Compare USA and germany ugenics

In her essay, “Many Varieties of Beautiful Inheritance,”
Historian Ruth Schwartz Cowan describes the various forms of eugenics
that became popular throughout the world in the first half the twentieth century.
Please answer the following question in essay form.How did eugenics borrow on the evolving
sciences of heredity to become a vast popular movement in the United States and other
countries?In your response, please explain how eugenicists interpreted the science of
heredity differently in different countries? In other words, compare at least two different
countries in your response. Links:
Read more at:
NAZI GERMANY, 1933-1945
“The Threat of the
Underman” (1937)
Avg. # of
Male Criminals 4.9
“Criminal” Marriage 4.4
Family of “Slow Learners” 3.5
German Family 2.2
Educated Family 1.9
“Degeneration of the
Population as a Result of
Insufficienct Reproduction of
Valuable Families” (1937)
“Fecundity of
European Peoples,
Measured in Births
per 1,000
Inhabitants in
“Fertility & Race, the
Growth of the Slav in
Europe” (1937)
Germany’s 1933
Sterilization Law
(“Law for the
Protection of
Genetically Diseased
Nazi Planners modeled Germany’s 1933 Sterilization
Law on those found in the United States (California, etc.)
Indeed, they felt that Germany was falling behind the U.S. in its
racial policies.
As one observer noted (in 1932, on the eve of Hitler’s rise to
power): “Racial hygiene in Germany remained until 1926 a purely
academic and scientific movement. It was the Americans who
busied themselves earnestly about the subject. Through massive
investigations in the schools, they proved (with impeccable
precision) Galton’s thesis that qualities of the mind are as
heritable as qualities of the body [by the same laws].”
Proctor, “The Sterilization Law,” p. 98
The Nazis sterilized about 400,000 people after the
implementation of their sterilization law. Most of
these were done in 1934-7 (when the average number
of sterilized exceeded 50,000 per year).
German doctors competed to complete their
sterilization quotas.
Beyond tubal ligation for women and vasectomy for
men, German physicians sought out increasingly
innovative ways to sterilize people.
See Proctor, “The Sterilization Law,” pp. 108-12
Every doctor in Germany was required to undergo
training in genetic pathology and become proficient
in the analysis of racial traits. They became “genetic
However, the 1933 Sterilization Law was not a race
law. It made no provision for sterilization on racial
See Proctor, “The Sterilization Law,” pp. 111-2
Case of the “Black Scourge”
In 1935, Nazi leaders secretly ordered the
sterilization of the so-called Reindlandbastarde –
illegitimate children of native Germans and black
French occupation troops (first recognized as
“problem” in the 1920s).
After obtaining permission of the German parent, the
Nazis carried out the sterilizations to eradicate
“colored blood”. The move was characterized as a
national security issue, and keep secret to circumvent
the 1933 Sterilization Law.
See Proctor, “The Sterilization Law,” pp. 111
Reich Citizenship Law (Sept. 15) distinguished between
“citizens” and “residents.”
Citizens included people “of German or related blood
who through their behavior make it evident that they are
willing and able faithfully to serve the German people
and nation.”
Residents included Jews and single women.
The law, like many of the Nuremberg Laws, sought to
“cleanse” the German population of unwanted elements.
Law for the Protection of German Blood and German
Honor (Sept. 15) forbid both marriage and sexual
relations between non-Jews and Jews – and later
extended to all “non-Aryans.” A “full Jew”
was anyone
with at least three grandparents of Jewish ancestry.
Individuals with lesser fractions of Jewish ancestry were
known as 1st or 2nd degree “half-breeds.”
Also known as the Blood Protection Law, it employed a
peculiar kind of Mendelian logic to determine which
“Aryan” and “Non-Aryan.”
Law for the Protection of the Genetic Health of the
German People (Oct. 18) required couples to submit to
medical examination before marriage to see if “racial
damage might be involved,” and it forbade marriage
between individuals suffering from venereal disease,
feeble-mindedness, epilepsy or any other “genetic
infirmities” specified by the 1933 Sterilization Law.
“Overview of the Admissibility
of Marriage between Aryans &
Non-Aryans” (1936)
Case 2:
Allowed = Aryan + ¼ Jew
Case 4
Forbidden = Aryan + ¾ Jew
Case 8
Forbidden = ¼ Jew and ¾ Jew
Anti-Semitic Cartoon
The Exclusion of Jews
from German medicine
followed on perception
that there were too many
Jewish physicians.
