Trimondi Online Magazine





Genocide and war as a civilizing foundation sacrifice


By Victor and Victoria Trimondi


In the academic debate about national-socialism as a “political religion”, there has been since some years a discussion in which the “Final Solution of the Jewish Question” has been characterized in terms of a full ritual sacrifice carried out by the Nazis by means of the Holocaust. The two religious political scientists Michael Ley and Claus-Ekkehard Bärsch in particular have brought this theory into the debate, both relying on the French sociologist of religion René Girard.


For Girard, who is in the tradition of the religious philosophers Georges Bataille and Rudolf Otto, sacredness and violence have a conditional relationship. On the one hand there are the horror, the fear and fascination of the faithful, and on the other the cruelty, arbitrariness and wrath of the gods, which characterize the "sacred", the defining "primal urge" on which every religion is based.


Using numerous ethnological examples, Girard comes to the conclusion that there is always a collectively perpetrated human sacrifice, which creates the basis for the cultural foundation of a religion. Only through a jointly committed murder, Girard writes, could the tribal members be united in one “original religious experience”. The sacrifice thus had a “propitiatory function” for the perpetrators, who made peace with each other after the completion of the deed. By a killing in which each takes part in collective murder, the whole congregation spills the blood of the sacrifice. This results in the participants’ feeling a pregnant and oscillating mixture of crime and conspiracy, guilt and obligation, violence and satisfaction, terror and fascination that bring the murderous cult action a numinous aura of holiness. Through the collective murder, writes Girard, the partnership brings into being its internal stability, its continuation and order, not least because it projects its violence outward: “It is the function of sacrifice to appease internal violence and to prevent the outbreak of conflict.” (1) It protects the community (all against all) from its own violence, and by deriving this to an outside victim (the “scapegoat”), it guarantees the protection of social peace and may therefore provide cultural services. Human sacrifice is thus, in the form of a “sacred original murder”, a culture-creating event. It is Girard’s thesis that culture thus develops out of the shedding of the blood of others.


Thus, once committed, the “original murder” continues to exercise its stabilizing social functions, and must “survive” in the memory of later generations. It continues to exist as myth, symbol and ritual, says Girard, within the cultural fabric created with its help, but now the cultural foundation sacrifice no longer manifests clearly. It requires an aura of mystery, the secretive, the half-conscious: “The sacrifice is shrouded in mystery [....] Even today the mystery of sacrifice is as impenetrable as ever.” (2) Just this impenetrability makes it "sacred" and its constructive force is derived from this. Myth, symbol and ritual relocate it to an otherworldly space that is ever present.


The “Final Solution of the Jewish Question” realizes to a great extent the above four criteria of Girard’s foundation sacrifice; “collectively committed murder, scapegoat, terror, and secrecy.” There was complete clarity among the executors about the extent of the terror. Himmler himself indicated several times how monstrous the extermination of the Jews was. In a speech in Poznan on October 4th 1943 he defined very precisely the horror in which his SS men had to carry out their commands: “Most of you know what it means when 100 corpses are lying there, when there are 500, and when there are 1000. To have gone through this and, apart from exceptions caused by human weakness, to have remained decent, that has made us hard.” (3) Josef Goebbels wrote in relation to the deportations in his diary that “barbaric methods not more precisely to be described were employed, and of the Jews themselves not much is left.” (4) Such statements, by no means isolated, show that the executors were fully aware of the terrible reality to an extent that was hardly true for the majority of Germans.


For them the “Terror” came to awareness as something mysterious, ambiguous, something hidden as a presentiment an ambivalence that, according to Girard, is almost necessary for mythologizing the murder of a man in the foundation sacrifice. Paradoxical as it may sound, it was not the open participation of the “German national community” in the atrocities, but the widespread superficial knowledge of it, the veils, the disguises and the ambiguities, which could allow “sacralisation” of the murders to act in the creation of a culture after a victorious war. (5)  In a striking sentence, the historian David Bankier has described this twilight zone of knowledge, half-knowledge and non-knowledge in the German population: The Germans “knew enough to know that it is better if you do not know more.” (6) Thus, the confidentiality of the murder of the Jews as carried out by the relevant authorities and the SS never could be and indeed should not be fully maintained for rational reasons but for creating the right atmosphere to let the Germans take part in the mass murder as a “mystery”. As Himmler knew, the collective sacrifice had to be shrouded in secrecy, and on the 4th October 1943 in a speech to SS Group Leaders he called the murder of the Jews a “never written and never to be written page of glory in our history”. (7) The Reichsführer-SS consistently followed the principle of not specifically mentioning the mass murder in documents and always used euphemisms when he came to speak of it.


