With a resurgence of National Socialist and Fascist politics taking hold in a vast proportion of the globe, it becomes more and more urgent to fully understand the logics that govern fascist thinking, action and policies, so as better to fight them and avoid their creeping influence in our everyday lives. Antisemitism and transmisogyny
1 are two crucial and interrelated forms which the racial and gendered aspects of National Socialist ideology take. This essay will trace the analogous logics and imbricated histories of antisemitism and transmisogyny in National Socialist political thinking and practice.
We must begin from the seemingly contingent fact it has been and continues to be part of the National Socialist project to eradicate from the world, Jews, transfeminine people and their intersection, among many others. From there we must question whether these are simply two separate elements of National Socialism, united only by their inherence in the same political actors, or whether the link goes deeper. Is it possible that there is a single logic which governs both the Nazi antisemitism and transmisogyny? These are the driving questions of this article. I will begin with an analysis of the actions of historic Nazism and its regime, moving on to focus on some articles published by contemporary Neo-Nazi thinkers. I am then going to attempt to construct a theory of a singular logic that governs antisemitism and transmisogyny in National Socialist thought and action, binds them together, and forms them into two expressions of a singular political project.
1. Historic Nazism and Gender Variance: From the Institute to the Camps
The earliest entanglement of Nazi antisemitism and transmisogyny occurred in response to the emerging gay and trans liberation movement in Weimar Germany. The earliest development of an organised effort for gay and trans liberation developed in the late 19th century and reached a new level of power in 1919 with the establishment of the Institute of Sexual Science in Berlin. The Institute’s founder was Jewish marxist scientist and political campaigner, Magnus Hirschfeld. Hirschfeld was a committed organiser in the German Social Democratic Party, and also headed the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee, the world’s first gay and trans advocacy group. He is credited with the coining of the terms “transvestite” and “transsexual”. In his research and advocacy, he was committed to opposing the eugenic homophobic and transphobic science of sexology that had emerged in Germany at the end of the 19th Century, which had come to dominate state understandings of sexual and gender issues and profoundly influence the sexual and gender politics of National Socialism.
Firstly, in order to understand the context for the Institute we must first look briefly at the of eugenic tendency in early sexology. Understandings of gay and trans people at this time were lumped together into one category “homosexual,” here defined as by “sexual inversion”. It is important to note that for the Nazis, “homosexuality” was a condition only applicable to those assigned male at birth. Eugenic sexology understood homosexuality essentially through the lens of gender, specifically as the corruption of the male body and psyche by femininity. In this category of “homosexual” were four sub-categories: firstly, only a slight sexual inversion, which only affected affecting desire; secondly, a feminine demeanour; then, the practise of dressing in women’s clothing; and, most severely, delusions of being a woman and the desire for a different body. We can thus see that transfeminine people were understood to embody the most severe and thus most deplorable form of homosexuality. Transness is here understood as a dysgenic biological defect that must be eliminated for the health of the species. It is perhaps important to note here the presence of a small thread of masculine same sex desiring Nazis, including Ernst Rohm and other members of the SA. These men understood their Nazism as commensurate with their same sex desire and, further, felt that it did not constitute “homosexuality” since, as it was a “manly Eros”, rather than a form of feminisation. This reflected in practice the differentiations of sexual deviance espoused in the sexology model.
3 It therefore seems that homophobia, as a hatred of those who experience same-sex desire, although vastly prominent in the practice of violence against homosexuals, was not ideologically fundamental or universal to the ideology of Nazism. Rather, it seems more accurate to understand Nazi homophobia (and by extension transmisogyny) as the hatred of the feminine, or the “womanly” in those deemed to be men.
For his crime of arguing against this strand of eugenic science, it is not surprising that Hitler is reported to have named Magnus Hirschfeld “the most dangerous Jew in Germany”, nor that Nazi activists regularly plastered his residence with posters reading: “Dr Hirschfeld A Public Danger: The Jews are Our Undoing!”
4 The Institute had been the centre of the early homosexual emancipation movement in Germany. Counted among its many achievements are: a scientific study of sexual and gender variance which did not seek to correct or cure, but to liberate; including, the development of the first techniques for hormone replacement therapy and gender confirmation surgeries; special state-provided ID cards for people (then termed) transvestites which recognised their gender identity and chosen names, and protecting them, at least legally, from harassment and arrest by the police; and crucially, a shelter and community for gay and trans people.