The Exclusion of Jews
from German medical
practice accelerated in
January 1938.
On July 28th, the medical
licenses of all Jewish
physicians revoked.
Sterilizations in Germany grew scarce after 1939 (the
outbreak of WWII). Quite simply, the Nazis devised more
aggressive forms of population control that further
utilized the skills of medical and legal experts.
In 1939, the Nazis officially began “euthanasia”
designed to rid the nation of individuals whose “lives were
not worth living.”
The targets of these euthanasia programs were the
mentally and physically “unfit.” Initally, the euthanasia
program was not designed for eradicating “racial”
or political enemies. Later, in 1941, the practice began to
be extended to Jews and others.
See Proctor, “Lives Not Worth Living”
The Nazi Arguments for
their Euthanasia
Programs were economic
in their character.
First, it cost the nation too
much to care for the weak.
Second, it was not too
much to ask the sick and
disabled to sacrifice their
lives when the healthy did
the same (in wartime).
Nazis used medical and
scientific language to
characterize their enemies as
This 1943 propaganda
characterized Jews,
Communists, and U.S. &
British Capitalists as
“Infectious Germs”
The Nazis frequently
characterized Jews as a

” “plague,”

” on Germany.
This 1943 Poem Reads:
“With his poison, the Jew destroys
The sluggish blood of weaker
So that a diagnosis arises,
Of swift degeneration.
With us, however, the case is
The blood is pure; we are healthy!”
Three Stages of Nazi Population &
“Disease” Control
Stage 1. Sterilization, began in 1933
Stage 2. Euthanasia, began in 1939
Stage 3.“Final Solution,” began in 1941,
formalized in 1942
Proctor argues that the “medical” and
“political” policies were not and should
not be separated. (See “Lives Not Worth
Living,” pp. 208-10, 221-2)
Nazi Euthanasia Programs eventually targeted not only
Jews, but also Gypsies, homosexuals, criminals, and
any other individual that could be characterized as
having a “genetically inherited disease.”
People with Tuberculosis (TB) were a special target.
Question: Given that Koch (a German) had discovered
the bacillus for TB, why do you think a person with TB
could be characterized as having a “genetically
inherited disease”?
(Note: Communists and other political enemies were
executed on other, non-medical grounds.)
The Nazi Regime’s war against disease took many
forms, most of which required the cooperation of the
German medical and scientific communities. Two
(1) Proctor explains that the medical logic of
“quarantine” insured that certain groups could be
shown to be diseased. (See Warsaw ghetto example)
(2) Proctor argues that, even in defeat, Nazi doctors
went out of their way to continue the euthanasia killings.
This is emphasized by the fact that Hitler’s 1939 memo
never ordered physicians to carry out the policy. It
merely empowered them to do so.
Ad from
Chicago Herald,
April 1, 1917
Ad from
April 14, 1917
Ad from
Trade Review,
April 14, 1917
The Black Stork
Motion picture debuts in 1917
and is shown commercially
through the 1920s. After
1918, it frequently showed
under the title, Are You Fit to
It was slightly revised and rereleased
in 1927 and shown in
small theatures and traveling
road shows as late as the early
Note: Haiseden
died in 1919.
MARTIN PERNICK: The story really began in
November of 1915. Dr. Haiselden, a prominent young
surgeon in Chicago, was called to attend an impaired
newborn. Dr. Haiselden examined the baby, and
decided to allow the baby to die. He also called a
reporter for William Randolph Hearst’s ChicagoAmerican.
He told the reporter that he had had other
cases in the past, that he had allowed to die quietly, but
he now felt it was time to make this a public issue.
PERNICK: In 1916, every American who read a
newspaper knew who Harry Haiselden was, in the
same way that they know who Dr. Jack Kevorkian is
BLOCK: Haiselden held press conferences. He invited
photographers to take pictures of the mothers and
their dying babies. He was on a crusade to get doctors
to publicly admit that they too routinely withheld
treatment from impaired newborns, and many did.
PERNICK: Haiselden and his supporters were torn
between passionate expressions of sympathy and love,
versus, in the next breath, expressing contempt, hatred,
fear and loathing for those born with disabilities.
