“A person open to all things and ideas is by default wiser than the one that is not,” Anonymous. It can be inferred that, on average, it is difficult to stay objective with an open mind on a controversial subject. The average person has opinions and morals that they view are right. In the United States, most citizens would become closed minded as soon as Nazi Germany was mentioned. This reaction is the result of the infamous genocide of the Jewish people under the Hitler regime. Although it may seem unfathomable that the United States could be comparable to Germany under the Nazi regime, if approached with an open mind, similarities are easily seen. Not only are American eugenics and German eugenics similar, American eugenics lead the International Eugenics movement and highly influenced eugenics in Germany.
Comparing the United States to Nazi Germany may seem irrational, but the sense of irrationalism comes from being taught, as children, that the two are polar opposites. It is difficult for the average person to believe that the citizens and scientists of the United States could have ever been anything like those of Germany. Nazi Germany is infamous for the Holocaust and the genocide of the Jewish community. The purpose of this paper is to give facts, statistics, and studies that show the advancements of eugenics throughout the international eugenics movement.
This paper will give information on the history of eugenics in the United States, focusing on North Carolina and Virginia. Statistics will also be provided in order to show the influence of eugenics in America. These statistics will show the high acceptance rate of sterilizations within America. International ties between the U.S. and Germany before and after World War I will be given in order to show the importance of the information allocated. The history of eugenics in Germany is also presented in order to show the influence of American eugenic legislation on the policies and practices of eugenics in Germany. Another key to the comparison of the United States and Germany is the mutual support that was given, although in the 1930’s, American support of Nazi racial policies began to decrease. Also included are the most prominent American eugenicists and German racial hygienists and the key organizations and programs that occurred.
The International Eugenics Movement
Eugenics was a mass international movement that spread throughout the Western states and the United States. The theory of eugenics was used in order to justify both forced and voluntary sterilization. Eugenics was used in order to both promote procreation between citizens with ideal genetics and deter procreation between citizens that had undesirable genetics. During this time, eugenics was highly thought of and accepted on an international basis. Throughout this movement, American Eugenicists and German Eugenicists shared information about the developing sterilization laws in their countries.
There were four International Eugenics Congress meetings held. During these congress meetings, eugenicists and biological scientists would present new ideas about eugenics and sterilization policies. Throughout the movement the United States remained the leader in eugenic legislation, while Germany was the leader in the enforcement of eugenics. The strongest ties throughout the movement were between the United States and Germany under the Nazi regime.
Eugenics in America
Eugenics was used not only to fight crime and poverty, but to attempt to create human perfection (Burke & Castaneda, 2007, p. 6). In this time, human perfection was attempting to selectively choosing the genes that were believed to be good and attempting to completely stop genes that were thought to be bad. Forced sterilization is the core of eugenics. In 1883, Francis Galton created the word eugenics from the Greek word eugenes, meaning “good in birth” (Burke & Castaneda, 2007). Eugenics came from scientific rationalization and biological selection. Those who believed in eugenics, known as eugenicists, believed that the only way to ensure unfit people could not reproduce was through sterilization. They wanted to make it impossible for the unfit to transmit their weaknesses to future generations (Burke & Castaneda, 2007, p. 7). Eugenicists also believed that both fit and unfit people should be quantified through scientific measures. This brought about the idea that human existence should be controlled and human sexual behaviors and reproductive capacity being made public (Burke & Castaneda, 2007). Up until the beginning of the eugenics movement, a person’s sexual behavior was thought to be a private affair and rarely left the household. Eugenics made this matter a public one. Not only did eugenics make state eugenics public, it brought out eugenic movements from all over the world.