On the 6th May 1933, the Nazi student movement and stormtroopers raided the Institute building, removed years of research documents and burned them publicly outside in the street. Many people living in the Institute were arrested and sent to the newly opened concentration camps. Hirschfeld, who was on a speaking tour in Switzerland at the time, had his citizenship revoked and died in exile two years later.
Doubtless, the political motivations behind the destruction of this institute were not simply based on homophobia and transphobia but were understood to be fundamentally linked to antisemitic notions of Jews and the Jewish conspiracy. Hirschfeld and many of the scientists and intellectuals involved in the institute were Jews; Walter Benjamin even spent some time staying there. The Institute was seen by the Nazis as a hub for Jewish marxist intellectuals and their nefarious plans to undermine the purity of Aryan racial biology and culture. This historical connection that Nazism makes between Jewry and trans liberation will be elaborated on later in the article.
What followed this event, both a founding act of the new Nazi regime, and cataclysm in the history of trans liberation, was a sustained campaign by German state police to arrest, prosecute and incarcerate “homosexuals”. Many who were then released from ordinary criminal incarceration were rearrested by the Gestapo and deported to concentration camps.
5 It is noteworthy that many of the cases of prosecution of people for crimes of homosexuality were not punished by execution or deportation in this instance, but instead remained in the ordinary criminal carceral system. An area of historical research that I intend to investigate, but to my knowledge has not yet been pursued, is the correlation between deportations to concentration camps by Gestapo, and the femininity, transvestism and trans-like character of the accused. Notably however, on the 13th November 1934, the Hamburg City Administration asked the Head of Police to “pay special attention to transvestites and to deliver them to the concentration camps if necessary”.
6 We can infer to some degree, that the primary object of Nazi persecution of “homosexuals” was in fact the gender variance implicit in their understanding of homosexuality, most pronounced in people who demonstrably showed feminine traits such as dressing in feminine clothing and taking on feminine names.
It is common knowledge that in the concentration camps, prisoners who were categorised as “homosexual” were forced to wear pink triangles on their prisoner uniforms. What is less known is that medical experiments were conducted on pink triangle prisoners, with the intention of finding a medical cure for sexual inversion. A Danish Nazi doctor, Carl Værnet, undertook experiments at Buchenwald concentration camp near Weimar in Southern Germany.
7 These experiments involved the surgical insertion of artificial hormone glands in the groin of pink triangle prisoners as an attempt to redress the hormone imbalance that was understood to have caused this sexual inversion. They were overseen by Heinrich Himmler, and so we can understand the methods and discourse surrounding these “cures” to be entirely commensurate with the Nazi conception of gender variance as homosexuality to the highest level. It seems then, that the picture of Nazi persecution of “homosexuals” that we can infer from this evidence can be better understood through the lens of gender, and what today we would term “transmisogyny”.
2. Neo-Nazism and “Transgender Ideology”
Having demonstrated the National Socialist fixation on transmisogyny, I now wish to explicate a little further how it fits in with and connects to their antisemitic worldview. To better understand this, however, we first have to look at Neo-Nazi and ultra-right thought in its present form. Much contemporary Neo-Nazi thinking on sex and gender takes the form of historiography concerning precisely the early emancipatory sexology discussed above, as well as a key focus on the anti-fascist thought of the well-known Jewish thinkers of the Frankfurt School during and directly after the Nazi era.
We can begin with the figure of Kevin Macdonald, an antisemitic evolutionary psychologist and has earned the accolade of “the Neo-Nazi Movements favourite academic” from the Southern Poverty Law Centre.
8 His work can be understood as a cornerstone of contemporary antisemitic ideology and forms the theoretical backbone for much of the contemporary National Socialist thinking on the relation between Jewry and so called “transgenderism”. MacDonald published a four-part series of books known as the Culture of Critique Series, which attempts to trace and explain Jewish influence in the emancipatory social movements of the 19th and 20th Centuries. Classically, he attributes a vast amount of social power to Jews, essentially placing Jews as the clandestine agents behind such varying movements as Bolshevism, Social Democracy, and later, anti-colonial struggle, gay liberation, feminism and the Black Power movement; all of which are designed in order to undermine western culture and societal norms.