BLOCK: Haiselden, like many eugenicists, emphasized
that the burdens of the disabled should not be imposed
on the physically and mentally able.
PERNICK: The disabled were a menace, an evil
stalking beast, that was going to devour society.
BLOCK: This was the moment when the authority of
medicine was ascending. But doctors’ claims far
exceeded their understanding of the causes of many
disabling conditions.
PERNICK: Haiselden was investigated three times by
different legal authorities for allowing impaired
newborns to die, and each time he was upheld. But he
was expelled from the Chicago Medical Society for
writing newspaper articles and making a movie.
BLOCK: It was a melodrama
based on Haiselden’s real life
cases, and Dr. Haiselden
starred in it. Marty Pernick
found this long forgotten relic
in a New Jersey film collector’s
garage. Shortly after my
children were born, he sent me
there to see it. And it was the
weirdest film I had ever seen.
When I visited Marty at his
home in Michigan, we looked
at it together. The film is called
The Black Stork.
PERNICK: We see Dr. Haiselden, a tall, rather
handsome-looking guy, hair stylishly parted in the
middle; he looks out the window, and we get a shot of
what he is watching out the window. He sees a boy on
crutches. “It’s not the fault of the child, but someone is
to blame.”
BLOCK: Soon Haiselden attends the birth of a baby
born with a serious problem. Supposedly, the father
has “tainted blood”; this was a euphemism for
venereal disease, incurable at the time and a leading
cause of disabling problems in newborns.
PERNICK: A newspaper headline, “THEY
If parents consent, Leffingwell baby, hopelessly
defective, will die.”
You see the bedside scene. Haiselden is standing by
with a tiny infant, stroking the infant’s head.*
BLOCK: It is hard to communicate how repellent
this movie is. It was designed to be shown to theater
going audiences, but watching it you want to wish it
away. You don’t want to own this aspect of the
American experience.
PERNICK: We see a close-up of a very skinny,
scrawny baby with its ribs showing, a wizenedlooking
face, legs and arms drawn up, a textbook
picture of a baby born with congenital syphilis. The
title reads, “There are times when saving a life is a
greater crime than taking one.”*
BLOCK: Haiselden’s movie, and his crusade,
generated an outpouring of newspaper articles…
These are Haiselden’s supporters:
DR. J. C. HOWELL: “As a Christian and a
Socialist, I hope the day of the parasite who eats his
bread without earning it will soon pass whether he
be mentally or physically incompetent or not.”
KATHLEEN DAVIS: “If the child would be a
helpless idiot, what purpose is served by keeping it
CHARLES DAVENPORT: “Shortsighted are they
who would unduly restrict the operation of what is
one of Nature’s greatest racial blessings — death.”
BLOCK: Haiselden’s critics may not have reached
the same conclusion but they used the same
DR. WALSH: “Physicians may thank God that we
are not yet the licensed executioners of the unfit for
the community.”
JANE ADDAMS, HULL HOUSE: “It is not for me
to decide whether a child should be put to death. If
it is a defective, it should be treated as such, and be
taught all it can learn.”
PERNICK: One of the hardest things to do in
reconstructing the history of attitudes towards
people with disabilities is to understand the
changing language. When you go back to a
newspaper or medical journal of 1915, 1916 you see
terms like ‘defective,’ ‘imbecile,’ ‘‘idiot.’ We can see
clearly, there were incredible value judgments being
made but it’s important to remember that the
people coining and using those terms didn’t see it
that way. They didn’t see the hostility. They didn’t
see the contempt. They didn’t see the subjectivity…
PERNICK: … Progressive Americans were
convinced that scientists, physicians, could make
objective, technically valid determinations, of who
should live, who should die. And so they could, in
the same breath, as Clarence Darrow said,
“chloroform unfit children, show them the same
mercy that we show beasts that are no longer fit to
BLOCK: When Haiselden states his case in his movie
The Black Stork, he doesn’t invoke science and
objectivity, he looks to the divine order …
PERNICK: “It is the will of God that this baby be
born a defective, and without the meddling of surgery,
it is the will of God that the child die. ”
BLOCK: The film gets up close and personal with the
distraught mother. She’s been left alone to decide what
to do, and she has a dream, a vision of the child’s
imagined future. As a boy he’s shunned, and accused
of being a jinx.