Eugenics was popular in the United States throughout the twentieth century because of support from ordinary people and through government authority (Burke & Castaneda, 2007, p. 8). Laws in thirty-three states for mass sterilization of inmates in state-run institutions for the feeble-minded and insane were passed in the early twentieth century (Burke & Castaneda, 2007, p. 9). These laws were supported by wealthy benefactors and private institutions, which provided institutional legitimacy and scientific grounding (Burke & Castaneda, 2007, p. 9). These private institutions researched into the genetic causes of social problems. Through use of this research, a base was made for marital and sterilization laws. This research also helped identify and institutionalize hereditary abnormalities. The citizens that ran the private institution believed that both positive and negative eugenics was an effective way to eliminate the genetic determinants of crime, poverty, and disability (Burke & Castaneda, 2007, pp. 9-10).
In the late 1960’s to the 1970’s, cases of forced sterilization in poor women and minority women brought North Carolina’s eugenic law to the public as well as laws across the world. Although there were poor and minority women that were coercively sterilized, many sought out to be sterilized voluntarily. These women often could not afford other kinds of birth control or lacked to ability to prepare or their partner’s cooperation in order to prevent pregnancy. These women also not have abortions because at this time in history, abortion was illegal (Schoen, 2001, p. 134). During this time, voluntary sterilization was not monitored by regulations, but was up to the physician whether or not to perform the operation. More often than not, the physicians would refuse to operate. Wealthy women had the opportunity to go to private physicians, while the poor or minority women were forced to seek help at public health and welfare departments (Schoen, 2001, pp. 134-135). When women had to go to welfare and public health departments they had to bargain with the eugenics board. The state forcing sterilization on women was disempowering women as much as keeping them from being able to choose to be sterilized. North Carolina was the first state to support birth control, had more state-sponsored sterilizations, and was among the first to pass a voluntary sterilization law and change its abortion law in the 1960’s (Schoen, 2001, p. 135). These sterilization laws allowed welfare officials to petition for sterilization of their clients. North Carolina expanded its sterilization program while other states ceased them. The state’s sterilization law was also used to attempt to reduce the amount of money that was being spent helping women support their children (Schoen, 2001, p. 135).
In Virginia, the sterilization laws focused on the white women and controlling their behaviors and attitudes. Many people in the state were afraid that sexual relationships would form between white women and black men (Dorr, 1999, p. 144). Eugenics was a way to justify traditional ideas, which made it a positive belief system and convenient. Not only did Virginian eugenicists want to control the action of women, they wanted to control race within their state. They believed in artificial selection and positive eugenics, which was reproduction among those with good genes (Dorr, 1999, p. 145). White women were the targeted the most. Eugenicists wanted to reduce the roles of white women to just being mothers and were against advanced education, careers, and birth control (Dorr, 1999, p. 146). When Virginia first came to accept eugenics, the focus was on keeping racial integrity, but started to focus more on the fear of women’s new freedoms. During this time, medical professionals believed that the sexual sins of women were caused from inherited traits. A woman’s promiscuity was found to be a type of feeblemindedness(Dorr, 1999, p. 150).
During the 1920’s, Virginia was the leader of controlling its citizens through legislation (Dorr, 1999, p. 150). It was also believed that if a woman was feebleminded, it would pollute the gene pool and potentially increase the feebleminded population. There were institutions within Virginia that held women that were considered feebleminded during their childbearing years (Dorr, 1999, p. 150). Gender roles became a big issue after the Racial Integrity Act was passed. It was feared that women would fight against what society wanted them to do by getting jobs outside of the home and being sexually promiscuous (Dorr, 1999, p. 150). Eugenicists gave policies for taking control of women’s sexual behavior by covering it and saying that it is science’s duty to protect society (Dorr, 1999, p. 151).
Throughout the eugenics movement in America, there were many people that influenced both thoughts and ideas about eugenics. One influential American man of this time was Roger Pearson. He was an anthropologist that defended scientific racism. Scientific racism is being bias people because of their genetics, whether it is a physical or mental illness. Pearson wrote Race, Intelligence, and Bias in Academe. In his book, he wrote about the opposition from Marxists and Leftists against racial implications for research (Kuhl, 1994, p. 4). Pearson also had personal investment in the theory that the white race was endangered by an inferior genetic stock that lasted for over thirty years. He supported the World Anti-Communist League that held a meeting in Washington DC in 1978. This league is an international anti-communist political organization founded in 1966 with the aim of opposing Communism around the world through unconventional means.
Pearson also served as the director of the Council for Social Economic Studies in Washington and led the Institute for the Study of Man in McLean, VA. Pearson also received a support letter from President Ronald Reagan supporting his research. President Reagan also voiced his appreciation of Pearson’s service on April 14th 1982 (Kuhl, 1994, p. 4). Pearson had his own definition of Eugenics which is that it is “the practical application of genetic science towards the improvement of the genetic health of future generations.” Pearson believed that the original intent of Eugenics was to breed a more gifted race. This view can be seen as a way of dehumanizing the human race. By dehumanizing the human race, it would possibly be easier for others to support Eugenics and what it stands for. He also believed that there was both a positive and a negative use for eugenics. Positive eugenics was used to raise the overall quality of the nation by ensuring a superior birth rate among genetically better endowed (Kuhl, 1994, p. 5). Negative eugenics was used to free future generations from avoidable genetically transmitted handicaps (Kuhl, 1994, p. 5). When looking at both the positive and negative eugenics, it can show that both have the same goal, which is to promote healthy genetics. The only difference that can really be seen between these two definitions is the wording that is used. In positive eugenics, it is to increase the quality of genetics while negative eugenics is to free generations from bad genetics. The goals of both are the same, but the wording is what differentiates the two. Pearson attempted to disassociate himself from Nazi Germany after 1945 (Kuhl, 1994, p. 5). This was due to the accusations that he was a supporter of Nazi Germany.
Another important American scientist was William Shockley. Shockley won a Nobel Prize for physics in 1956. Shockley proposed a “Sterilization Bonus Plan.” This plan was designed “to reduce the number of babies who don’t get a fair shake from their parental dice up (Kuhl, 1994, p. 5).” In this plan, Shockley believed that people would voluntarily be sterilized if they were offered money. The people that fell below the 100 IQ would be eligible for this plan. After the proposal of his plan, Shockley said that “the lesson to be learned from Nazi history is the value of free speech, not that eugenics is intolerable (Kuhl, 1994, p. 5).” When Shockley says this, he is not only comparing American eugenics with German eugenics, but showing that they are alike. He is pointing out one of the differences, which is that the citizens have freedom of speech. Within a ten year period, Shockley received over $179,000 from the Pioneer Fund (Kuhl, 1994, p. 5).
J. Philippe Rushton was a psychology professor who also impacted American eugenics. He presented a paper at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He used this paper to prove differences in the mental traits of whites, Asians, and blacks. He claimed that blacks are more aggressive and sexually active than whites and Asians on average (Kuhl, 1994, p. 5). He also said that whites, Asians, and blacks all have different intelligence levels, brain sizes, personalities, temperaments, sexual restraints, and social organizational skills. Through these differences, he was able to create a racial spectrum. On this spectrum blacks and Asians are on opposite ends, while whites are in between the two (Kuhl, 1994, p. 5).
Rushton also explained that AIDS was higher among blacks because of their high sexual conduct. He believed that blacks could only compete with whites and Asians in evolution through keeping a higher level of sexual activity (Kuhl, 1994, p. 6). By showing these differences, Rushton presented this information in order to show the white race’s superiority of not only blacks, but Asians. By showing the white race’s superiority, it would make it easier to support the sterilization of blacks in order to keep a superior race.
Throughout the eugenics movement, there were many meetings and organizations that influenced relations between America and Germany. One of the major organizations during the eugenics movement in America was the Pioneer Fund. It was initiated and created by Harry H. Laughlin and Frederick Osborn in 1937. The purpose of the Pioneer Fund was to improve the character of the American people by encouraging the procreation of descendants of “white persons who settled the original thirteen colonies prior to the adoption of the constitution and/or from related stocks and to provide aid in conducting research on race betterment with special reference to the people of the United States (Kuhl, 1994, p. 4).” It was also used to finance studies in eugenics, human eugenics, and immigration. The Pioneer Fund got its financing through benefactors. These benefactors were both private and known (Kuhl, 1994, p. 5).
Another major program during the eugenics movement was the International Hygiene Exhibition that was held in Dresden. This was a major international meeting for eugenics (Kuhl, 1994, p. 12). This meeting was organized by the International Society for Racial Hygiene, which was founded in 1907 and made up of mostly German racial hygienists. This meeting included eugenicists from Germany, the Netherlands, Czechoslovakia, Great Britain, Austria, Sweden, Denmark, and the United States. The purpose and use of this meeting was to publicly present results of new science and to build international ties (Kuhl, 1994, p. 12). By creating international ties, it became easier to compare the policies and actions being taken between the different countries. This meeting became important for the creation of ties between American and German eugenicists.
There was also an International Congress Meeting held in 1912. This meeting was held in London with over 300 people from Europe and the United States in attendance. In this meeting there were four sections. The first section of the meeting dealt with heredity and the physical aspects that accompany genetics (Kuhl, 1994, p. 12). The second section included the influence of eugenics on sociological and historical research. The third section attempted to resolve the impact of eugenics on legislation and social practices. The fourth and final section of the meeting analyzed the practical applications of eugenic principles (Kuhl, 1994, p. 12). By separating the meeting into four different sections, the eugenicists from the different countries were able to choose the section that they were more accustomed to and helped keep the meeting organized.
During the 1920’s, important positions, such as professors at universities and members of leading research facilities, were held by mainline eugenicists. These eugenicists were the believers that race influenced behaviors. These eugenicists had influence on high political levels in both state and federal governments. In the 1930’s, mainline eugenicists and racial anthropologists lost influence and important American scientists and political groups began to question the policies of eugenics regarding ethnic minorities (Kuhl, 1994). Mainline eugenicists lost influence due to the deaths of important figures, public criticism, genetic discoveries that contradicted mainline eugenics, and the demand for a “stronger” sociological approach to problems of modern society. The outside critics pointed out that there were connections between mainline eugenics and Nazi racial hygiene, which showed possible negative consequences (Kuhl, 1994). While reacting negatively to the totalitarian government, American eugenicists search for a way to combine democracy and eugenics.
During the mid-1930’s, the American Eugenics Society slowly started to change its ideals. The shift was from eugenics being a racial movement to a sociological movement and was easily made. This shift away from the Nazi regime was not because of their eugenic programs, but because of the opposition to the totalitarian political regime (Kuhl, 1994). After 1935, leaders of the American Eugenics Society adopted a reformist outlook that eliminated the importance of race differences and argued individual based selections. The new reformist eugenicists that came into power opened a lot of doors for genetics. They brought new genetic discoveries, sociological methods, and questions of overpopulation into the movement.
Statistics in the United States
The first sterilization in America was in 1899 in Indiana. This sterilization was done without a legal basis. The doctor’s name was not recorded, but in 1907, he convinced the Indiana legislature to enact a law that allowed sterilizations of the mentally handicapped. In 1909, California and Connecticut passed similar legislations (Kuhl, 1994, p. 15). After these legislations were passed, other states began to follow which lead to a lot of sterilizations. The two main states that have records of sterilizations are North Carolina and Virginia. These two states were among the leading states in the eugenics movement.
During the 1950’s, North Carolina had what was called a Eugenics Board. This board viewed eugenics as being administered primarily to protect people from becoming parents when they have defects that would keep them from being good parents. Within the Biennial Report of the Eugenics Board, there are statistics from July 1956 to June 1958 of how many people were sterilized, their race and gender included. Throughout the biennium, 674 petitions for sterilization were presented to the Eugenics Board and out of these petitions 658 operations were authorized. There were 562 operation performed. Out of these operations, 485 were women. This makes up 86.3% of the total. Only 145 operations that were performed were performed for people in State institutions.
The other operations were petitioned for by public welfare. 85 out of the 100 counties in North Carolina put in petitions for sterilization, but only 82 performed operations. The county with the highest number of operations was Mecklenburg County with 74 operations. Out of the operations that were performed, 284 were white, 274 were African American, and 4 were Indian. Majority of the people that were sterilized were adolescents and young adults. 486 of the sterilizations were because of “feeblemindedness,” 61 for “mental illness,” and 15 because of epilepsy. 65.7% of the people sterilized were single and only 23.3% were married. The other 11% were widowed, divorced, or separated. Over half of the people that received the operation already had children.
Eugenics in Germany
Throughout the International Eugenics Movement, there were eugenicists, researchers, writers, and other influential people that influenced the movement. Between the late 1800’s and the 1900’s, scientists from both the United States and Germany compared and each other’s policies and scientific advancements. Throughout the entire movement, both the United States and Germany were the leading figures in the international movement. Prior to WWI, international ties between the United States and Germany were fairly easy. It was easy for the German and American Eugenicists to keep in touch and swap information about current policies and eugenic advances. Germany and the United States used media in order to gain more support from their citizens by showing the advancements of other countries. They used methods such as flyers, magazines, newspaper articles, and books. This use of media made it easier to gain emotional support for eugenics.
After WWI, international ties became strained, making it harder for eugenicists to hold meetings. This caused the Second International Congress of Eugenics to be postponed until September of 1921 and was held in New York City. There were no German eugenicists present because formal cooperation with Germany was not wise (Kuhl, 1994, p. 16). Although there were not going to be German attendance at formal meetings, certain German eugenicists were being brought back into the international eugenics community. American eugenicists attempted to get German geneticists and eugenicists to attend committee meetings, but he Germans refused to attend as long as French and Belgian troops remained in Ruhr (Kuhl, 1994, p. 16). Instead of attending congresses, the Germans insisted on strengthening the exchanges between Germany and the United States. Although there were hostilities, Germany decided to send delegates to an International Congress for Eugenics meeting (Kuhl, 1994, p. 17).
Research that has been conducted shows the similarities between American Eugenicists and German Racial Hygienists. Eugenics was a part of an international movement. Eugenics in America has been compared to Eugenics in Germany. Although it is known that Hitler supported the eugenics movement, Germany before Hitler did not support it. There had been eugenic policies proposed before Hitler’s reign, but these policies and proposals failed to gain enough popularity to pass. Hitler bribed some physicians and biologists with funding and increased career opportunities (Bachrach, 2004).
In 1933, the regime had its first compulsory sterilization law. The law was drafted Ernst Rudin, who was well known for his psychiatric work (Bachrach, 2004). In order to be forcibly sterilized, a person had to be found as feebleminded, schizophrenic, and other illnesses under the 1933 law. By 1945, around 400,000 Germans had been forcibly sterilized under Hitler’s rule (Bachrach, 2004). Although these surgeries were performed by professionals, there were around 5,000 deaths that were majority women. Although there was a great amount of support for forced sterilization, there was also support for positive eugenics, which was trying to increase the birth rate of those with good genetics (Bachrach, 2004).
Much of Nazi Germany’s sterilization legislation was modeled after legislation that was passed in parts of the United States. Prior to World War I, Germany thought highly of American eugenics and acknowledged them as the leading role of eugenic legislation. Germany criticized the American policies and thought that the policies were being badly enforced (Kuhl, 1994, p. 16). American eugenicists were the strongest supporters of the Nazi race policies. The Nazi regime gave “the Model United States” much of the credit for being an important role in shaping their sterilization policies. It has been claimed that Hitler even referenced the United States in one of his speeches saying that he has studied laws that had been passed in numerous states. He talked about his interest in their policies concerning the prevention of procreation between people whose genetics were invaluable to the “racial stock (Kuhl, 1994, p. 35).”
In 1935, the Nazi regime believed that America had achieved something great within its first sterilization law. This lead to their support of the Supreme Court’s decisions in 1916 and 1927finding compulsory sterilization Constitutional. The Supreme Court argued that it was better to prevent those who are unfit for society from reproducing than to be waiting to execute the degenerate offspring or letting them starve for being incapable for supporting their own selves (Kuhl, 1994, p. 36). Some German racial hygienists believed that parts of the United States, in their practices, were more radical than in their own. Even though America influenced much of Nazi Germany’s sterilization laws, some German racial hygienists were against some of the policies that were passed. Germany was against the use of eugenics as a form of punishment and the arbitrary means of which sterilizations were enforced (Kuhl, 1994, p. 35). The German eugenicists took pride in their use of elaborate decision-making process in deciding who should be sterilized. German racial hygienists studied America’s immigration laws that restricted people with hereditary diseases and citizens from non-Nordic countries from getting into the United States. The German’s respected how the policies combined both eugenic and ethnic selections (Kuhl, 1994, p. 35).
The American eugenicists were very aware and proud of their impact on Nazi Germany’s sterilization policies. The German Law on Preventing Hereditarily Ill Progeny was designed after the Model Eugenic Sterilization Law from 1922, which was designed by Harry Laughlin. The only main differences between the two policies were the people that would be delegated to be sterilized (Kuhl, 1994, p. 37). Laughlin’s proposal called for sterilization of the mentally retarded, insane, criminal, epileptic, inebriate, diseased, blind, deaf, deformed, and economically dependent. The German law only demanded the sterilization of those that suffered from mental retardation, schizophrenia, manic-depressive insanity, inherited epilepsy, Huntington’s chorea, hereditary blindness, deafness, malformation, and in some cases, alcoholics (Kuhl, 1994, p. 37). Both laws left the decisions for sterilizations up to specialized courts that would decide the cases. In was known in Germany that one main reason for the ability to pass their sterilization law was the access to information from the United States. German eugenicists relied on reports from other countries due to their own lack of experience. It was reported that before the sterilization law was passed, German experts examined sterilization experiences from other countries, especially the United States (Kuhl, 1994, p. 37). The Nazi regime relied heavily on research that was conducted in the United States after 1870 (Kuhl, 1994, p. 38).
The German eugenicists relied on the studies conducted on “degenerate” families in the United States. The first study that they examined was conducted by William J. Dugdale, who was a New York merchant and a prison reformer. Dugdale examined thirteen different prisons in Ulster County, New York in the mid 1870’s. He examined four families with blood ties in order to prove that poverty and degeneration is hereditary (Kuhl, 1994, p. 37). Dugdale began his research with a frontiersman who married a degenerate wife. Through his research, he claimed there were 709 descendants. Of the descendants, there were 181 prostitutes, 106 illegitimate children, 142 beggars, 64 being publicly housed, and 70 convicted criminals, 7 of which were convicted of murder (Kuhl, 1994, pp. 37-38). Dugdale also estimated that between the years of 1730 and 1874, this family cost taxpayers over $1.3 million dollars. After his study, research into degenerate families increased drastically.
Another study that was conducted in the United States that Germany researched and studied was that of the Kallikaks which was conducted in 1912. This study was conducted by Henry Herbert Goddard, a director of research at a school for mentally retarded children in Vineland, New Jersey, and his fieldworker, Elizabeth Kite. The study began with a Revolutionary Army soldier, Martin Kallikak, in 1776. Kallikak produced an illegitimate male child with a nameless prostitute (Kuhl, 1994, p. 38). The descendants of his illegitimate son added up to 408. Of his descendants, there were 143 mentally retarded, 36 illegitimate children, 33 sexual deviants, 24 alcoholics, 3 epileptics, 82 infant deaths, and 3 criminals. Kallikak, after leaving the army, married a woman from a respectable family, which ended up with 4 96 descendants. Only three of these descendants were found to even be partly degenerate (Kuhl, 1994, p. 38). This study was used as proof that “feeblemindedness is hereditary and transmitted as surely as any other characteristic (Kuhl, 1994, p. 39).”
Germany used these studies in order to support the demand for sterilization in to stop the reproduction on degenerates. Germany also published Goddard’s book in German, first in 1914 and then a second edition in November of 1933 (Kuhl, 1994, p. 39). This further proves the influence that the United States had on eugenics in Germany during the Nazi regime.
The influence that American eugenics had on German racial hygiene can also be seen through Hitler’s personal correspondence with American eugenicists. In 1934, Hitler had one of his staff members send a letter to Leon Whitley, an American eugenicist, requesting a copy of his book, The Case for Sterilization. After Whitley sent a copy of his book, Hitler personally wrote a letter back thanking him for the book (Kuhl, 1994, p. 84). It was later found that Hitler also wrote to Madison Grant, who sent a copy of his book, The Passing of the Great Race, to Hitler. In this letter, Hitler told Grant that “the book was his bible (Kuhl, 1994, p. 84).”
Among the Nazi racial hygienists, there was one that stood out. Ge”za von Hoffman was an influential German racial hygienist during the eugenics movement. He served as the Austrian vice-chancellor in California for several years and kept his German colleagues and the German public informed about the United States’ developments in eugenics. In doing so, he became known as the key informant to keeping the German racial hygienists informed about the eugenics in America (Kuhl, 1994, p. 14). Hoffman published Racial Hygiene in the United States of North America in 1913. His publication became one of the standard works of the early eugenics movement. In his work, Hoffman included the scientific basis of eugenics and reported eugenic ideas and their support and acceptance in the United States (Kuhl, 1994, p. 15).
Hoffman also wrote about how the theories of evolution and decay were becoming well known in the scientific thought of America. He also included how the ideas of Darwin, Mendel, and Galton were beginning to circulate within the social life of America. Hoffman told his readers that the important of heredity and the possibility of race improvement was becoming popular with eugenicists in America (Kuhl, 1994, p. 15). He also quoted Woodrow Wilson, who said “that the whole nation has awakened to and recognizes the extraordinary importance of the science of human heredity, as well as its application to the ennoblement of the human family (Kuhl, 1994, p. 15). Hoffman was the main link between the German and American eugenicists until the late 1910’s. With the outbreak of World War I, communication between Germany and Hoffman became difficult. Also during this time, Hoffman became doubtful about the survival of eugenics in America. He criticized the “lack of a powerful bureaucratic system” and the American Constitution and blamed them for the unsuccessful practice of eugenic policies in America. Although Hoffman received much support and recognition in Germany; he had only one criticizer (Kuhl, 1994, p. 15). Fritz Lenz was the only German citizen that criticized Hoffman. Lenz believed that he over exaggerated the success of eugenics in the United States. He said that negative eugenics in America was stronger than in Germany, but the actual practice was lacking. Lenz blamed the lack of enforcement on the “extremely democratic regime (Kuhl, 1994, p. 15).
Statistics in Germany
The German sterilization law, or the Law for the Prevention of Offspring with Hereditary Diseases, was passed on July 14, 1933. There were 84,525 petitions for sterilization in the course of 1934. This number is far greater than the number of sterilizations that took place in America. Of these petitions, 42,903 cases involved men and 41,622 involved women (Unknown, 2012). By December 31, 1934, 64,466 cases were seen by the courts. These cases lead to 56,244 sterilization, 28,286 men and 27,958 women. Only 3,692 cases ended up in refusals of sterilization. Although the sterilization of men was slightly greater than of women, more deaths occurred in women than in men as a result of the surgery (Friedlander, 1995, pp. 25-30). Between 1934 and 1936, 437 men and women died after being sterilized. Of the deaths, 70 were men and 367 were women. This shows the difficulty of sterilizing women during this time (Unknown, 2012).
In 1934, there were ten different categories of illnesses that people were sterilized for. People were sterilized for congenital feeblemindedness, schizophrenia, hereditary epilepsy, manic-depressive psychosis, severe alcoholism, hereditary blindness, hereditary deafness, severe malformation, and Huntington’s chorea. These ten categories show the dislike for both mental and physical handicaps that can be hereditary (Unknown, 2012). There were 17,070 sterilizations for feeblemindedness, 8,194 for schizophrenia, 4,250 for hereditary epilepsy, 1,017 for manic-depression, 775 for alcoholism, 337 for hereditary deafness, 201 for hereditary blindness, 94 for severe malformations, and 60 for Huntington’s disease. In this year, there were only 183 more men sterilized than women. The only three categories that there were more women than men sterilized are feeblemindedness, manic-depression, and severe malformation.
Through the history of eugenics in both the United States and Germany, it can easily be seen that there are similarities. Throughout the International Eugenics Movement, the United States and Germany were the two leading forces for the eugenics program. Up until the 1930’s, the Nazi regime relied upon the United States for both support and research. American eugenicists and Nazi racial hygienists stayed in contact and swapped information about current policies, legislation, and actions being taken. Although during WWI and WWII, it was hard to communicate and ties were being strained, the eugenicists were able to transfer information.
Although there were more sterilizations performed in Germany, American policies were of the first to be passed. Germany used American legislation in order to plan out its own policies without error. Even though the United States had policies, the Nazi regime blamed the constitution and the democratic government for the lack of enforcement. The Germans would put up flyers that provided current information on the eugenics in America in order to persuade the public that it was right. Through this charismatic leadership, Hitler was able to gain the support of not only American eugenicists, but the citizens of Germany who wanted to improve the human race.
Although the civil war ended in 1865, eugenics was based majority on race and racial differences in America. Up until the reformist era of eugenics in 1935, racial differences fuel the eugenics movement. In the United States, the eugenics movement began with both immigration and marriage policies that were based on race. These laws and regulations were made in order to keep the white race pure. These laws included blocking immigrants that were not descendents of the Aryan race from entering into America and making interracial marriages illegal. These laws show that, even after the civil war, white Americans still believed in white supremacy.
Eugenics in America did not turn away from racial implications until the late 1930’s when support for Germany was becoming opposition to Germany. Racial implications changed into ideas of perfecting the human race as a whole and not on keeping the white race pure. These policies and laws were quickly over looked when the German Holocaust began in 1938. After the holocaust, many scientists and eugenicists denied being like those of the Nazi racial hygienists. Although the holocaust did not occur until after WWII, the ideas of eugenics in America did not change until its occurrence.
In conclusion, these ideas and statistics show the importance of American eugenics on those of the Nazi regime in Germany. Analysis of both American and German eugenics shows that German eugenics relied heavily on the support of the United States. German racial hygienists relied on research and studies conducted in the U.S.in order to convince citizens that eugenics was acceptable. The Nazi regime also relied on the policies that had been passed in the United States. The most prominent of the policies were the immigration and marriage laws. German eugenicists respected and admired these laws.
It can be inferred that if the United States did not have a Constitution and was not democratic, the enforcement of sterilizations would have been more prominent. Since Germany was under a totalitarian regime, the laws and sterilizations were easily passed and enforced. Although Germany was under a totalitarian government at this time, had Hitler not been a charismatic leader, the citizens of Germany could have revolted. Hitler’s charismatic leadership pulled at the emotions of the German citizens to push for the perfect human race and used the support of America to back up his eugenic ideas.
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Schoen, J. (2001). Between choice and coerion: Women and the politics of sterilization in North Carolina. Journal of Women’s History , 132-156.
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