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The Nazis and Their Transhumanist Delusion

Photo: Hitler Youth, via Bundesarchiv, Bild 147-0510 / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 DE , via Wikimedia Commons.

The other night, I watched three episodes of the new Netflix series All the Light We Cannot Seebased on the book by Anthony Doerr. The movie follows the story of Marie, a blind girl who sends out radio messages in a small town on the French coast, and Werner, a German lad co-opted into the Nazi regime for his stunning abilities with radio transmitters. It is a beautiful and heart-rending interpretation of a beloved modern classic, so if you are able, do consider watching it for yourself.

One particular point in the show that caught my attention (without giving away any spoilers) was the moment young Werner is marched against his will into the National Political Institute for Education, an “elite” training ground for future Nazi “supermen.” Its banal and bureaucratic name may remind you of the “National Institute for Coordinated Experiments,” or “N.I.C.E.” from the sci-fi thriller That Hideous Strength by C. S. Lewis. 

Despite Werner’s assumptions that he was being taken to the school primarily for his intellectual abilities, he is thrust into a physically brutal athletic regime. One of the wardens barks Nietzsche quotes at them while they tumble over obstacles in the yard, declaring, in frighteningly stark evolutionary fashion, that the strong eat the weak, and that the boys must squelch any semblance of cowardice, emotion, or feebleness left within them. 

The Superman 

When Werner first arrives at this awful school, he has to undergo an invasive examination to prove that he is “not Jewish.” Because he is an orphan, he can’t be admitted to the school until his genetic ancestry has been thoroughly vetted. 

If anyone is in doubt as to just how obsessed the Nazis were with race and the pseudoscience of racial hierarchies, this brief and disturbing scene will set the record straight. Nothing but German Aryan would do. The Nazis were keen on creating a superhuman race with unsurpassable physical, intellectual, and (ironically) moral qualities. The word “transhumanist” has not often been a word I’d think of to describe the Nazis, but a quote from the TV show reveals them to be, in essence, a group that was driven by the desire to transcend human limits. Regular humanity, with all its “weakness,” diversity, and faults, had to be done away with, replaced by a hegemonic race of genetic perfection. “The boy you were will soon be dead,” the examiner tells Werner. “Replaced by something more than human.” 

“More than human.” On the surface it sounds, like the institute in C. S. Lewis’s novel. It sounds like throwing off the shackles of our limits and fulfilling our idyllic destiny. With its sinister racism, though, “more than human” meant despising the worth and dignity of millions of people. 

Not Laid to Rest

While we may want to believe that such an atrocious mindset was laid to rest in the 20th century, never to return, strains of this thinking remain apparent. White supremacy, anti-Semitism, and radical medical practices like abortion, assisted suicide, and surrogacy all flirt with, or fully applaud, the idea that “some people are worth more than others.” Whether it involves a person’s skin color, cultural and religious heritage, or the vulnerability of the elderly, disabled, and unborn, there is a resurgence of anti-humanism. Strangely enough, such anti-humanism comes to us in the name of humanity, in the name of “compassion.” Transhumanism, with its emphasis on technological power, tends to regard the human body and its mortality as a problem to be overcome instead of a gift from God to be accepted.

All the Light We Cannot See shows what can happen when the delusions of transhumanism join forces with a terrible ideology. Human beings, precious simply for being human, are desecrated.

Cross-posted at Mind Matters News.