9 This, he argues, is in order to produce the kind of society in which the conditions for antisemitism to emerge are undermined. He cites the goliath study of Nazi and Fascist psychology undertaken by Adorno and Others, The Authoritarian Personality, which argues that fascism is more likely to occur in societies with strict sexual moralities and gender roles.10 He therefore understands it to be in the interests of Jews, to undermine these societal norms—the nuclear family, compulsory heterosexuality, and a strict gender binary —in order to prevent the development of fascism. In essence, Jews orchestrate the transformation of society through social movements, as a self-interested project of ethnic security. The social liberation achieved the Left (broadly conceived) is reconfigured as the effect of a social Darwinian drive on the part of the Jewish ethnic group to preserve and propagate themselves. A grand narrative of all politics is constructed as a Darwinian struggle between the Jews and the Aryans, with the lives and liberation of others posited as simple pawns in this global chess match.
We can look to MacDonald’s followers on the online magazine The Occidental Observer (founded by Macdonald), to see how this framework has been applied to the contemporary “transgender moment”. In his article “Jill Soloway and the ‘Transgender’ Agenda”, Brent Sanderson analyses Soloway’s landmark television show Transparent (ironically the very show that sparked my thinking about this topic) as a weapon of the Jewish-dominated culture industry to propagate “transgender ideology”. He claims that:
With the legality of “gay marriage” seemingly secured (largely as a result of Jewish efforts) the focus of the [Jewish] “identity politics” agenda has now shifted to deconstructing traditional Western views about what it means to be a man or a woman.
He is delighted to be able to quote Jill Soloway in situating their work within a Jewish tradition of cultural production aimed at “recreating culture to defend ourselves post-Holocaust”.
12 Solidarity with other and intersecting marginalised groups is reframed as ruthless self-interest. In fact, elsewhere, the joke is made that “intersectionality is Hebrew word,” showing how this relationship between social justice movements and Jewry is casually and continually reinforced at the level of Neo-Nazi vernacular.
Another article from the same website, “The Assault on Gender and the Family: Jewish Sexology and the Legacy of the Frankfurt School” gives a detailed account of the Jewish involvement in early emancipatory sexology. It understands emancipatory politics and science based on a respect for difference to be a Jewish invention:
The unique role of Judaism in world history was to vindicate the concept of difference against the homogenizing forces thought to represent the essence of Western civilization. Jewish sexologists and social commentators were united in advancing theories of sexual inversion that moved away from interpretations involving themes like degeneration, demographic decline and biological reality, and instead towards Talmudic abstractions involving the nature of romantic love and the allegedly fluid nature of gender and sex.
It is worth noting here that “Talmudic” here is used in a dual sense. Firstly, it is a reference to the Jewish books of commentary on the Torah, and thus to Jewishness as such. Secondly, it is used colloquially to refer to the complexity and intricacy, or in this case, the abstraction which the Talmud is known for. It is therefore a perfect example of how Nazi discourse brings together Jews and gender plurality as abstractions. This opposition to abstraction will prove essential in understanding the logic of National Socialism later in this article.
In other more veiled far right output, the independent video channel InfoWars, headed by Alex Jones, has notoriously warned of the Jewish conspiracy—via the dog whistle of “globalists”—to corrupt biology, and specifically to undermine masculine hormone levels. One of his most famous outbursts involves screaming that globalists (read Jews) are poisoning the water supply with feminine hormones and “turning the freakin’ frogs gay”. Notably also, InfoWars also claims to be entirely funded by the sale of lifestyle products including vitamin supplements, water and air filters, and coffee. Each of these items has listed as its first effect the protection the normal hormone levels in the body: “Super Male Vitality is designed to aid the body in ways that may help support normal testosterone levels in men”.
15 We can hear an echo from Buchenwald in this advertisement.
Nazism understands itself to be engaged in a culture war with Jews over gender roles and gender/sexual variance. But just as we saw in the original National Socialist regime, Nazism also understands the fundamental terrain of this war to be on the level of biology. There is a deep anxiety expressed in Nazi and far-right thinking which is constantly concerned about the biological undermining of the white race yes, but also the white male, and his hormone balance, his testosterone level. Nazi political ontology understands the biological as one of, if not the most important terrains of political dispute. We know this in our understanding of Nazi race theory, but what has been neglected is the centrality of endocrinological purity and security to Nazi ideology. In this sense, endocrinological purity is the gender/sex corollary of the Nazi eugenic project of racial purity.
