New Man the Hero?

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.” ((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))  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. ((Fritzche and Hellbeck, “The New Man” in Beyond Totalitarianism, 320))

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. ((Fritzche and Hellbeck, “The New Man” in Beyond Totalitarianism, 328))  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. ((Fritzche and Hellbeck, “The New Man” in Beyond Totalitarianism, 329))  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?

The “New Man”

Germany and the Soviet Union utilized the idea of the New Man in different ways, according to Fritzsche and Hellbeck in “The New Man in Stalinist Russia and Nazi Germany”. In Nazi Germany he was a tough figure, with no remorse and racial superiority was held above all. In the USSR, the New Man conformed to the new movements and was an example to others. All of this was achieved through propaganda, which Schivelbusch, in Three New Deals detailed through radio broadcasts and symbols.

The Soviet New Man became part of the intelligentsia and was physically robust. The world was for the New Man, and the old must be removed. Yet in Nazi Germany it was for only the pure Aryan. To be deemed Aryan, Germans themselves had to compile Ahnenpass themselves.1The geneological passport that was created went from the current person backward. Each person was required to do this to prove their Aryan heritage. It was also inspected before marriage, and often couples were deemed unfit to marry due to their bloodlines. They were not candidates to contribute to the greatness of the Aryan race.

During the Nazi reign, some Germans, deemed Aryan and without defects, were denied the right to marriage and children. This is an area we have not discussed in class. It appears as though the Nazi regime was continually reducing the amount of people who were allowed to procreate, at a time when the population was already suffering from losses in the Great War, and soon to occur in WWII. To me it appears counterproductive. Yes they were trying to establish a master race and only wanted to pure of blood to live within Germany, yet they were continually putting the country at a great disadvantage by threatening to decrease the population of people and thus workers and soldiers.


1 Peter Fritzsche and Jochen Hellbeck, “The New Man in Stalinist Russia and Nazi Germany,” Beyond Totalitariansim, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009, 331.