The composition and fate of the hero has been the subject of culture and literature since antiquity. The idea of one individual, surpassing common constraints and achieving greatness has long held an important place in the human psyche. The creation of the New Man, by both Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, transformed the concept of a new , modern human being into their own unique ideal. Peter Fritzsche and Jochen Hellbeck argued in Beyond Totalitarianism that the Nazi hero exemplified the optimal Aryan purity and perfection, while Soviet Russia allowed every individual to achieve greatness through self-reformation into the proletarian socialist.
The relationship between the physical body and this transcendent state of being occurred in both ideologies. Soviet Russia concentrated its efforts in creating the ideal proletarian New Man by changing the human body through modernization and mechanization. One example, Bogdanov underwent blood transfusions in order “to create a communal proletarian body.”1 In this case the individual attempted to change their blood, the very essence of their being, in order to create a New proletarian Man. Although the physical transformation of the body into the New Man faded from mainstream Soviet ideology, the body (this time young, healthy, and robust) remained a secondary indicator of the ideal Soviet New Man.2
Similarly, Nazi Germany utilized the physical as a representation for the important ideas meant to create the New Man. The racial purity espoused by the Nazi Party was meant to guarantee a superior race of human beings capable of world domination; by perfecting the body through race the German people could once more achieve greatness.3 The body must therefore be continuously transformed through generations of racially pure matches in order to create the ideal New Man. Moreover, the idealized Aryan eclipsed racial purity and applied to clothing, exercise, and, diet.4 The New Man relied on physical and aesthetic, not just mental enlightenment; similar to the concept of the New Man in Stalinist Russia.
In both Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany, the regimes attempted to create a New Man by manipulation not only of the mind, but also the body. How does this physical manipulation relate to the construction of the modern state?
- Peter Fritzche and Jochen Hellbeck, “The New Man in Stalinist Russia and Nazi Germany,” in Beyond Totalitarianism, ed. Michael Geyer and Sheila Fitzpatrick (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 316 [↩]
- Fritzche and Hellbeck, “The New Man” in Beyond Totalitarianism, 320 [↩]
- Fritzche and Hellbeck, “The New Man” in Beyond Totalitarianism, 328 [↩]
- Fritzche and Hellbeck, “The New Man” in Beyond Totalitarianism, 329 [↩]