the weakness of the latter, to them Judaism is "elusive" and hidden, and the enemy in the Jews was a much greater danger to them than the external "shape of the Jew", which in many cases did not conform to the distorted racial laws.

In Nazi Germany there were even experts such as Houston Stewart Chamberlin, Hans Guenther and others who claimed that the "racial type" was in essence an overall appearance that the eye was supposed to learn to perceive. In their opinion, measurements of facial parts have violated the goal of perceiving the wholeness of the subject. This is because of the realistic problem that race theory faced: many traits were common to different races. For example, blond hair characterized the Nordic race, but also the Osti, a long face characterized the Nordic race, but also the Dinaric, etc.

One of the most shocking cases in which the Nazi anthropologists used facial measurements and blood tests of Jews was the facial cluster recording of Jews, Gypsies, and Soviet prisoners of war in order to preserve and document them for future generations before their extinction. That's right. In September 1939, anthropologists from the Natural History Museum in Vienna conducted a study that included measurements, photographs and the preparation of facial clusters of Jewish prisoners from Auschwitz for this purpose. The goal was to find common physical components and associate "negative" features with those components. The anthropologists who conducted the test identified in advance those subjects who had facial shapes that corresponded to the prevailing cultural stereotype in order to confirm the anti-Semitic perceptions that were the basis of these studies.

In conclusion, it can be stated that although there were those among the Nazi party who believed that the hereditary physical, mental and intellectual traits of the Aryans were passed from generation to generation, and that there was a way to diagnose and determine who their carrier was, in practice most of them knew that this belief contradicted reality. The measurement of heads is more than intended to determine whether the subject is an "Aryan", a Jew, or of another race, it is intended for measurement for the sake of measurement, its purpose was to spread the Nazi race theory as an absolute science, since it is supposedly possible to arrive at the racial origin of the subject based on precise measures - the fact that in practice The fact that the Nazis determined who was Jewish and who was not according to a wide variety of circumstances only confirms the claim that the Nazis themselves knew that race theory was a political tool for the purpose of achieving their goals, more than it was a "scientific fact". For the same reason, even Jews were tested - not for the so-called clear "determination" of whether the subject is Jewish, since in most cases the Nazis relied on documents and circumstances in order to decide on the origin of the subject, but for the purpose of humiliating him, and for the purpose of spreading the idea that the superiority of the Aryan race is a matter of exact science . The purpose of the SS, which developed a method for racial screening and trained manpower for it, was an attempt to expand its power and authority and claim exclusive ownership of decisions in the field of population management, an attempt to transfer the Nazi racial theory from "theory" to "practice", in order to exercise exclusive control over screening the population, much more than really establishing a realistic fact regarding the various subjects, as we have shown above that the Nazis themselves did not set clear criteria for these tests, and in most cases they were done in a sloppy way, without anyone being able to understand why the anthropologist characterized the subject as having a certain race.

This article is largely based on Dr. Amir Teicher's in-depth article which was published in the magazine "History" in the month of Tamuz 2020, issue no. 45, which is titled: "Why did the Nazis measure heads? Science, propaganda, and historical memory". (pp. 91-131)

see also dynasty auction 23, item no. 100.


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