The founder of German racial science, Alfred Ploetz, said that America was the “bold leader in the realm of eugenics.”
The philosophical underpinning for the murderous Nazi policies that culminated in the Holocaust – was a racist crusade masquerading as the science of Eugenics, Rassenhygiene (“racial hygiene”). Eugenicists deemed specific populations as genetically inferior, and Nordic ethnic populations “superior”; they sought to breed a superior Nordic – Aryan race of human beings by misapplying the biological principles of “natural selection” and “survival of the fittest” that are used to breed cattle and corn.
The pseudo-scientific theories of racial and ethnic inequality were widely accepted among academic circles; renowned anthropologists whose “science” focused on measuring in detail facial and anatomical features upon which the Nazis placed extraordinary value on to justify its policies of genocide. Eugenics dominated the thinking of the most reputable scientists and academics at elite universities in England, the United States, Germany, and Scandinavia long before the Nazis seized power.
The eugenics framework adopted by Hitler in 1924 was American. Germany’s three leading race eugenicists, Erwin Baur, Fritz Lenz and Eugen Fischer, authored the two-volume German eugenic text, Foundation of Human Heredity and Race Hygiene (Grundriss der menschlichen Erblichkeitslehre und Rassenhygiene were closely allied to American eugenic science at Cold Spring Harbor and Harry Davenport personally. (Edwin Black. War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America’s Campaign to Create a Master Race, 2003)
Hitler merely compounded the virulence of long-established American race science with his fanatic anti-Jewish rage. Hitler’s extremist eugenic racism which, in many ways seemed like the logical extension of America’s own entrenched eugenic policies which helped shape the institutions and even the machinery of the Third Reich’s genocide. Hitler’s politics was fused into a biological and eugenic mindset. In his view, eugenically inferior groups, such as Poles and Russians, would be permitted to exist by serving Germany’s master race. Hitler demonized the Jewish community as social, political and racial poison, that is, a biological menace and vowed that he would dismantle and remove the Jewish community from Europe.
The third international eugenics congress met in New York and elected as its president Professor Ernst Rudin, MD, Director of the Kaiser-Wilhelm Institute of Psychiatry in Munich, Germany’s preeminent, world-renowned institution whose research in genetics of mental and central nervous system diseases is second to none.
This honor is significant in that it legitimized eugenics as a preventive medicine that endeavors to define and eradicate inherited illnesses; it was an affirmation by prominent academics from foremost American institutions of the esteem in which the Kaiser-Wilhelm and German medicine; and demonstrated the indisputable recognition of eugenics as medical science.
Swiss-born psychiatrist-geneticist Ernst Rudin was the architect of Germany’s “racial hygiene purification policies” — including the “scientific” selection criteria for sterilization and subsequent medical murder of handicapped children and institutionalized adult mental patients. Rudin was twice honored by Hitler for his contributions.
The historic record shows a continuous intertwined cross breeding between American eugenicists and their close colleagues in Germany prior and after the Nazi regime take-over. However, the medical sterilization atrocities could not have been executed without medical doctors.
A review by two Yale physicians of sterilization programs in the U.S. and Germany found that:
“A comparison of U.S. and German histories reveals similarities that argue against easy dismissal of a Nazi analogy. On the basis of a review of editorials in New England Journal of Medicine and Journal of the American Medical Association from 1930 to 1945 it is difficult to accept the suggestion that the alliance between the medical profession and the eugenics movement in the United States was short-lived.” (Eugenic Sterilization, 2000)
The pivotal factor that led German and Austrian physicians to become murderers was the displacement of curative medicine with preventive medicine. The traditional healing profession and its commitment to the best interest of the individual patient was superseded by the application of interventions aimed at preventing and eliminating genetic defects and illness for the future “greater good.”