Writing on “Aryans and Non-Aryans,” Professor Franz Boas, perhaps the foremost living anthropologist, sets forth, in the current issue of The American Mercury, the reasons why there is no pure German “Aryan” race, nor, indeed, any pure race that has not adopted many of its racial characteristics from geographical environment. Following is an extract from the Mercury article:
The present policies of the German government are based on the assumption that an “Aryan” has certain biologically determined qualities which are entirely foreign to every “non-Aryan.”
There are said to be 6,000,000 non-Aryans in Germany, but since according to the prescribed definition a fourth part of non-Aryan blood is enough to stamp the individual as non-Aryan, the actual number may well be close to 1,000,000 or even more. According to the policy adopted by Germany these are practically excluded from all participation in German economic, social, and intellectual life.
What is an Aryan? Aryan is a linguistic term and nothing else. It means that there was once one language, nowadays called the Aryan language, which gradually spread over a large part of Europe and Asia, and developed into all the different “Aryan” languages spoken today. In this sense an Aryan is anyone who speaks an Aryan language, Swede as well as American Negro or Hindu.
A judgment of the German policy requires the answer to two questions; one, what, racially, are the so-called “Aryans” and “non-Aryans?”; the other, to what extent does the behavior of a single human being and of a people depend upon hereditary traits?
Roughly speaking, we may divide the population of Europe into three groups, which are situated in strata extending from west to east: in the north the tall blond blue-eyed Northwest Europeans; in the middle, in the region of the Alps and east and west of them, the darker Alpine type; and in the south the small, very dark Mediterranean type of Spain, Italy and Southern France. Of course, there are other local types which do not conform well with such a hard and fast classification….
It is a fiction to speak of a German race. We should rather ask what types of physical build are represented among the Germans. Here we encounter a complete lack of unity. Blonds with long heads in the North, darker people with short heads in the South; broad faces here, narrow ones there; noses turned up and aquiline, the general build tall and short, broad and slight. There is no “German race”; there are only local types which are very different one from another, each of which comprises individuals of different characteristics, so that representatives of all these types may be found in any part of Germany and of the neighboring countries. The East German is closer to his Polish neighbor than to the Frisian; the Tyrolese shows more similarity to the East Alpine Slav than to the North German, the Rhinelander more to the neighboring Frenchman than to the German in more distant parts.
Since the Jews are considered as a thoroughly different element, we must define their racial position. There is no more a Semitic than there is an Aryan race, since both terms define linguistic groups, not human beings. We can only speak of Near Eastern types. There are at least two or three very different Near Eastern types: dark Armenians, lighter Kurds, and the long-headed Southern type. As long as we have known Jews at all, all three-and perhaps even other European strains-have been represented among them. The Jews are not a uniform race. The Armenoid type is very closely related to that of the Dinaric peoples, the inhabitants of the region east of the Adriatic Sea, so much so that in some cases the Tyrolese and the Armenoid can hardly be distinguished with certainty. Similarly, a relationship exists be-between the Syrian and Mediterranean types. The contrast between the blond Northwest European and the dark Southeast German is just as great as the difference between the latter and the Armenoid Jew.
This statement does not mean that there are no finer distinctions in physical build between most Jews and most non-Jewish Europeans; the differences, however, are not fundamental. It is well known that dark Syroid Jews are often taken for Spaniards or Italians, Armenoids for South Slavs or other Alpines, and blond, blue-eyed Jews for Northwest Europeans….
An attempt is being made by those who are in power in Germany to justify on scientific grounds their attitude toward the Jews; but the science upon which they are building their policies is a pseudo-science. No one has ever proved that a human being, through his descent from a certain group of people, must of necessity have certain mental characteristics. A nation is not to be defined by its descent but by its language and customs. Otherwise Germans, Frenchmen, and Italians would not be nationalities. Language and customs are determined far more by the environment in which the child grows up than by its descent, because the physical attributes, so far as they have any influence at all, occur with extraordinary variety within every group.
Just as the Germanized Slavs and French have become German in their culture, as the Frenchified Germans have become French, the Russianized ones Russian; so have the German Jews become Germans.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.