3. The Homologous Logic of Antisemitism and Transmisogyny
It is safe to say, then, that transmisogyny and antisemitism are both integral parts of the National Socialist worldview. However, while the above has been merely descriptive of the views and actions of National Socialism, elucidating the imbrication of their transmisogyny in their antisemitism, this does not explain why they are so entangled, and indeed, the essential logic from which both spring. Without a thorough interrogation of the logic behind these elements of Nazi ideology, we will be at risk of conceiving Nazism as a simple conglomeration of prejudices which are distinct and can be opposed separately. I believe that if Nazism is to be defeated once and for all we must not underestimate it as a mere psychological phenomenon writ large but must confront its coherent structure as a political logic, even if it may appear as a messy bundle of incoherent and often contradictory hatreds. Pace Postone, “my intention is not to negate sociopsychological or psychoanalytical explanations, but rather to elucidate a historical-epistemological frame of reference within which further psychological specifications can take place.”
3.1 Antisemitism as Foreshortened Critique of Capital: The Jew as Abstraction
This project of uncovering a fundamental logic of National Socialism I have inherited from the great Jewish marxist theorist Moishe Postone, who in his landmark essay “Antisemitism and National Socialism” puts forward a very convincing theory, the explanatory power of which encompasses a great deal of the apparently contradictory elements of National Socialist theory and practice. In the following paragraphs I will attempt to reproduce what I believe to be the essential points of his argument.
Postone’s account of modern antisemitism brings a unifying logic to a number of disparate elements of the National Socialist project both in its ideas and in how the actual regime acted. Some of the main aspects of National Socialist antisemitism to be explained are:
(1) Jews are ascribed great power, but this power is not manifest directly but mediated through many modes of appearance. (2) Jews are identified as the personification, not just of money and finance capital, but capitalism as a totality: the modes of antagonism it produces (Bolshevism, an organised proletariat), and further, the cultural transformations of modernity that accompany its development. (3) National Socialism aims at the complete eradication of Jewry, not simply as a means to gain power, but as the purpose of gaining power.17 (4) National Socialism understands all political antagonism through the biologised lens of Social Darwinism, where the biological health and purity of distinct racial groups is paramount in a universal struggle for supremacy. (5) National Socialism claimed to champion the authentic and rooted “premodern” volksgemeinschaft (people’s community) with its bounded unity of blood, soil and artisanal labour. But at the same time implemented a state enforced productivity drive and complete industrialisation of the German economy – “Hitler spoke of blood, for sure, but he built the machine”.
18 (6) Crucially, National Socialism is a movement which, in terms of its own self-understanding, represents a revolt.
All these disparate elements of the National Socialist project must be explained adequately, and their apparent contradictions demonstrated to emerge from a prior coherent logic. How can the Jew be responsible for capitalism, its crisis, socialism, gay and trans “degeneracy”, and later, all the emancipatory social movements of the post- war period? How can Hitler figure himself as a revolutionary against modernity but enforce a thorough modernisation of the German economy? Postone’s explanatory power is rooted in his own marxism, and particularly his critique of “traditional Marxism” via a focus on the value-form.
One of the key arguments to emerge from Value-Form Theory argues was that “when Marxists [of the Workers’ Movement] insisted on the ‘labour theory of value’, they did so in terms of the quantitative issue of the substance and magnitude of value rather than the qualitative issue of the form of value.”
19 This focus on substance rather than form led to what Postone calls a “foreshortened critique of capital”. Endnotes provides a clear explanation:
For Marx, the value-form is an expression of the dual character of labour in capitalism — its character as concrete labour appearing in the use-value of the commodity, and its character as abstract labour appearing in the value- form. Though abstract labour is historically specific to capitalism, the failure to properly distinguish these two aspects of labour means that the value- form [and thus concrete labour and use-value] is taken as an expression of simple natural human labour as such.
