Veith, Gene Edward. Modern Fascism: The Threat to the Judeo-Christian Worldview. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1993.
Chapter 6, “‘Life Unworthy of Life’ Fascist Ethics” pp. 94-112.
Veith states unequivocally that the exterminations of the fascist regimes were not merely acts of cruelty. They were acts of a worldview in which execution of certain people was a valid social good (Veith 1993, 94). Without the transcendent moral ethic of Jews and Christians, an ethic founded on human will and community needs took its place. There was “a new ethic based on the values of strength and power. This manifested itself in the glorification of violence and in the sanctioning of eugenics, euthanasia, and finally genocide” (Veith 1993, 95).
This world view shift, in Veith’s estimation derives from an existential ethic based not on objective good but on whether the individual’s decision was personal and authentic (Veith 1993, 95). Veith explores the different approach to ethics using abortion. From a non-existential poiont of view, people will argue for or against abortion using quantifiable data. From an existential point of view, the data is irrelevant, but the free will to choose is paramount (Veith 1993, 96). Traditional ethics seek to identify and impart objective values, while existentialist ethics seek to identify opinions, treating all alike. The individual choice is always right. Veith lists numerous practices which most would consider social ills, such as suicide, and sees an increase in their prevalence due to the acceptance of existentialism (Veith 1993, 98).
One of the primary problems commonly identified with existential philosophy is that it is morally neutral. As long as the person has chosen his course of action, it is considered morally good. Veith illustrates this from Sartre’s book St. Genet where someone we would normally consider an evil man is, in fct, good, since he chose his actions (Veith 1993, 99). While nature is seen as blind and deterministic, ethics and morality can change freely. Those who accept a morality “imposed” by others are “inauthentic” and fall prey to determinism (Veith 1993, 100). At the same time, those who are authentic and make the right decisions are in harmony with nature so have the right to command others in the right way for their own good (Veith 1993, 101). The authority to command is complete, there is no higher law (Veith 1993, 102). Existentialism, like fascism, before taking power, attacks the status quo. Once it has power, that power is not open to question.
An emphasis on existentialism with its focus on the individual erodes the concept of care for the other. Yet this ethic was a conscious development of fascists. It allowed to forcefully cast off a former morality and find a new one, which would, according to Heidegger, “not be drowned by Christian and humanist notions” (Veith 1993, 103). In this model, violence can be a positive moral value, if it is to the advantage of the individual’s decisions. Compassion is disarded as it is contrary to nature. Death, on the other hand, is natural and essential to society (Veith 1993, 104). Fascism also developed a new sexual morality, in which sex was used selectively for reproduction to improve the race (Veith 1993, 105). While there was a sexual freedom, the reproduction was to improve the species.
To build strong societal bonds, veterans were encouraged to join together in paramilitary groups. The machismo involved often led to homosexual relatioships, seen as a means of bonding, while mixed sex relationships could be used for specific breeding needs (Veith 1993, 106). The homosexuality was condemned in some circles, but simply because it did not pragmatically improve the species. Abortion was prohibited among the Aryans but forced among other groups, again, for the purpose of eugenics. The inferior were to die out (Veith 1993, 107).
The eugenics movement also grew so as to improve the race and do away with those who would be failures. Veith refers to numerous luminaries who were involved in Hitler’s eugenics movement, as well as showing a clear connection to Margaret Sanger, who especially wanted there to be fewer children among th poor, black, Jewish, and Southern European communities (Veith 1993, 108). To protect the race, “inferior” people were forcibly sterilized for a time in Germany, then the practice of euthanasia became more common (Veith 1993, 109). The desire was to protect society and save resources by putting the suffering out of their misery (Veith 1993, 110). Any handicap or birth defect was sufficient to warrant the practice. Physicians in Germany by 1939 could refer cases to an expert panel, which would decide who should be eliminated. Needless to say, the confessional church movement objected strenuously. However, many of their spokespeople were imprisoned (Veith 1993, 111). The program was officially cancelled by 1941, bt the killing was continued, with euthanasia facilities in concentration camps to eliminate “life unworthy of life” (Veith 1993, 112). This was applied, most famously, to Jews in the prison camps.