Ethnographic and Racial Studies in Nazi-Occupied Estonia

Anton Weiss-Wendt (Center for the Study of the Holocaust and Religious Minorities, Oslo, Norway)

Racial discourse was commonplace in wartime Europe. What makes Estonia stand apart from the rest of the Nazi-occupied countries of East Central Europe is that many Estonian academics and scientists not only spoke of racial science but also acted it out, without subscribing to Nazi ideology.  In retrospect, Estonians proved simultaneously the object and the subject of Nazi racial grand designs.  This paper argues that the local discourse concerning the biological health of the Estonian nation was far more attuned to the views of German, and later Nazi, racial experts than has previously been assumed.  The relatively lax occupation regime introduced by the Nazis in Estonia and the idea of Finno-Ugrian ethnographic order influenced a substantial number of Estonian scientists and scholars to both intellectually and practically contribute to the Nazis’ radical reshaping of Europe.  By advancing racial research and participating in population transfers, prominent members of the Estonian scientific and academic elite unwittingly contributed to the building Hitler’s “New Europe.”

Comments are closed.