The Second World War, and the recognition of the appalling reality of the Holocaust, marked a major turning point in the history of racism. The biological theories of race that had been so widely shared in Europe for two centuries were exposed by mainstream science as lacking in validity. This revisionism went hand-in-hand with a post-Holocaust awareness that the ‘myth’ of race had led, and could continue to lead, to inter-group hatred, discrimination, and large-scale violence and systematic murder. After 1945 any debate on the issue of ‘race’ was informed, whether explicitly or implicitly, by the consciousness of the hideous reality of genocide, and this universal awareness meant that the kind of ‘innocence’ with which the validity of race-science had been taken for granted in the century before the Nazi phenomenon was no longer possible. The 1945 break in the paradigm of race-science functioned at various, mutually reinforcing levels. Firstly, the old science that was grounded in a belief in the concrete reality of absolutely distinct and separate races was fundamentally challenged by a majority consensus of anthropologists, sociologists and geneticists who demonstrated the radical flaws within earlier forms of race thinking. Secondly, there was a political break in that post-1945 European governments created a ‘post-hoc’ legitimation for the war against Nazism, on the grounds that it was necessary to defeat a regime capable of the horrors of the ‘Final Solution’. Having recently sacrificed millions of lives in the war against fascism, a sacrifice of those who were only recently dead and who were mourned and commemorated on a large scale through new monuments, parades and ritual, the post-war political order could not readily tolerate a resurgence of racism. Thirdly, there was a widespread moral revulsion against genocide, the full horror of which was only gradually revealed to the public through film and print, which meant that any attempts to openly support racism immediately brought into play associations with the gas ovens and triggered a powerful, hostile response.
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