I watched a film sometime back, it tells about the life of the Jews during the Nazi rule. The forced isolation in ghettos, mistreatment, torture, humiliation, imprisonment and ultimately death. Those luckier ones escaped death, but their life was scarred forever. By the end of the Holocaust, 6 million Jews lost their lives for no apparent reason. The excuse that the Nazis and Hitler gave to explain their actions, were that the Jews as compared to the Aryans, were an inferior race. ‘Inferior race’ in Hitler’s demented mind did not meant Jews alone, they include Afro-Germans, Asians, the Disabled, the mentally challenged, Gypsies, and basically anyone who doesn’t fit into the Hitler’s ideal conditions for the new reformed Germany.
Now, many people in the world blamed Hitler as the sole cause behind the holocaust. But I beg to differ. To me the basis for mistreatment of ‘inferior races’ form the Jews by the Nazi’s to the Asians in The League Of Nations is simply THE THEORY OF EUGENICS.
The theory of eugenics is basically the belief that the gene pool of the human race is in crisis, and that it will eventually lead to the deterioration of the human race. It’s the belief that the ‘best’ human beings were not breeding as rapidly as the ‘inferior’ ones, for example-Jews, foreign immigrants, degenerates, the unfit and the ‘feeble-minded’. This theory that gained so much support during the early 20th century was actually pseudoscience. The crisis it claimed was nonexistent. And the actions taken in the name of this theory were morally and criminally wrong. Ultimately, they led to the deaths of millions of people. This theory was first speculated by British scientist Francis Galton, however his ideas were taken far beyond anything that he intended. To fully understand the Theory of Eugenics and the reasons why it gain a cult like following in the first 3 decades of the 20th century, one must look at the economic, social and political context in which it flourished. You must be thinking how economics, sociology and politics can affect science; the reason is because the Teory Of Eugenics is Politicized Science.
Now in America, during the late 19th century, there were turbulent social and economic problems following the Civil War. The American industry was going through rapid industrialization and coupled with increase mechanization in agriculture cause major migration of farmers into the city. Cities expanded faster than adequate housing. Exploitation of labor created militant labor union organizations. The rapidly expanding industries also created price fluctuations and a series of depressions. All this made worst by the ever-increasing tide of immigrants. All this fueled social unrest.
The problem started when the wealthy and powerful were facing a declining birth rate. Indicating that they are in fact losing the struggle for existence with the working class that were out-producing them. This created a kind of social unbalance. Now, rapid industrialization gave birth to the idea of Progressivism and imbedded in Progressivism was the idea of Scientific Management - using science and long-range planning to solve social and economical problems. The Progressive Reformers had a very strong faith in science as a cure-all ‘drug’ that would usher in the new era of rational control over the human society. Under these conditions, there was no wonder that the new science of genetics gave birth to a new science of social engineering – Eugenics.
Highly respected scientist at that time found out that genetics appeared to explain the underlying cause of human social problems. Such as, pauperism, feeble mindedness, alcoholism, rebelliousness, criminality and prostitution. There traits were proven to be present in defective individuals. Defective individuals were identified as Jews, many foreigners and as well as blacks which made up more than half of the immigrant population. Eugenicists argued that society paid a high price for allow these defective individuals to breed and thus producing children that would have a high chance of being like their parents causing the state money to care for them. They suggest that sterilization or isolation of one defective individual could save the state and future generations thousands of dollars. This led to American states to allow forced sterilizations and isolation of defective individuals. Law were written to protect physicians who perform sterilizations from malpractice lawsuits. In 1935 the state of Oklahoma passed the law that allowed for involuntary sterilizations of repeat criminal offenders. Politicians endorse the law because it allows them to tackle the ever-increasing immigration problems. You must be wondering, how can these people get away this outrage of personal freedom and constitutional rights?
Well the eugenic ideology deeply rooted in popular American culture in the 1920s to the 1930s. Movies that supported the eugenic movement were popular, schools thought eugenics to students and even the church preached sermons on eugenics. As you can see, the overall American population was wildly influence by the eugenic culture. And it was supported by scientists, Noble prize winners, politicians, authors and supreme court Justices. This method of social engineering was so popular that it’s research was funded by Carnegie Foundation and later by the prestigious Rockefeller Foundation. Supporters include, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and even Winston Churchill. The famous novelist H.G Wells. Institutions like the National Academy of Science, American Medical Association, National Research Council, Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Stanford and John Hopkins also supported it. It’s was of no wonder that people turn a blind eye on the horrors of eugenic practices.
The Eugenics effort eventually moved to Europe, more specifically, Germany. However, the eugenics practices in Germany were more extreme. They include gassing of individuals from mental institutions. And by the late 1920s the German has largely taken over the leadership of the movement. The Germans were very progressive in their movement. They set up house where ‘mental-defectives’ were brought in one at a time, interviewed, then led to room where they were gassed with carbon-monoxide. Eventually this program expanded into a vast network of concentration camps located near railroad lines for efficient transport, killing ten million ‘defectives’, six millions of them Jews. It was common knowledge that Hitler was the one who introduced eugenics to Germany.
Today, it is a widely known fact that Eugenics is false. Firstly, scientist at that time, don’t even have the slightest idea on what a gene really was. Research methods on Eugenics were severely flawed. Secondly, the eugenics movement was really a social program masquerading as a scientific one. What drove the movement was the concern about immigration and racism and ‘defective’ people moving into one’s neighborhood or country.
But the most distressing thing was that scientific establishments in both America and Germany did not mount any sustained protest. On the contrary, German scientist quickly fell into line with the program. Under orders form the Nazis, the scientists were to research eugenics with regard to the Nazi Race Policy, where their research was aimed at confirming the racial doctrine. German scientists who did not adjust their research interest to the new policies ‘mysteriously’ disappeared.
Today, Eugenics is rarely discussed and considered to be a disgrace especially to the United States who spearheaded the movement. But I feel that it should be made known to avoid future repeats of this horrible mistake of Politicized science.