What appears in this foreshortened critique of capital is the positing of concrete labour and its production of use-values as a natural and ahistorical substratum upon which different social forms of value are built. This in turn leads to a fetishisation of the concrete, of labour, of value, reducing the critique of capital is to a battle between the purity of the concrete against the pernicious abstractions of exchange- value, money, and finance capital. This precludes any critique of the form of concrete labour, and so the miseries of concrete industrial production are absolved and even venerated against the vampiric abstractions of money and finance (which come to represent capitalism in its entirety).
Postone diagnoses that it is this form of foreshortened anti-capitalism that is taken up into National Socialism and enables its appearance and self-conception as revolt. The National Socialist project is “socialist” only insofar as it aims at liberating the concrete community of the nation from pernicious influences of (merely oneelement) of capitalism: “Industrial capital then can appear as the linear descendent of ‘natural’ artisanal labour, as ‘organically rooted,’ in opposition to ‘rootless,’ ‘parasitic’ finance capital. This form of ‘anti-capitalism,’ then, is based on a one-sided attack on the abstract... A one-sided attack on abstract reason, abstract law, or, at another level, money and finance capital.”
From this standpoint, it is only a small jump from the fetishisation of concrete labour and use-value, to a thoroughgoing politics of the fetishisation of the concrete. This becomes manifest in vulgar materialist politics where the categories of the social are reduced to categories of the biological. This form of the fetishisation of the concrete takes hold in the 19th century, when “organic process begins to supplant mechanical stasis as the form of the fetish... The manifest form of the concrete is now [the] organic.”
22 Postone continues: “the proliferation of racial theories and the rise of Social Darwinism in the late nineteenth century are cases in point. Society and historical process become increasingly understood in biological terms.”
23 We have seen this demonstrated in Nazi thought analysed above, where the biological is understood as the fundamental terrain of politics and history.
Where the true weight of this analysis emerges is in the insight that it is not only the concrete “side of the antinomy which can be naturalised and biologised... the manifest abstract dimension was also biologised—as the Jews. The fetishised opposition of the concrete material and the abstract, of the “natural” and the “artificial,” became translated as the world-historically significant racial opposition of the Aryans and the Jews.”
24 The “natural rootedness” of the Aryan Volk is contrasted to “rootless cosmopolitanism” of the wandering Jews, who in their diasporic state, abstracted from territory or nation, become a perfect candidate to represent the transnational abstraction of the capitalist world-system. The essential content of National Socialism then is “a biologization of capitalism—which itself is only understood in terms of its manifest abstract dimension—as International Jewry”. The National Socialist project is therefore a fetishised “overcoming of capitalism and its negative social effects” through the total eradication of the Jews.
3.2 Transphobia as Foreshortened Critique of Gender – The Trans Woman as Abstraction
Now that we have reconstructed this marxist understanding of the antisemitism of the National Socialist project, we can mobilise its explanatory power to focus on Nazi transmisogyny and, crucially, how they relate to each other in a coherent whole. For this step I want to bring into play the insights of Maya Andrea Gonzalez and Jeanne Neton in their essay “The Logic of Gender”, first published as part of Endnotes. In this essay, the authors mobilise Postone’s notion of the foreshortened critique but in application to a Value-Form Theory approach to the gender. They argue that the dual character of the value-form is homologous to the dual character of Sex/Gender. “Value, like gender, necessitates its other, “natural” pole (i.e. its concrete manifestation). Indeed, the dual relation between sex and gender as two sides of the same coin is analogous to the dual aspects of the commodity and the fetishism therein.”
26 In this sense, “sex is the flip side of gender”, just as use-value is the flipside of exchange value. Following this analogy: “sex is the material body, which, as use-value to (exchange) value, attaches itself to gender.”
Just as there is the commodity fetish, there is the gender fetish. Gender is the real abstraction that acts upon material “bodies so that it appears as a natural characteristic of the bodies themselves.”
28 However, we cannot think this fetish as appearing in the same form throughout the history of capitalism. Indeed, the efforts of feminism and queer and trans liberation movements have made vast achievements in the denaturalisation gender. Sadly, these achievements have been somewhat appropriated by late capitalism, which has commodified the denaturalisation of gender as a form of “subversive” consumption.
However, the process of denaturalisation has often tended to “simultaneously de- naturalise gender while naturalising sex.”
