Ted Nugent may have made his name as a rock musician, but today he increasingly is known for his controversial comments about President Barack Obama. At a January gun expo in Las Vegas, Nugent described Obama as "a communist-raised, communist-educated, communist-nurtured, subhuman mongrel."
Nugent now is campaigning with Texas Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott. This led CNN’s Wolf Blitzer to question whether the Abbott campaign understands the history of such language. (Abbott has not distanced himself from Nugent.)
"That’s what the Nazis called Jews to justify the genocide of the Jewish community," Blitzer said in a Feb. 18, 2014, interview. "They called them untermenschen, subhuman mongrels. If you read some of the literature that the Nazis put out there, there is a long history of that specific phrase he used involving the president of the United States."
Blitzer’s interview made waves through the political world, so we wanted to check his assertion about the words "subhuman mongrel."
In his CNN interview, Blitzer cited the work of Nazi party official Julius Streicher. But our research shows Blitzer is correct well beyond an individual Nazi party official. The words subhuman and mongrel were used interchangeably but generally had the same derogatory meaning.
David Myers, a historian at the University of California at Los Angeles, said Adolph Hitler used the word "untermensch" or subhuman in his book Mein Kampf in 1925.
"From that point forward, it was part of the Nazi lexicon," Myers said. "That and ‘mischling’ or mongrel, were intoned with daily regularity by the Nazi propaganda machine."
The man Blitzer mentioned, Streicher, was an early Nazi party leader in Nuremberg and Franconia and a fierce anti-Semite. In the mid 1920s, he began publishing a tabloid aimed at the working class called Der Sturmer, "The Attacker." The front of each edition carried the slogan, "The Jews are our misfortune."
In 1935, Der Sturmer carried a student essay that parrotted the teaching materials in the classroom. Here is the English translation:
"Regrettably, there are still many people today who say: Even the Jews are creatures of God. Therefore you must respect them. But we say: Vermin are animals too, but we exterminate them just the same. The Jew is a mongrel. He has hereditary tendencies from Aryans, Asiatics, Negroes, and from the Mongolians. Evil always preponderates in the case of a mongrel."
In 1899, the English anti-Semite Houston Stewart Chamberlain wrote extensively about physical characteristics and race. He claimed "the Semites belong to the mulatto class, a transition stage between black and white" and were "a mongrel race which always retains this mongrel character."
In 1942, the Nazis printed an infamous pamphlet, Der Untermensch, which translates to "subhuman." The Holocaust Research Project translation provides this front panel quote from the head of the German SS, Heinrich Himmler:
"As long as there have been men on the Earth, the struggle between man and the subhuman will be the historic rule; the Jewish-led struggle against the mankind, as far back as we can look, is part of the natural course of life on our planet. One can be convinced with full certainty that this struggle for life and death is just as much a law of nature as is the struggle of an infection to corrupt a healthy body."
Mark Roseman, director of the Borns Jewish Studies Program at Indiana University, said the German word for subhuman, untermensch, did not tend to be used by the Nazis in the adjectival form. So the words weren't often used in combination.
"But the underlying claim, namely, that Nazi policies were preceded, facilitated, and accompanied by language that compared Jews to animals, and declared them to be subhuman, is of course absolutely correct," Roseman said.
Blitzer said the words "subhuman mongrel" were used by the Nazis to "justify the genocide of the Jewish community." We found ample evidence that the Nazis used those words -- in their own language -- to repeatedly describe Jewish people in the build-up to the Holocaust.
We rate his statement True.