So Michael Ley, in his book Genocide and the Expectation of Salvation, comes to the conclusion that for the Nazis the mass murder of the Jews demonstrated a “sacred act of sacrifice”. Thanks to this collectively performed “blood sacrifice”, the “Aryan race” would experience its sacralization. “The extermination camps were the sacred shrines of National Socialism, in which the holy rites of human sacrifice were consummated,” writes Ley. “National Socialism and myth have an identical reality: the cult of sacrifice. Human sacrifice is the reconciling principle with God [....] These performances of National Socialism do not have the exclusive character of mass manipulation, but can in some sense be understood as 'politico-religious worship' as well. The Eucharistic act is no longer completed 'symbolically.' The Nazi religion celebrates the rite in reality with human sacrifice performed in institutions of extermination. This sacrifice is atonement and intended creation at the same time.” (8) The consensus of the “killers” would have had the structuring force, to “sacralise” Aryan racial theory and anchor it as a “religion” or as “orthodoxy”. Claus-Ekkehard Bärsch puts forward a similar thesis. The “Jewish sacrifice” of the Nazis was a means for them “to engage supernatural forces in a favorable manner so that they alter the causal history of the world in favor of the sacrificers or their desires [....].” (9) Thus, the act of sacrifice would be in a largely secular society, as despite its religious tendencies, National Socialism still was, the means to conjure up the presence of the archaic gods (the “supernatural forces.”)


Jointly committed murder, the scapegoat, the horror of the atrocities and deeds clouded in mystery would have provided the structuring force of an archaic National Socialist culture and religion founded on a final victory of the Nazis in the extermination of the Jews. “The death of the Jews, carried out by the Aryans, so the central thesis of my assessment of the mass murder of the Jews, is in the phenomenology of the inner vision of Hitler [....] a sacrificium,” Bärsch writes. “This kind of religiosity has a magical component, insofar as it believes the magician to manipulate supernatural forces through his own actions for the purpose of influencing earthly causal trends [....] My thesis is that this form of magical religiosity has been the condition for the decision of the mass murder of the Jews. [....] For the sake of their [the Nazis] own salvation, the Jews are victimized in the sense of a sacrificium. [....] With the destruction of the Jews, Hitler wanted the will of the Almighty to be executed and to gain His favor. He believed in a causal nexus between people and supernatural forces for the configuration of a magical religiosity, in which, from the perspective of the perpetrators, the killing of the enemy has the character of a sacred ritual.”(10)


Both authors, Ley and Bärsch, refer back not only to the Passion of Christ, but especially to the Apocalypse of John, in their etiology of this gigantic ritual sacrifice of the Jews. In addition to this, the Western history of pogroms in which sacrificial thought always played a role is evoked. Nevertheless, a direct causal connection to Christian dogma is not conclusive. The crucifixion of Christ is “self-sacrifice” and not a “sacrifice of the alien”, ​​as in the extermination of the Jews. While infidels will be destroyed in the Apocalypse of John, this is not explicitly considered as a sacrificium. In this respect, the two Indian mythological texts, the Mahabharata and the Bhagavad Gita, are totally unique. In them, in imitation of the Vedic tradition, the “human sacrifice” is described as a sacred primary event, and in the sacred sacrificial theory war as such is also included.


Thus holy war and sacrifice in the Mahabharata are identical. In many parts of the epic this equation is addressed directly. “The statement that the battle was a sacrificial feast occurs frequently, and many images, too, show parallels with the battlefield, from simple metaphors to scholastically conducted parables, whether about personal sacrifice or advice about sacrifice”, Heino Gehrts writes in his analysis of the Indian heroic poem. (11) A recurring image is the “libation”, the liquid sacrifice expressing the bleeding to death of entire crowds of warriors. The fighters themselves are referred to as “sacrificial fire” or “sacrificial animals,” the dismembered bodies are the sacrificial embers or “fuel” for the fire sacrifice. “Body parts, body hills are considered to be shared sacrificial butter, [....], so, regarded as the strewn remains of a sacrifice, or as an extinct sacrificial fire, the earth of the battlefield is often called the altar.”(12) In one passage it is said of a hero: he “has made all preparations to celebrate the sacrifice, has submitted to the initiation of the slaughter, and at the end, as he poured out his life as a libation into the fire of sacrifice shown by his enemies, he ritually completed his sacrifice with a [bloody] completion bathe.” (13) The battle reaches its climax as Bima, the mighty warrior, capturing an enemy, puts his foot on his neck and tears his chest open with both hands. Then he drinks the living spouting liquid gulp by gulp. He addresses the petrified bystanders with bloodied mouth: “Soon I will fulfill the second vow and kill the other cattle [meaning Duryodana, the leader of the opposition Kurus] in this armed sacrificial feast.” (14) The beneficiaries of this gruesome sacrifice are the Indian gods. They feed from the life juices of slain warriors. This is an ancient Indo-Aryan tradition of the Kshatriya caste. “Beings exist from food/ Food is brought into being by rain/ Rain from sacrifice/ And sacrifice is brought into being by Action/ Know that ritual action originates in Brahman (the Vedas)/ And Brahman arises from the Imperishable/ Therefore the all-pervading Brahman/ Is eternally established in sacrifice,” we read in the Bhagavad Gita (III song, 14 - 15) Stated plainly that means “without sacrifice no gods.”


