The Nordic Race: The Meaning and Racial Controversy


The idea of the Nordic race is one fraught with controversy because of its association with the Nazis and historically racist legislature. While it may have emerged during a time when race-based ways of thinking were common, Nordicism has certainly become one of the more controversial ideas because of what it was used to justify.

The idea of the Nordic Race has become synonymous with Nordicism and the idea that Nordic people are superior to others. This raced-based viewpoint is particularly controversial because of the foundation it laid for Adolf Hitler and Nazi ideology. 

The rest of this article will explore Nordicism and its implications in greater detail. It will show how this view influenced the Nazis. Through exploring Nordicism with its historical implications, it will become clear why it is considered such a dangerous ideology.

Also see Norse, Nordic, and Norwegian: What’s the Difference? to learn more.

Scandinavia map
What is Nordicism? See below

Is Nordic an Ethnicity?

The term “Nordic” is an ethnicity descriptor used for people from Northern and Northwestern Europe. [1] The term arose in the 19th century at a time where it was not uncommon to try to explain world phenomena through the lens of race and ethnicity. Since then, it has taken on a more racist connotation. 

Who is considered to be a Nordic person is very limited when viewed through the perspective of Nordicism. This view allows only light-skinned and light-eyed people into the class of Nordic.

It considered the classic Nordic appearance of tall, strong, and blond to be the ideal appearance for a human. It also argued that pure Nordic people possess superior intellect and abilities. 

The idea of the Nordic Race was very intolerant of racial diversity within any of the Nordic countries. Nordicism valued only its definition of “pure,” which was in alignment with the physical standards outlined above. 

With modern science, the idea of any race being superior to another is false and a very harmful narrative. However, at the time, many people subscribed to the idea that pure Nordic people were superior to all other races, including other European Caucasians. 

Also see Why Do Norwegians Hate Swedes and Danes? to learn more.

Scandinavia family
Why is Nordicism considered racist? See below

What Is Nordicism?

Nordicism is a race-based ideology that believes that those coming from Northwest Europe are superior people. This viewpoint credits Nordic people with all meaningful advances in science, art, technology, and all other important fields. 

Once Nordic people had been separated from others as superior in this world view, Nordicism was born. This ideology was particularly popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. There were several important essays that were published at the time, explaining, celebrating, and spreading this view of racial superiority. 

While there was a lot of race-based thinking done in anthropological circles at that time, this proved to be one of the more dangerous ideologies. 

In 1853, an essay written by Arthur De Gabineau outlined his view that levels of intellect were dependent on race. [2] He found white people from Northern European countries as the most intelligent and most superior race. He saw the mixing of the superior white race with the inferior, non-white races as the most dangerous threat to great civilizations. 

Another famous work, published by Madison Grant in 1916, came to be influential in the spread of the idea of Nordic superiority. Entitled “The Passing of the Great Race,” this book would be one of the seminal Nordicism works that would come to influence Hitler and the Nazi Party

This same idea has surfaced with different names on different continents and under different contexts. Anglo-Saxonism became the term used to describe the same idea in North America, while Frankisism popped up in France.

As the idea spread, it became institutionalized in different ways in different countries. Most famously and most dangerous was its adaptation by Hitler into Nazi ideology.

Also see Norway During World War 2: Overview and Summary to learn more.

Why Is Nordicism Considered Racist?

Nordicism has a clear racist structure of an ideology that considers one race superior to others. Its pure existence is racist. However, it has become particularly controversial and dangerous because of its association with Nazi Germany.

Nazi ideology was built on the fundamental ideals in Nordicism. This idea that there was a master, superior race that hailed from northern European countries was the foundation for the horrors Hitler went on to commit against humanity.

The Nazis were not inventing a new argument; they were simply bringing the ideology of Nordicism to newer, more dangerous heights.  

Because Nordicism and Nazi ideology define the Nordic race as being superior to other races, it can easily point to other races as inferior. This was the basis of the Nazi way of ranking races and committing atrocities in the name of being superior to another group of humans. 

This way of thinking went even further with the Nazis. They went so far as to view Jewish people as inhuman. Their ideology dictated that people who belonged to this group were not even to be considered human. It was this dangerous ideology that led to the holocaust and some of the darkest moments in modern human history. 

While its association with Nazism is its most dangerous connection, some argue that the principles of it have resurfaced in various public policies throughout history. Some believe that in the United States, the Immigration Act of 1924, essentially embraced the idea of Nordicism and made it into law. Others believe the Act is more complex than that.

The Immigration Act of 1924 limited the number of immigrants allowed entry into the United States through a national origins quota. The quota provided immigration visas to two percent of the total number of people of each nationality in the United States as of the 1890 national census. It completely excluded immigrants from Asia. [3]

This immigration law prioritized people coming from the countries Nordicism deemed superior and made it much more difficult for Italians, Jews, Southern Europeans, Eastern Europeans, and Asians to enter the country. 

Final Thoughts 

Nordicism was created when race-based viewpoints weren’t uncommon. However, the link between Nordicism and Nazism and racist policies make it a particularly controversial ideology. 

References:
[1] Source
[2] Source
[3] Source

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