The origins of the ‘Blood and Soil’ chant

Those of you who watched the disturbing but gripping Vice News video of the neo-Nazis and white nationalists marching in Charlottesville during that infamous rally in support of confederate statues would recall that one of the chants they used was “Blood and Soil”. The meaning seemed unclear to me but taken in conjunction with their other chant of “Jews will not replace us”, I gathered that it had some kind of anti-Semitic origins but was not sure what. Historian Yoni Anijar explains that it dates back to the 19th century.

The phrase first came into popular use in Germany in the late 19th century by German nationalists as a populist slogan meant to emphasize the racial purity of the German people (blood) and their connection to a German homeland (soil). There is more to it though; the slogan was meant to evoke romantic notions of the ideal German as both racially pure and intimately tied to the land, a sort of agrarian puritanism. Two pronged, its use was meant to both mythologize the rural country German and to deemphasize the role of the urban elite in German society. Furthermore, the construction of the phrase; binary, monosyllabic and deathly simply also had the effect of being a primal galvanizing call to all Germans.

Anjiar traces the evolution of this slogan through time as it became part of the Nazi movement and then crossing the Atlantic to the US.

Again, this perception of racial minorities as threats to German heredity is very much in keeping with “blood and soil” ideology, as Weinberg notes “the term blood …. had a racial connotation from the beginning.”

Today the phrase has caught a foothold among both white nationalists and Neo-Nazis and has been used as a rallying cry to highlight the concern, as they see it, that the United States is moving away from its traditional values and adopting those of the immigrants who have gradually populated the country over the last half century. The use of “blood and soil” by white nationalists could also be meant to draw a parallel between the ethnic ideal of the German rural class and their ethnic ideal of a white American working class.

I wonder how many of the marchers actually know this history and how many simply chanted it because they were told to and it seemed vaguely reminiscent of the Thomas Jefferson quote that those right-wingers who think of themselves as patriots like to use: “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants. It is it’s natural manure.” This quote was on the shirt that Timothy McVeigh wore on the day that he murdered 168 people in Oklahoma City.


  1. Ray de Silva says

    I’m puzzled because I thought it was a direct descendant of the old
    Crusader chant -- “Terre, terre, terre et ciel, Terre et ciel et sangue vermeil’
    -- basically, “Earth, earth, earth and sky, earth and sky and
    red, red blood”.


  2. Mano Singham says


    You may be right. The article only says that it first came into popular use in the 19th century but it may well have been inspired by older ideas.

  3. mnb0 says

    To be fair it was not only popular in Germany. See for instance Tolstoi mystical christianity and Tolkien’s books.

  4. Erich Nutter says

    »Furthermore, the construction of the phrase; binary, monosyllabic and deathly simply also had the effect of […]«
    Actually, the phrase is NOT »monosillabic«, as »soil« in German is »Boden«, i.e. »Blut und Boden«.

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