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The master race (German: Herrenrasse, Herrenvolk) is a concept in Nazi ideology, which holds that the Germanic and Nordic people represent an ideal and "pure race". It derives from nineteenth century racial theory, which posited a hierarchy of "races" placing African Bushmen and Australian Aborigines at the bottom of the hierarchy while white Europeans were at the top. This concept is similar to that of the White supremacy movement.
The origins of the Nazi version of the theory of the master race were in 19th century racial theories of Count Arthur de Gobineau, who argued that cultures degenerate when distinct races mix. It was believed at this time that southern European peoples were racially mixed with non-European Moors from across the Mediterranean, while Northern Europeans remained pure. Hence, in Nazism the racial ideal was the blond blue-eyed Nordic individual. Slavs and Eastern Europeans were regarded as a degenerate Aryan stock.
The term Aryan race was commonly used to name this ideal. The postulated superiority of these people was said to make them born leaders, or a "master race". Other authors included Guido von List (and his associate Lanz von Liebenfels) and British Houston Stewart Chamberlain, all of whom felt that the Germanic race was superior to others, and that given the purification of the German people from the races who were "polluting" it, a new Millenarian age of Aryan god-men would arrive.
The term Aryan derives from the ancient peoples who occupied Iran and the Indus Valley. Following the ideas of Gobineau and others, the Nazi theorist Alfred Rosenberg claimed that these were a dynamic warrior people who originated in northern climates, from which they migrated south, eventually reaching India. They were supposed to be the ancestors of the ancient Germanic tribes, who shared their warrior values. Building from Nietzsche (but altering his concepts), Rosenberg claimed that Christianity was an alien Semitic slave-morality inappropriate to the warrior Aryan master race.
In Nazi Germany, marriage of an "Aryan" with a "Untermensch" was forbidden. To maintain the purity of the Nordic master race eugenics was practised. In order to eliminate "defective" citizens, the T-4 Euthanasia Program was administered by Karl Brandt to rid the country of the mentally retarded or those born with genetic deficiencies, as well as those deemed to be racially inferior. Additionally, a program of compulsory sterilization was undertaken and resulted in the forced operations of hundreds of thousands of individuals. Many of these idioms were transferred and are generally seen as being related to what eventually became known as the Holocaust in popular culture.
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