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Nazi Eugenics

Eugenics is commonly associated with the Nazi racial hygiene program that began in 1933 and ended in May 1945, with Germany's defeat near the end of World War II. Although the German eugenics movement existed long before the Nazis came to power, scholars have shown that Nazi eugenicists were inspired by American eugenic studies and sterilization, as well as their antimiscegenation and immigration restriction laws.

Goddard's Kallikak study was well respected among German eugenicists who, like American eugenicists, emphasized genetics as the basis of human differences. German racial hygienists also praised the American eugenicist Madison Grant's racist book, The Passing of the Great Race, which Adolf Hitler referred to as his "Bible." The 1933 Nazi "Law for the Prevention of Genetically Diseased Progeny," relied on American examples, especially the model law drafted by American eugenicist Harry Hamilton Laughlin. In 1936 the University of Heidelberg awarded Laughlin an honorary degree for his contributions to "racial hygiene." Laughlin's degree was ordered and signed by Hitler.

The Nazis instituted state-supported positive eugenics programs that encouraged "racially fit" women to reproduce, as well as a massive negative eugenics program that included euthanasia. Ultimately, the Nazis sterilized about 400,000 people and euthanized another 70,000 individuals that were judged to be feebleminded or otherwise unfit. The euthanasia program fore-shadowed the extermination of six million Jewish victims, along with millions of others, notably Gypsies and homosexuals, in the Holocaust.

Additional topics

Medicine EncyclopediaGenetics in Medicine - Part 2Eugenics - British Origins, Positive And Negative Eugenics, Mendelian Inheritance, Intelligence Testing, And American Eugenics