Origins of the Aryan MythIcon by Paul Benivedes

The purpose of the Nazi extermination of the Jewish race was to rid Europe of them completely. Yet, the myth of attempting to find the "aryan" or "superior" race can be found in other European communities also. The ideas of the 18th-century Enlightenment helped create a European community based on racism. The "great chain of being" which united the highest animal, the ape, with the lowest human, the black, was the basis for the beginning of this racist belief. In the Enlightenment point of view, nature and science would help solve the mysteries of God. It was then that scientists like the Dutch anatomist Peter Camper determined that blacks were the missing link between the humans and the apes in the great chain of being. Camper also began to measure and compare the skulls of apes and Negroes. In Camper's view, if a vertical line was drawn from the upper lip to the fore head, and a horizontal line was drawn from the tip of the nose through the face, one could find the ideal human. If the angle created by both lines was 100 degrees, the person was ideal. Most Europeans were at about 97 degrees, Camper suggested. The Negro, though, was less than 70 and not considered human.
Jewish Prisoners awaiting death in gas van at Chelmo - Courtesty of the USHMM Photo Archives

Jewish prisoners awaiting death in a gas van at Chelmno death camp. Photo from the USHMM archives.


Other scientists of the period also confirmed this theory with the Jews. Johann Kasper Lavater found that the Jewish had such aquiline faces and noses, that it was impossible to get any type of calculation. Later on, though, language became the unifying method for the basis of racism. The belief arose that Sanskrit was the basis for all Western languages. The Aryan people of India were, in fact, responsible for this cultural growth. Thus, the term "aryan" was coined to denote these people. Oxford professor Friedrich Max Muller then went on to change the definition of Aryan to "tiller of the soil." On the other hand, French writer Adolphe Pichet noted that the Aryan race was gone from the Indian region and had completely migrated and settled throughout Europe. Friedrich Schlegel then concluded that since all languages derived from the German, such as Slavonic, American-Indian and Japanese lacked any depth. It was then in the anti-Semitic work of Sessa, Our Visitors, that the Jewish language of Yiddish was also condemned.