Based on the logic of sacrifice demonstrated in the Mahabharata and Bhagavad Gita, the Second World War appears as a giant “sacrificial feast” including the burning of Jews with the ulterior intention of evoking the “return of the archaic gods”. Revitalized by the “sacrificial butter” of the fallen and burnt, the final victory awaited by the Nazis’ barbaric deities could reappear from the early Aryan era. The call for them was to be heard at the beginning of the 30s: “When the time is fulfilled that the old gods return and the spirits of the ancient world take office,” wrote Friedrich Hielscher in 1932, “then the order of the nations will break, and what is high will fall, and what is in the depths will arise [....] Here the forces of antiquity will live again; here will gather that which has grown over thousands of years, here the flow of time will halt, here the ancient prophecies will be fulfilled.... .“ (15) Many years before the Holocaust the Ariosophist Lanz von Liebenfels had recognized the causal nexus of human sacrifice and the renaissance of the gods, and recommended that members of inferior races be “burnt” as a “divine sacrifice.” (!). In a hymn he promises the Aryan goddess Frauja: “Then you will have fine oblations, then the Schrättling [Jew] will be your altar fire.” (16) Mindful of the seven dead who died during a failed assassination attempt on Hitler in the Bürgerbräukeller in Munich, the Völkische Beobachter newspaper wrote about a subsequent mass meeting on 12 November 1939: “Ten thousand men and women stand before the altar of the movement among the smoldering flames of the sacrificial fire, to lend their hearts and their voices to the complaint.” (17)


After a Nazi victory in World War II the two “blood sacrifices” (extermination of the Jews and the millions of dead on the battlefield) would probably have been “sacralised” and the German soldiers who returned home described as “holy warriors” and as Kshatriya. From the outset the entire Nazi system tended, even if only half-consciously, in this religious direction. In 1934, Alfred Rosenberg had written, mindful of the First World War. “The dead of the war are [....] the martyrs of a new day, a new faith. The blood that died begins to come alive. In its mystical character a new construction of the German national soul lies ahead.”(18) Nothing could have demonstrated for the Nazis the renewed supremacy of the Aryans over other races better than a victorious war. After the “final victory” the “death and blood mysticism” would have increased to gigantic proportions. The shot, the murdered, the dismembered and burned of the Second World War were the bloodiest of all foundation sacrifices on which the “Kshatriya caste” had built their temple of a cruel Aryan “world religion,” and whose elite had gathered in the “Black Order” of the SS.




(1) René Girard - Das Heilige und die Gewalt - Zürich 1987, 27

(2) René Girard - Das Heilige und die Gewalt - Zürich 1987, 10

(3) Spiegel 33/2001, 132 (Peter Lognerich – „Der ungeschriebene Befehl“ and  Klaus Wiegrefe – „Die große Gier“)

(4) Spiegel 33/2001, 137

(5) Spiegel 33/2001

(6) Spiegel 33/2001, 139

(7) Spiegel 33/2001, 133

(8) Michael Ley – Genozid und Heilserwartung - Zum nationalsozialistischen Mord am europäischen Judentum  Wien 1995, 208/ 211

(9) Claus E. Bärsch – Die politische Religion des Nationalsozialismus - München 1998, 377

(10) Claus E. Bärsch - Die politische Religion des Nationalsozialismus - München 1998, 381

(11) Heino Gehrts - Mahabharata - Das Geschehen und seine Bedeutung - Bonn 1975, 235

(12) Heino Gehrts - Mahabharata - Das Geschehen und seine Bedeutung - Bonn 1975, 236

(13) Heino Gehrts - Mahabharata - Das Geschehen und seine Bedeutung - Bonn 1975, 236

(14) Heino Gehrts - Mahabharata - Das Geschehen und seine Bedeutung - Bonn 1975, 77

(15) Friedrich Hielscher – "Die Heraufkunft der Kräfte" – in - Stecowa, - Phantastisches und Übersinnliches aus dem Weltkrieg – Berlin 1932, 195.

(16) In: Wilfried Daim - Der Mann, der Hitler die Ideen gab - Jörg Lanz von Liebenfels - Wien 1994, 166

(17) In: Volker Ackermann - Nationale Totenfeiern in Deutschland: Von Wilhelm I. bis Franz Joseph Strauß. Eine Studie zur politischen Semiotik - Stuttgart 1990, 171

(18) Alfred Rosenberg - Der Mythos des 20. Jahrhunderts. Eine Wertung der seelisch-geistigen Gestaltenkämpfe unserer Zeit - München 1940, 23

See: Heinrich Himmler: The Nazi Hindu




© Copyright 2003 – Victor & Victoria Trimondi