Übermensch and Untermensch

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Nietzsche's Ubermensch

Nietzsche introduces the concept of the Übermensch in contrast to his understanding of the other-worldliness of Christianity: Zarathustra proclaims the will of the Übermensch to give meaning to life on earth, and admonishes his audience to ignore those who promise other-worldly fulfillment to draw them away from the earth. The turn away from the earth is prompted, he says, by a dissatisfaction with life that causes the sufferer to imagine another world which will fulfill his revenge. The Übermensch grasps the earthly world with relish and gratitude.

Zarathustra declares that the Christian escape from this world also required the invention of an immortal soul separate from the earthly body. This led to the abnegation and mortification of the body, or asceticism. Zarathustra further links the Übermensch to the body and to interpreting the soul as simply an aspect of the body.

Untermsnsch Etymology

Although usually incorrectly considered to have been coined by the Nazis, the term "under man" was first used by American author and Ku Klux Klan member Lothrop Stoddard in the title of his 1922 book The Revolt Against Civilization: The Menace of the Under-man. Stoddard uses the term for those he considers unable to function in civilisation, which he generally (but not entirely) attributes to race. It was later adopted by the Nazis from that book's German version Der Kulturumsturz: Die Drohung des Untermenschen (1925).

The German word Untermensch had been used earlier, but not in a racial sense, for example in the 1899 novel Der Stechlin by Theodor Fontane. Since most writers who employed the term did not address the question of when and how the word entered the German language, Untermensch is usually translated into English as "sub-human". The leading Nazi attributing the concept of the East-European "under man" to Stoddard is Alfred Rosenberg who, referring to Russian communists, wrote in his Der Mythus des 20. Jahrhunderts (1930) that "this is the kind of human being that Lothrop Stoddard has called the 'under man.'" ["...den Lothrop Stoddard als 'Untermenschen' bezeichnete."] Quoting Stoddard: "The Under-Man – the man who measures under the standards of capacity and adaptability imposed by the social order in which he lives".