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Main PageDictionary → Untermensch

Untermensch (German for under man, sub-man, sub-human; plural: Untermenschen) is a term that became infamous when the Nazis used it to describe "inferior people"[1] often referred to as "the masses from the East," that is Jews, Gypsies, and Slavs; including Poles, Serbs, Belarusians, Russians, and Rusyns.[2][3] The term was also applied to black people and Mulattos.[4] Jewish people were to be exterminated[5] in the Holocaust, just as Slavs in Generalplan Ost, who were destined to be removed from European territory under German control[wp] through murder and ethnic cleansing[wp]. While the Nazis were inconsistent in the implementation of their policy,[6][7] its genocidal death toll was in tens of millions of victims.


Although usually considered to have been coined by the Nazis, the term "under man" in the above mentioned sense was also used by American author Lothrop Stoddard[wp] in the title of his 1922 pamphlet The Revolt Against Civilization: The Menace of the Under-man.[8] It was later adopted by the Nazis from that book's German version Der Kulturumsturz: Die Drohung des Untermenschen (1925).[9] The German word "Untermensch" itself had been used earlier, but not in a racial sense, for example in the 1899 novel Der Stechlin[wp] by Theodor Fontane[wp]. Since most writers who employed the term did not address the question of when and how the word entered the German language, "Untermensch" is usually translated into English as "sub-human." The leading Nazi attributing the concept of the East-European "under man" to Stoddard is Alfred Rosenberg[wp] who, referring to Russian communists, wrote in his Der Mythus des 20. Jahrhunderts[wp] (1930) that "this is the kind of human being that Lothrop Stoddard has called the 'under man.'" ["... den Lothrop Stoddard als 'Untermenschen' bezeichnete."][10] Quoting Stoddard: "The Under-Man - the man who measures under the standards of capacity and adaptability imposed by the social order in which he lives.

It is possible that Stoddard constructed his "under man" as an opposite to Friedrich Nietzsches[wp] Übermensch (superman) concept. Stoddard doesn't say so explicitly, but he refers critically to the "superman" idea at the end of his book (p. 262).[8] Wordplays with Nietzsche's term seem to have been used repeatedly as early as the 19th century and, due to the German linguistic trait of being able to combine prefixes and roots almost at will in order to create new words, this development was even somewhat logical. For instance, German author Theodor Fontane[wp] contrasts the Übermensch/Untermensch word pair in chapter 33 of his novel Der Stechlin.[11] As a matter of fact, even Nietzsche himself used "Untermensch" at least once in contrast to "Übermensch" in Die fröhliche Wissenschaft[wp] (1882); however, he did so in reference to semi-human creatures in mythology, naming them alongside dwarves[wp], fairies, centaurs and so on.[12] Earlier examples of "Untermensch" include Romanticist Jean Paul[wp] using the term in his novel Hesperus (1795) in reference to an Orangutan (Chapter "8. Hundposttag").[13]


  1. Hitler, Germans, and the "Jewish Question" By Sarah Ann Gordon page 100
  2. Revisiting the National Socialist Legacy: Coming to Terms With Forced Labor, Expropriation, Compensation, and Restitution page 84 Oliver Rathkolb
  3. Janusz Gumkowski, Kazimierz Leszczynski, Edward (translator) Robert: Hitler's Plans for Eastern Europe[webarchive], Poland Under Nazi Occupation, Polonia Pub. House 1961
  4. Reichsführer-SS: Der Untermensch "The subhuman", SS Office 1942; Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team: Der Untermensch "The subhuman", Holocaust Research Project www.HolocaustResearchProject.org
  5. Snyder, T (2011) Bloodlands, Europe between Hitler and Stalin, Vintage, P144-5, 188
  6. Rees, L (1997) The Nazis, a warning from history, BBC Books, P126
  7. Mazower, M (2008) Hitler's Empire: How the Nazis Ruled Europe, Penguin Press P197
  8. 8.0 8.1 Lothrop Stoddard: The Revolt Against Civilization: The Menace of the Under Man, Charles Scribner's Sons 1922
  9. Domenico Losurdo (Translated by Marella & Jon Morris): Toward a Critique of the Category of Totalitarianism, Historical Materialism[wp] 2004, Brill[wp] 12(2), p. 25-55, here p. 50
  10. Alfred Rosenberg: Der Mythus des 20. Jahrhunderts: Eine Wertung der seelischgeistigen Gestaltungskämpfe unserer Zeit ("The Myth of the Twentieth Century"), Hoheneichen-Verlag 1930, p. 214
  11. Theodor Fontane: Der Stechlin ("The Stechlin"), 1898, Chapter Der Stechlin: 33. Kapitel (Quote: "Jetzt hat man statt des wirklichen Menschen den so genannten Übermenschen etabliert; eigentlich gibt es aber bloß noch Untermenschen, und mitunter sind es gerade die, die man durchaus zu einem 'Über' machen will." - "Now one has established instead of the real human the so-called superhuman; but actually only subhumans are left, and sometimes they are the very ones that are tried to be declared as 'super'.")
  12. Friedrich Nietzsche: Die fröhliche Wissenschaft ("The Gay Science"), Ernst Schmeitzner 1882, 3rd book, Kapitel 143: Größter Nutzen des Polytheismus (Quote: "Die Erfindung von Göttern, Heroen und Übermenschen aller Art, sowie von Neben- und Untermenschen, von Zwergen, Feen, Zentauren, Satyrn, Dämonen und Teufeln war die unschätzbare Vorübung zur Rechtfertigung der Selbstsucht und Selbstherrlichkeit des einzelnen [...]." - "The invention of gods, heroes, and overmen of all kinds, as well as near-men and undermen, of dwarfs, fairies, centaurs, satyrs, demons and devils was the inestimable preliminary exercise for the justification of the egoism and sovereignty of the individual [...]) [From the translation by Walter Kaufmann]
  13. Jean Paul: Hesperus oder 45 Hundposttage, Chapter 8. Hundposttag, 1795 (Quote: "Obgleich Leute aus der großen und größten Welt, wie der Unter-Mensch, der Urangutang, im 25sten Jahre ausgelebt und ausgestorben haben - vielleicht sind deswegen die Könige in manchen Ländern schon im 14ten Jahre mündig -, so hatte doch Jenner sein Leben nicht so weit zurückdatiert und war wirklich älter als mancher Jüngling." - "Although people from the great world and the greatest have, like the sub-man, the orang-outang, lived out and died out in their twenty-fifth year, - for which reason, perhaps, in many countries kings are placed under guardianship as early as their fourteenth, - nevertheless January had not ante-dated his life so far, and was really older than many a youth.) [From the translation by Charles T. Brooks]

See also

This article based on an article Untermensch (15 July 2014) from the free Encyklopedia Wikipedia. The Wikipedia article is published under the dual license GNU-License for free Documentation and Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0). In Wikipedia is a List of Authors available those who worked on the text before being incorporated in WikiMANNia.