Paul de Lagarde, pseudonym of Paul Anton Bötticher (1827-1891), was an influential professor of oriental languages at the University of Göttingen. His political ideology was strongly influenced by Alfred Rosenberg, sharing aspects such as hatred towards Catholics and Jews, opposition to universal suffrage, and the aspiration for cultural elevation. Lagarde emphasized the need to eliminate Semitic and Roman elements from German culture and language. He is also known for being one of the precursors of the concept of Mitteleuropa, envisioning a future in which Germany expanded towards Poland and Western Russia. He aspired to create a Mitteleuropa that extended from the mouths of the Ems to the Danube, from Memel to Trieste, and from Metz to the Bug River. His connection with Alfred Rosenberg’s idea of deporting Jews to Madagascar is also of interest.
Friedrich Naumann (1860-1919), a German politician and writer, played a significant role in spreading the concept of Mitteleuropa through his eponymous book published in 1915. This work was not a geopolitical treatise in the strict sense but was part of the ideological current of the time. A member of the Reichstag and founder of the German Democratic Party in 1918, Naumann had a significant influence on the proposal of the Weimar Constitution. His book proposed the creation of a federated “Superstate” called Mitteleuropa, characterized by economic integration and a tariff barrier, embodying the spirit of a new Germany with a collectively organized economy. Naumann emphasized a peculiar German economic psychology, contrasting it with the French one and highlighting the entrepreneurship and discipline of German industrialists. He predicted the decline of English capitalism and a new economic era with Germany as the dominant power.
Karl Haushofer (1869-1946), a German geographer and politician, was an important figure in formulating the geopolitical theories that influenced Nazism. In his book ‘Weltpolitik von Heute’, dedicated to Rudolf Hess, Haushofer argued that Germans should understand the geopolitical bases of contemporary international politics by positioning themselves at the center of the ethnic and cultural space. He criticized the Treaty of Versailles and proposed a reworking of the European space according to German needs. He promoted the idea of an expanded Germany as a world power, arguing that geopolitics could be a weapon against both Western and Eastern colonial powers. Haushofer emphasized the importance of racial purity and the need to expand German living space, justifying the annexation of smaller states and the destruction of powers such as France and England. His geopolitical vision foresaw a world dominated by a few major powers, with Germany playing a central role.
In ‘Weltpolitik von Heute’, Haushofer also outlined the distinction between great powers and world powers, noting that a great power is defined by the ‘will to power’. According to this view, countries like China and Brazil could be considered great powers. Germany, not yet a world power according to Haushofer, had to exploit the antagonisms between existing powers through a balanced policy of attention and action. His analysis emphasized the importance of an active Germany in the context of struggles between world powers, seeing racism as a fundamental tool in the fight for living space. Haushofer claimed that ‘dominant races’ must remain pure and that the mixing of races had led to the decline of many great empires. Germany’s policy, according to him, had to exploit every possible national and racial conflict to its advantage.
In the context of his geopolitical theories, Haushofer emphasized the use of ethical and military tools in German politics. He criticized the territorial acquisitions of other powers as immoral and justified only by international law, proposing a new order based on ‘ideological warfare’ and the use of advanced military techniques. These included the use of tanks and airplanes to conduct rapid and demoralizing attacks, not only against enemy troops but also against civilians, and the adoption of tactics such as boycotts. This vision of total war reflected Haushofer’s idea that Germany could acquire new territories even in tropical areas without necessarily resorting to bloody armed conflicts.
Finally, Haushofer saw Germany as a power with a global mission, which could only be understood by considering the long-term objectives of world powers. According to him, the long-term goal of Great Britain was simply the preservation of its current empire, which was destined to disintegrate. He also predicted the decline of France and argued that only a few nations, including Russia, the United States, Japan, Germany, and to a lesser extent Italy, would remain as world powers. This vision emphasized the importance of geopolitics in German politics and the role that Germany should play in reshaping the global political landscape.
In summary, the ideas of Haushofer and other thinkers such as Lagarde and Naumann had a significant impact on German political and geopolitical thinking in the early twentieth century, substantially influencing the policies and strategies of National Socialism.
The ideas of Haushofer, along with thinkers like Lagarde and Naumann, had a profound impact on early 20th-century German political and geopolitical thought, significantly shaping the policies and strategies of National Socialism. These theories, which emphasized racial purity, expansionism, and the reconfiguration of European space according to German interests, became instrumental in the ideological framework of the Nazi regime. The notion of Mitteleuropa, as envisaged by Lagarde and later expanded by Naumann, proposed a German-dominated central Europe, which resonated with the Nazi agenda of territorial expansion and economic dominance.
Haushofer’s theories further underlined the concept of geopolitics as a tool for national supremacy, advocating for a German-centered view of world politics. His criticism of the Treaty of Versailles and his advocacy for the expansion of Germany’s living space through the annexation of smaller states and the dismantling of major powers like France and England reflected the aggressive foreign policy ambitions of the Nazi regime. Haushofer’s distinction between great powers and world powers, and his emphasis on the ‘will to power’, provided a theoretical foundation for the Nazi pursuit of global influence and dominance.
Furthermore, Haushofer’s ideas about the use of ethical and military tools, the importance of ideological warfare, and the adoption of advanced military techniques, including the use of tanks and airplanes for rapid and demoralizing attacks, prefigured the tactics used by Germany during World War II. His vision of a total war and the acquisition of new territories, even in tropical areas, without the necessity of armed conflict, mirrored the expansionist and militaristic policies of the Nazis.
In essence, the geopolitical reflections of thinkers like Lagarde, Naumann, and Haushofer provided intellectual justifications for many of the core tenets of Nazi ideology, including racial purity, territorial expansion, and the redefinition of European and world order to favor German interests. These ideas, deeply rooted in the political and academic discourse of the time, played a crucial role in shaping the catastrophic events of the mid-twentieth century.