Subject Area



Most people do not immediately think of environmentalism when they hear the term “Nazi.” Nazis were racist imperialists who killed millions of people. Is it possible for the genocidal policies of the Third Reich to be compatible with green politics and nature preservation? Several historians and sociologists during a period of anti-green backlash and Nazi revisionism in the late 20th century argued that environmentalism was, indeed, a central part of National Socialism. Citing environmentally progressive Nazi legislation combined with elements of the “Blood and Soil” element of Nazi ideology, these individuals made a case that Hitler and the Nazis were some of the first modern environmentalists. This intriguing and unusual claim was used both to depict Nazis more favorably as well as to paint contemporary green politicians in a more negative light.

Although it is important to consider the views of such historians like Schama and Bramwell, who argued the above point, the Nazis cannot be called environmentalists. Despite their passing of a few noteworthy pieces of green legislation and their admiration for the German landscape, the Nazis prioritized rearmament, war, and ethnic purity far above national environmental protection policies, which were largely abandoned with the escalation of the Second World War. Nature preservation remained an effective propaganda theme for the National Socialists, as they were quite fond of linking the volk and their pure blood to the German land, but sweeping environmental reform simply did not take place. With that said, it is imperative to review the scholarship of those who argue that the Nazis were true environmentalists and the elements of the Third Reich that led them to come to those faulty conclusions.


Providence College

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