Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Nazism and Nature: Architecture of Doom

In his article "Nativism and Nature: Rethinking Biological Invasion," Jonah Peretti discussed the Nazi's desire to "purify nation and nature, by eliminating people and biota that were supposedly not native" (118) in an effort to beautify the nation. Because Hitler et. al. believed that the Germans embodied pure beauty, they wanted to purify their state by getting rid of everything. According to John Haldane, "the human experience plays a constitutive role in environmental aesthetics" (Admiring the High Mountains 105). Therefore, the Germans were trying to make their state more aesthetically pleasing by removing non-native species and races. As Michael Pollan would say, the Germans were simply cultivating their garden with an anthropocentric eye, to make it the way they wanted it to be. He would argue that by pulling weeds (or in this case eradicating the non-native species in Germany), the gardener may be able to improve his land. However I would doubt that many people would argue that the Nazis were improving their land. Thus, it seems that whether or not gardening, weeding, and cultivating land is improving nature must be subjective and therefore may be good or bad depending on your point of view. This makes Pollan's garden ethic slightly more complicated.

An interesting documentary, Architecture of Doom, shows that the Germans viewed the Jews as insects or invasive species that needed to be eradicated. In a Washington Post review of the documentary, Benjamin Forgey describes the scene that motivated my interest in the movie: "In this so-called euthanasia program, means were perfected for the ultimate Nazi task, the cleansing of the race via the eradication of the Jews. Perhaps the most horrific juxtaposition in a film replete with them is that of an official 1937 film extolling the killing of pests with a new insecticide, Zyklon B, with the notorious antisemitic pseudo-documentary "The Eternal Jew," made in the Warsaw ghetto in 1940. Zyklon B was the gas settled upon for the concentration camp chambers." This documentary explores the Nazi psyche by comparing the Jewish population to a population of invasive insects. This relates directly to Peretti's questioning of whether native species are in fact more desirable than invaders.

No comments: