Stoddard called Germany's racial laws 'truly humanitarian'

The 1920s white supremacist influencer beloved by president Harding – and Hitler

Historian Lothrop Stoddard helped found ‘Nordic’ movement to battle ‘the rising tide of color’ in US and abroad, but was laughed off stage in debate with Black thinker Du Bois

Reporter at The Times of Israel

'The Rising Tide of Color,' published  by Lothrop Stoddard in 1920 (public domain)
'The Rising Tide of Color,' published by Lothrop Stoddard in 1920 (public domain)

Few people can place — much less pronounce — the name Lothrop Stoddard. During his 1920s heyday, however, Stoddard’s writings transformed the Ku Klux Klan and popularized the “Nordic” movement for global white supremacy. With some Americans calling the January 6 Washington DC, Capitol Hill riot “white supremacy in action,” his legacy clearly still simmers in the US and his life should serve as a warning.

Admired by President Warren Harding and Adolf Hitler alike, Theodore Lothrop Stoddard was born in 1883 in Brookline, Massachusetts. Educated at Harvard College and Boston University, the historian and journalist’s seminal book was called, “The Rising Tide of Color Against White World Supremacy.”

“It is precisely the determination to get rid of white rule which seems to be spreading like wildfire over the brown world today,” wrote Stoddard in the 1921 tome.

In Stoddard’s view, civilization was determined by race and heredity. Coining the term “untermensch” — later adopted by the Nazis — Stoddard believed in anti-miscegenation laws, or that “inferior” people should be prevented from procreating.

With the decline of colonialism, wrote Stoddard, the world will face a non-white population explosion. He admitted that whites might have to “abandon” parts of the world as they become a minority.

Lothrop Stoddard (public domain)

Stoddard held special contempt for Blacks, believing them to lack civilization. His hatred of Jews derived — in part — from his belief that Jews possessed “Negro blood” and were poisoning his Nordic America through intermarriage.

“[The US] has been invaded by hordes of immigrant Alpines and Mediterraneans, not to mention Asiatic elements like Levantines and Jews,” wrote Stoddard. He believed Blacks will “remain savage” and that “crossings with the Negro are uniformly fatal.”

Stoddard’s book went through 10 printings in two years. One of the people who consumed the book was US President Warren Harding, who praised Stoddard in a 1921 speech celebrating the semicentennial founding of Birmingham, Alabama.

During his remarks, Harding spoke about the “race problem” at home and abroad. According to the American president, “fundamental, eternal, and inescapable differences” exist between the races. Harding urged southern states to make sure Black communities do not become “vast reservoirs of ignorance.”

‘The Pedigree of Judah’

In 1923, Hearst International magazine revealed that Stoddard was not only a member of the Ku Klux Klan, but the group’s secret advisor. Stoddard responded by calling the magazine “a radical-Jew outfit.”

For the next three years, Stoddard continued to target Jews. In 1926, he published an article called “The Pedigree of Judah,” claiming Jews were an “invented” race.

“During their Egyptian sojourn and afterwards, the Jews picked up their first traces of Negro blood,” wrote Stoddard. “[It is time to] discover what blood or bloods flow through the veins of Jews.”

Lothrop Stoddard’s picture book on ‘disharmonic’ Jewish faces, 1926 (public domain)

Stoddard’s goal was to “dispose of the fiction that the modern Jew is the true scion of the ancient Hebrew.” Although Sephardic Jews had some blood ties to ancient Hebrews, wrote Stoddard, Ashkenazi Jews were “a racial medley.”

That same year, Stoddard published a book called “A Gallery of Jewish Types.” Printed in magazine format with portraits, attention was drawn to differences between Ashkenazic and Sephardic Jewish faces, as well as what Stoddard called the “disharmonic” features of Jews and their “Mongolian eyes.”

In writings and speeches, Stoddard often claimed that “Jews support and finance the NAACP.” That support — he claimed — was evidence of their Black heritage.

‘Natural inferiority’

On the stage of history, a big embarrassment came for Stoddard during his 1929 debate with civil rights legend W.E.B. Du Bois. The topic was white supremacy’s assertion that Blacks do not posses the same “intellectual possibilities as other races.”

Like Stoddard, Du Bois was from Massachusetts. Du Bois was also the first Black scholar to earn a doctorate at Harvard and — by 1929 — he was an admired voice of popular movements from Niagara to Harlem.

Debate between W.E.B. Du Bois and Lothrop Stoddard in 1929 (public domain)

The event with Du Bois and Stoddard was billed as “one of the greatest debates ever held,” with each man answering the question, “Shall the Negro be encouraged to seek cultural equality?”

Du Bois — it turns out — knew that Stoddard’s brand of racism “would be a scream” on stage, as he wrote. The Chicago audience — as Du Bois predicted — found Stoddard’s arguments more humorous than credible.

According to the next day’s “Afro-American” newspaper headline, “5,000 Cheer W.E.B. Du Bois, Laugh at Lothrop Stoddard.” The Chicago Defender said “Du Bois shattered Stoddard’s cultural theories in the debate.”

‘Into the Darkness’

During the early 1930s, Stoddard witnessed the rise of Nazism in Germany, a movement whose racial theories his writings inspired.

In 1939, Stoddard went to Nazi Germany to report on the Reich’s leadership after six years in power. The regime gave him special access to Hitler, Himmler, and other luminaries for interviews.

German Nazi-era Reichensperger Platz, the hereditary or genetic health court (public domain)

Particularly enamored of Stoddard was Alfred Rosenberg, the dean of Nazi racial theory. At the Hereditary Health Court in Berlin, Stoddard learned about the government’s forced sterilization efforts.

As Stoddard later wrote, Germany’s racial laws were “weeding out the worst strains in the Germanic stock in a scientific and truly humanitarian way.”

As for Jews, Stoddard foresaw the “Jewish problem would be settled by the physical elimination of the Jews themselves from the Third Reich.”

After four months in Germany, Stoddard returned home to write his book, “Into the Darkness: Nazi Germany Today.” By “darkness,” Stoddard was referring to Allied air raids over Germany — not the regime’s genocidal plans.

Chart published by German Nazi regime in 1935 following passage of racial laws at Nuremberg, showing the classification of Jews according to ancestry (Public domain)

“[The Nazis] refer to the Jews as a ‘mischrasse‘ [mixed race],” wrote Stoddard. “By this they mean a group which, though self-consciously distinct, is made up of several widely diverse racial strains,” wrote the journalist.

“It is because most of those strains are deemed too alien to the Germanic blend that the Nazis passed the so-called Nuremberg Laws prohibiting intermarriage between Jews and Germans,” wrote Stoddard.

By the time of the book’s publication in 1940, Stoddard and his theories were out of vogue. His death in 1950 was scarcely mentioned by newspapers, although Stoddard did inspire a character in “The Great Gatsby” — a white supremacist named Goddard, author of “The Rise of Colored Empires.”

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