BLOCK: …He grows up and turns to vice. He
becomes a derelict, a criminal, and eventually the
father of a brood of degenerate children…
BLOCK: … At last, frantic and crazed, he rushes into
a private club, looking for revenge upon the doctor
who saved his life as an infant…
PERNICK: Clearly wild-eyed he points to his hunched
back. “You are the man who condemned me to this life
of torture and shame. See what you have saved me
for? Now you’ll pay.” He pulls out a gun. The doctor
rises to protest. A cloud of smoke. He shoots!
BLOCK: This film argues that crime, degeneracy, and
financial ruin are the inevitable result of all disability–
that anger, bitterness, and envy are the emotional core
of a disabled person’s life. Terrified of this prospect,
the mother consents to let the child die. Haiselden
stands looking contented over the sick baby.
PERNICK: We see a faint image of Jesus appearing
superimposed in the background, and the baby’s soul
leaps out of its body, into the arms of the waiting
BLOCK: Do you see any parallels or implications for
the present? Is there any moral to this story?
PERNICK: I think the most important thing about this
whole story is that Americans died because their
doctors felt they were genetically unfit to live. Value
judgments have always been central parts of defining
disease, deciding what to do about it. It wasn’t simply
that, in Dr. Haiselden’s day, bad science was corrupted
by allowing values in…
PERNICK: … Dr. Haiselden and his supporters
believed passionately in objectivity but in looking back
at them, we can see so clearly, the way in which their
response to disease was shaped by their values. Trying
to be purely objective won’t keep out values. It will
simply guarantee that whatever values we use will be
unexamined, and thereby, covert and not capable of
being challenged.
1. How was the eugenicists’ “response to disease shaped
by their values”?
2. What does Martin Pernick mean when he says, “It
wasn’t simply that … bad science was corrupted by
allowing values in”?
3. Do you think Pernick is correct in saying: “Trying to
be purely objective won’t keep out values. It will
simply guarantee that whatever values we use will be
unexamined, and thereby, covert and not capable of
being challenged?”
“These events can be read as a fascinating but
irrelevant oddity, rich in human interest but lacking
any visible impact on the course of history. Yet these
cases, isolated as they turned out to be, offer far more
than just a novel and dramatic story. They constitute
one of those rare moments when people attempt to
examine and express what are ordinarily unarticulated
assumptions and to debate in public what are usually
private acts…”
Martin Pernick, p. 12
“These cases thus provide a unique window on
important attitudes and practices shared by people in
early-twentieth-century America, but which they rarely
discussed in public before the so-called Baby Doe cases
of the past decade [1980s-90s] and which therefore left
few other traces in the historical record.”
Martin Pernick, p. 12
“Haiselden’s actions, and the controversy that exploded
over them, cast a brief but piercing light on many
otherwise hidden dimensions of progressive-era
American culture, in areas as diverse as medicine,
motion pictures, education, journalism, politics, race,
gender, ethics, eugenics, and euthanasia. They
illuminate the history of American attitudes toward
infants, the disabled, doctors, disease, and death; the
impact of the mass media in medical controversies; and
the antecedents of current dilemmas in genetic therapy,
health promotion, and health policy.”
Martin Pernick, pp. 12-3
4. According to Pernick, Haiselden’s view was
endorsed or shared by a broad spectrum of
American society – “from socialists to business
leaders, feminists to misogynists, nativists to
immigrants.” He says that this was possible because
Haiselden argued (successfully) that “subjective and
emotional disputes could be eliminated by science.”
Early 20th-century Americans “who considered
themselves ‘progressive’ widely believed that science
constituted an objective method for resolving social
and ethical questions, such as the quality-of-life
decisions [that] eugenics and euthanasia
required.” (p. 15) That’s Pernick’s view. What do
you think?
5. Pernick says: “the issue of withholding medical
treatment became enmeshed in controversy over the
role of the mass media in medical disputes.” (p. 17)
How so?
6. What does Pernick mean by “aesthetic censorship”?
7. According to Pernick, “the sudden prominence and
equally swift erasure of Haiselden and his crusade
also demonstrate the emergence of both newspapers
and film as powerful new forces in early-20th-century
medical controversies.” (p. 17) That’s Pernick’s
view. What do you think?

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