"Any race of people who consider themselves to be superior to others; especially when applied to Nazi ideology"
This may be how it is used today, but I don't think there is any truth to the claim that the Nazis used it in this way. According to Alfred Rosenberg at the Nuremberg trial:
Translations from German into English are so often wrong-and just as in that last document you have submitted to me, I heard again the translation of "Herrenrasse." In the document itself "Herrenrasse" is not even mentioned; however, there is the term "en fallacious Herrenmenschentum" (a false master mankind). Apparently everything is translated here in another sense.
The word "Herrenvolk" means "Gentlemen [or 'gentlemanly'?] people" and was often mistranslated into English as "master race" and then translated back as "Herrenrasse" making it seem as though Germans used this word. However, it does not seem as though the NSDAP used it, but rather only used "Herrenvolk" and rarely at that.
Joseph Goebbels said on 17 January 1936 in a speech on the Berlin region day:
"Heute steckt in jung und alt, in hoch und niedrig, in arm und reich der besessene Wille, die deutsche Nation wieder zu einem Weltvolk emporzuführen. Jedermann bei uns ist davon überzeugt: Wir müssen an der Beherrschung der Welt teilnehmen. Wir müssen deshalb ein Herrenvolk werden, und deshalb müssen wir unser Volk zum Herrenvolk erziehen. Das muß schon beim kleinsten Pimpf anfangen, der schon in dieser Herrenmoral erzogen werden muß."
TRANSLATE: "Today there is in young and old, in high and low, in poor and rich the will, to make German nation again to a people of world. Each with us is persuaded of it: We must take part in the control of the world. Therefore, we must become a people of gentlemen, and, therefore, we must educate our people to be a people of gentlemen. This must already start with the smallest schoolboy who must be already educated in this gentleman's morality."
People and race are different things, and "Volk" is actually translated more correctly into "folk" or people, nation -- rather than "race"
The English word "master" is not the correct translation of the German word "Herr" in the context of the word "Herrenvolk", because the word "master" is used synonymously who is in a position of owning a slave. Germany did not have a history of slavery like the USA, so a more accurate translation of "Herr" would be gentleman (which means chivalrous, courteous, or honorable).
Carlos Porter has also argued that "master race" is a mistranslation.
CW Porter: "The word "Master Race" appears 82 times in the Nuremberg Trial transcript. Not bad for an extremely rare word, mistranslated, used a known total of 8 or 9 times."
CW Porter: "Hitler [in Mein Kampf] never uses the word "Herrenrasse", only "Herrenvolk", 3 times"
"MASTER RACE" NOT A TERM USED BY THE NATIONAL SOCIALISTS: THE STORY OF HOW A SINGLE RARE WORD -- "HERRENVOLK" -- WAS MISTRANSLATED AS "MASTER RACE"
Use of word "Master Race" at First Nuremberg Trial
Revisionist Hadding Scott has argued that "master race" was used in English already in 1868, long before the creation of National Socialism. Regarding accusations against Germany, "master race" accusations were made already during the First World War, as one part of essentially false Allied propaganda:
The Joseph Hirt Story, Twenty Years as a Fake Auschwitz-SurvivorContrary to widespread belief in the United States, Germans during the period of Hitler's rule did not habitually refer to themselves as members of “the master race.” ... The term master-race (Herrenrasse), while it had been used by a fringe-figure during the First World War, seems not to have been used in German National-Socialist literature at all. The word does not appear in Mein Kampf, nor in Rosenberg's Mythus, nor in any German National-Socialist material that I have seen.
Herrenvolk appears several times in Mein Kampf, but this word is not properly translated as “master-race” (although such invidious mistranslation is commonplace). Herrenvolk is a general term referring to any people that happens to rule over another people, like the Normans in Mediaeval England, or, subsequently, the British in their empire. A German publication from 1933 states: “The Romans were undoubtedly the most important hegemonic people (Herrenvolk) of world-history” (Monatsschrift für das Deutsche Geistesleben, 1933, p. 317). Herrenvolk thus denotes imperial achievement rather than racial quality.
Even this misunderstood word Herrenvolk was not, however, an important element of National-Socialist propaganda.
CW Porter is again quoted in the following article by Bradley Smith:
FRAGMENTS: Another Ordinary LifeCarlos Porter and I were chatting via email a while back when he had occasion to remark that William L. Shirer had told people for 30 years Hitler was a “carpet eater,” which Porter termed a “gross mistranslation.” He also noted that Shirer was almost single-handedly responsible for the universal delusion that the Nazis claimed that the Germans were a “Master Race, a complete lie based on another mistranslation. Nobody ever made such a claim, but everybody in the world believes it.”
I too have heard these things all my life but never looked into them. I asked Carlos to comment.
Porter wrote: “I've been thinking about this for years. I spent most of the 1980s reading the Nuremberg transcripts, then went to work as a translator for over 20 years, and when I found that Herrenvolk was supposed to be a translation of Master Race, or the other way around, I was astonished. I couldn’t believe it. I couldn't believe my eyes. For years I kept wondering what would correspond to Master Race in German. I couldn't think of anything that really fit. I still can't.
“The principal objection against the Lebensborn by most liberal writers is that there was an ‘Ausleseprinzip’, a selection principle, that they were elitist, they didn't accept just anybody. So really I think the closest thing to Master Race in German would be something like ‘auserlesenes Volk’ or ‘ausgewähltes Volk’, a Chosen People! You see how hypocritical this is. (Of course selection in a concentration camp means killing. That's different.)
Even at Nuremberg, they never claimed there was any Master Race Principle, they just used it as a blanket jargon-term of accusation alleging racism, military aggressiveness, and so on, things that are not unique to Nazis or Germans. If Master Race means anything, why not introduce the original term, Herrenvolk, into English as a foreign word, like ‘hubris’? If it means anything at all, it's essentially the same thing, but none of these things are uniquely Nazi or German.
“In the meantime, there are still 100 million Master Race hits on Google and 200 million on Yahoo.
“Hitler said some dumb things, like saying that we all feel that at some time in the future the world will come to be ruled by one dominant race. Everybody does feel this, and always has. At the moment it seems like it will be the Chinese. This is not a uniquely National Socialist idea. It is as old as mankind.
Wartime "Master Race" Photo Deceit