“Blood and soil”: The meaning of the Nazi slogan chanted by white nationalists in Charlottesville

Harvesting a symbol of hate.
Harvesting a symbol of hate.
Image: Reuters/Michael Dalder
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One of the rallying cries of the white nationalist demonstrators in Virginia this weekend was originally a racist philosophy disseminated in Nazi Germany.

White supremacists and other far right-wing groups marched in Charlottesville, Virginia on Saturday as part of the “Unite the Right” rally protesting the removal of a Confederate monument. Clashes with their critics turned violent: One woman was killed and 19 others were seriously injured when a car intentionally rammed through a group of counter-protesters.

Before the attack, the right-wing marchers were filmed chanting “Blood and Soil,” a Nazi slogan which held that ethnicity is based solely on blood descent and the territory one maintains.

Though a German expression decades before Hitler came to power, “Blood and Soil” was popularized by the prominent Nazi theorist Richard Walther Darré in 1930, three years before he became Hitler’s minister of food and agriculture. Darré maintained that the preservation of the Nordic race was inextricably tied to Germany’s agrarian population. The idea painted farmers as national heroes who protected the purity of Germany. Under Darré, and with Hitler’s support, the Nazi Party embraced “Blood and Soil” as one of its chief ideologies.

The ideology also helped the Nazi Party blame the decline of Germany’s rural class on Jews. Nazi propaganda usually depicted Jewish Germans as bankers and merchants—a stark contrast to the glorified “Blood and Soil” peasants that Darré and Hitler argued were the backbone, and future, of Germany.

In 1933, the Nazi Party made “Blood and Soil” an official policy, declaring some farmland hereditary. Farmers needed an Aryan certificate to prove that they were a member of the Aryan race in order to receive the law’s benefits.

The phrase was far from the only racist one used by demonstrators in Charlottesville yesterday: many other flags and names were lifted directly from Nazi symbolism. US president Donald Trump has yet to condemn Nazism or white supremacy by name. In a press conference yesterday, Trump blamed the day’s violence on “many sides.”