29 This results in an understanding of gender/sex wherein gender is understood as a social construction (an abstraction), but the naturalisation of sex is redoubled. Gender is therefore historical and mutable whilst sex forms the natural and transhistorical substratum upon which it is written. Following Postone, Gonzales and Neton argue that “the transhistoricisation of sex is homologous to a foreshortened critique of capital, which contends that use-value is transhistorical rather than historically specific to capitalism.”
30 If we take the structure of Postone’s argument about antisemitism and apply it here, we can begin to see where the foreshortened critique of gender posits sex as the concrete reality which must be protected from the pernicious abstractions of gender. In the National Socialist framework of the “fetishism of the concrete”, the concrete biological reality of sex is figured as primary and pure; accompanying a thorough renaturalisation of gender as a reaction against the mainstreaming of denaturalised nature under late capitalism. For National Socialism, the primacy of sex is reinforced in opposition to the “Talmudic abstractions” of multiple and fluid genders, then cast as the pernicious force which seeks to dominate and even erase the sensuous, simple and concrete sexual dimorphism and the natural binary gender roles which flow from it.
Just as the Jew becomes the concrete manifestation of the abstraction of capitalism and the law of value, the trans woman becomes the concrete manifestation of the abstraction and denaturalisation of gender. The trans woman is a woman thought to be without the concrete biological content of womanhood. She is woman in the abstract, separated from her biological foundation, and therefore her use as the conduit for the reproduction of the Aryan race in this grand Darwinian struggle. She is everything that is detestable about womankind, for Nazism, without any of the redeeming biological expediencies. Further, she represents the worst excess of the cultural degeneration of modernity and contemporary capitalism. Just as the “rootless cosmopolitan” Jew represents abstraction by being rooted in no Nation, trans people demonstrate a rootless cosmopolitanism of gender/sex, with disregard for rootedness of sex and the allegiances of gender. She is a product of a culture so abstracted and so sick, in their eyes, that it actively encourages the corruption of the purity of biological sex and the destruction of gender roles so essential in the battle for racial primary. For Nazism, the idea that Aryan men of good stock would be actively disavowing masculinity, virility and fertility—and doing so with hormonal and surgical intervention into biological sex—is too much to bear. As such, trans women, and indeed trans people in general, though the majority of the bile is directed at those assigned male at birth, are added to the list of abstractions to be eradicated in the actualisation of the National Socialist project.
Conclusion: The Jewish Conspiracy of “Transgenderism”
There are, of course, questions that this theory throws up regarding the relationship between Nazi antisemitism and transmisogyny. Is one of the modalities of this abstraction-eradication project primary, or do they operate simultaneously? Are trans women afforded the same total and abstract agency as the Jew? How essential is the transmisogyny of National Socialism to its governing logic? Does fetishised concretism necessarily lead to the atrocities of the Shoah?
I want to tentatively answer, though my guess is that this question will be answered in the course of reactionary events, that both antisemitism and transmisogyny emerge simultaneously from logic of the fetishisation of the concrete. They are not identical, but they flow from the same foundational logic. The fetishism of the concrete does not lead inexorably to the actualised project of National Socialist extermination. This is lucky, since this logic can be found to govern a variety of other political positions historically and in the present. It only becomes actively National Socialist when Jews (or indeed trans women) are identified as the personification of abstraction. As long as the fetishised hatred of abstraction remains in the abstract it is merely the condition of possibility of antisemitism and transmisogyny.
I do, however, believe that in the conscious cogitation of Nazi thinkers, it is the Jew which holds primacy over pernicious effects of abstraction. Indeed, it is the Jew who invents “transgenderism” as a weapon in their vast arsenal mobilised to undermine the purity and supremacy of the Aryan race (as we have seen above). For National Socialism, the Jew is the abstraction par excellence, and therefore responsible for the engineering and dissemination of all other abstractions. This underpins the understanding of gender ideology as one of the projects of the Jewish conspiracy. It is not simply that Jews represent abstraction, it is that abstraction itself is Jewish in nature: it is Talmudic. The Trans woman is the crowning achievement of the project of Talmudic abstraction – a being so distorted from all that is concrete, natural, pure and good. She is Frankenstein’s—or maybe more appropriately—Goldstein’s monster. She is Rabbi Loeb’s Golem formed against nature by the numerical abstractions of Kabbalah. She is the Jew’s most abhorrent creation and must be eradicated with him.