Green Lebensraum: The Nazi Roots of Sustainable Development
Much of the European Union's green sustainable development plans are largely based on government controlled land use planning theories rooted in the lebensraum tradition. Literally, lebensraum means "living space." Lebensraum was originally developed by German geographer Friedrich Ratzel (1844-1904) and then greatly expanded under the banner of National Socialism (1933-1945).
Ratzel is the father of modern political geography which is commonly called geopolitics. He believed history was largely a natural evolutionary development of peoples looking for geographical living space. Ratzel also held that expanding borders reflected the biological health of a nation. The National Socialists adopted Ratzel's mixing of evolutionary theory, biology, and geopolitics in their own version of lebensraum.
Karl Haushofer (1869-1946), who was an early advisor to Hitler, was the link between Ratzel and National Socialism. Karl Haushofer's father was a friend of Ratzel. Karl was a member of the Thule Society before it was converted into the Nazi Party in 1920. Haushofer was also the mentor of Rudolf Hess, who was a green vegetarian mystic. Hess was Hitler's personal secretary up until 1941. Haushofer and Hess helped Hitler write Mein Kampf.
There was also a strong connection between lebensraum and the growing political empire of the Nazi SS under the leadership of Heinrich Himmler and Walther Darre. Himmler and Darre promoted a "back to the land" movement under the SS slogan of "blood and soil." In Darre's racist ideology, the economic catastrophe of the 1920's confirmed the decadence of the modern cosmopolitan city life. Darre believed that greedy foreign capitalism coupled with international Marxist class warfare divided the German race so that it was not allowed to sustain itself in the soil of its own homeland.
The hunger pangs of the 1920's were blamed on the international city, largely run by Jewish capitalists and communists. Darre and Himmler believed cosmopolitan cities arrogated themselves above the laws of life and nature. The answer to this crisis, therefore, was to get the German race out from under the yoke of dirty industrial cities and re-ruralize them "back to the land." In this way, the German race could recover its cultural and physical health based on a green socialistic agrarianism that was designed to compete against the cultural decadence of the cities.
There was not enough space in Germany itself to re-ruralize the population "back to the land." Without more living space there could be no proper marriage between German blood and soil. Additional lebensraum was required. It would therefore be sought in Eastern Europe and western Russia.
When the SS began to implement its "back to the land" campaign, it found itself in conflict with other powerful forces in Germany. However, by the mid to late 1930's the Office for Spatial Research and Space Planning was set up by the Nazi hierarchy to provide technocratic solutions on how to properly balance all the competing desires of the nation -- everything from the war economy, to industrial needs, housing, and even environmental protection. Sustainable development as a political ideal was thus pioneered under the auspices of Nazi spatial planning.
During the war, the SS had grandiose plans to use research garnered from the Office of Spatial Planning to create an eco-imperial empire in the conquered eastern territories. Inspired by SS planners Konrad Meyer (1901-1973), Emil Meynen (1902-1994), and Walter Christaller (1893-1969) , sustainable development as an applied political policy was to be implemented on the eastern front behind advancing German lines. Shockingly, under the SS, Ratzel's lebensraum came to mean living space for sustainable development.
The SS planned to use industry in the conquered eastern territories along with slave labor to pay for and build master planned communities. The eastern territories would also be filled with socialistic green garden villages and farms, together with national parks, forests, and many cockamamie renewable energy projects. Behind enemy lines, the living space of Poland, Ukraine, Belarus, and western Russia would be cleansed of unnatural Jews and Slavs who were unworthy of the soil they lived on. In particular, planning schemed based on Walter Christaller's Central Place Theory would be applied on a scale unachievable in Germany thanks to the fact that the Nazis were first going to cleanse the landscape. Christaller advocated a hierarchy of towns and villages wrapped around a central city that was to maximize economic and administrative efficiency for state planners.
Toward the end of the war, Nazi spatial and environmental planners destroyed massive quantities of records. They then re-organized themselves into the 'Academy for Area Research and Regional Planning" and the 'Institute for Spatial Planning.' In 1946, Karl Haushofer committed suicide. Konrad Meyer survived Nuremberg and later continued his work in spatial planning and sustainable development. Walter Christaller joined the Communist Party in 1951. His Central Place Theory is sometimes even considered a model for sustainable development and the so-called Green Economy. Emil Meynen, a leading geographer of the Third Reich, became an environmental spatial theorist after the war. He was also present at the infamous Wanssee Conference where the destruction of the Jews was discussed from a technocratic point of view.
After the war, social engineering based on Aryan biology was replaced with a blander form of socialism, but its ties to environmentalism and sustainable development continued unabated and grew exponentially in the decades to come. Environmental planners just exchanged brown paint with red paint -- all the while keeping the interior green. German spatial planners played an early critical role in the development of the EU's sustainable development policies.
Today, the EU is fond of using the concept of "territorial cohesion" and "supra-nationalism" in the place of lebensraum. Its stress on multiculturalism has converted the old Nazi nationalism into an EU Super State. Instead of promoting German supremacy, the EU is now promoting European supremacy. In fact, the EU is using environmental social engineering, i.e., sustainable development, to hasten the evaporation of national borders.
Yet in spite of this multicultural super-state emphasis, Germany has still become the heart of the EU from both a financial and an environmental point of view. EU's expansion has thus only served to strengthen Germany's influence, not weaken it. The global warming apocalypse was first popularized by Austrian Nazi Guenther Schwab in the 1960's, but it was the German green movement in the 1980's that helped convert the theory into the worldwide political issue it has since become.
Today, the EU even has sustainable development plans and ideas for the western Russian living space. Ironically, 65 years after the end of World War II, lebensraum has returned to the gates of Moscow, this time without panzers. The EU is also in North Africa. It wants to cover the Sahara with solar panels for the sake of renewable energy.
Lebensraum is not dead. Ratzel's geopolitics is still in vogue today under the guise of the EU's sustainable development plans. While the Nazi past has been completely ignored and willfully forgotten in the development of the EU's environmental sustainability policies, the geopolitical epicenter of the green movement has been and continues to be: Germany.
Mark Musser is a contributing writer for the Cornwall Alliance, which is a coalition of clergy, theologians, religious leaders, scientists, academics, and policy experts committed to bringing a balanced Biblical view of stewardship to the critical issues of environment and development. Mark is also the author of "Nazi Oaks" and "Wrath or Rest."