Blood and Soil (‘Blut und Boden’) was a very important philosophy for Nazi Germany. The issue of ‘blood and soil’ nearly split the Nazi Party after 1925 and was only resolved at the Bamberg Conference of 1926. One side of the Nazi Party wanted to emphasise the relationship between true Aryans and a rural life. Hitler believed that true Germans ‘came from the soil’ – that they had a family background based on farming and life in the countryside. However, men like Gregor and Otto Strasser wanted to move the party away from the belief in ‘Blut und Boden’ and move towards a policy of attracting more support in urban areas. The Strasser brothers were defeated on this issue and Hitler rallied his supporters around ‘Blut und Boden’ while Otto Strasser left to form his own party based outside of Germany. Gregor was murdered on the Night of the Long Knives.
Hitler wanted all Germans to identify themselves with a glorious historic past based on descendants who worked off the land. There was an element of romanticism associated with this belief as it failed to take into account the importance of industry in the rise of Imperial Germany in the late C19th and early C20th. However, Hitler associated industry with socialism, communism and trade unions – even if he was to court the support (and money) of the industrialists in later years.
Belief in ‘blood and soil’ was not unique to the Nazis. It had been around before World War One and became associated with extreme nationalism and racism. Supporters of ‘blood and soil’ invariably wanted to send their children on holiday to rural areas and this was copied by the Hitler Youth Movement (Hitler Jugen) once Hitler had embedded himself into total power in Nazi Germany. In 1930 Richard Darré wrote ‘A New Nobility Based on Blood and Soil’. This became a popular read among high ranking Nazis as it associated the ‘master race’ belief alongside ‘blood and soil’. Darré argued that a master race created out of a eugenics programme would lead to a race of people who would be free from illness and full of virtue and good thoughts. The blemishes that he believed blighted German society then would be removed forever once a ‘master race’ had replaced German society as it stood in 1930.
The ‘blood and soil’ belief put farmers and other rural workers above those who worked in cities etc. The rugged toughness of peasants from medieval times was celebrated in Nazi beliefs. Numerous German peasant rebellions were portrayed in Nazi folklore as examples of the oppressor being overthrown by the oppressed. The Nazis then linked this to the German people needing to overthrow their oppressors in the C20th – the Jews. The only man who could spearhead this, according to the Nazi ‘philosopher’, Alfred Rosenberg, was Adolf Hitler.
Nazi art portrayed Aryan women as muscled, strong and tanned – all signs of a healthy life spent outdoors. The Nazis then took this one stage further by stating that only such women would produce strong healthy children needed if the Third Reich was going to last for 1000 years. The Nazis also produced statistics that claimed that women from rural communities produced more children than their urban equivalent.
The decline of rural communities was blamed on the Jews. Schools taught how the countryside had been bought up by Jewish families and that rural families had been turned off the land and had to go to the cities to find work. Therefore, the Nazis blamed the Jews for the decline in what they considered to be the true German culture of rural life. In 1933 a law (the State Hereditary Farm Law) was passed that had the aim of preserving “the farming community as the blood source of the German people.” Members of the Hitler Youth and the BDM were encouraged to do their year’s labour service on the land – returning the youth of the cities back to the soil. While it was not compulsory and other forms of labour service were on offer, many Hitler Youth and BDM members selected the opportunity to work on the land – nearly 2 million in total. ‘Blut und Boden’ was also used to rationalise ‘lebensraum’ as Hitler and others in the Nazi hierarchy believed that those who lived in Eastern Europe and western USSR had no idea on how to work the land properly and only true Aryans would know how to do this and make the area a “bread basket” (Hitler).