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Nazi eugenics were Nazi Germany's racially-based social policies that placed the improvement of the race through eugenics at the center of their concerns and targeted those humans they identified as "life unworthy of life" (German Lebensunwertes Leben), including but not limited to the criminal, degenerate, dissident, feeble-minded, homosexual, idle, insane, religious, and weak, for elimination from the chain of heredity. More than 400,000 people were sterilized against their will, while 70,000 were killed in the Action T4.

Hitler's views on eugenics

Adolf Hitler read racial hygiene tracts during his imprisonment in Landsberg Prisonmarker. He thought that Germanymarker could only become strong again if the state applied to German society the principles of racial hygiene and eugenics.

Hitler believed the nation had become weak, corrupted by the infusion of degenerate elements into its bloodstream. These had to be removed quickly. He also believed that the strong and the racially pure had to be encouraged to have more children, and the weak and the racially impure had to be neutralized by one means or another.

The racialism and idea of competition, termed social Darwinismor neo-Darwinism in 1944, were discussed by European scientists, and also in the Vienna press during the 1920s, where Hitler picked up the ideas is uncertain, the theory of evolution had been generally accepted in Germany at the time but this sort of extremism was rare. In 1876, Ernst Haeckel had discussed the selective infanticide policy of the Greek city of ancient Spartamarker.

In his Second Book, which was unpublished during the Nazi era, Hitler praised Sparta, adding that he considered Sparta to be the first "Völkisch State". He endorsed what he perceived to be an early eugenics treatment of deformed children:
Sparta must be regarded as the first Völkisch State. The exposure of the sick, weak, deformed children, in short, their destruction, was more decent and in truth a thousand times more humane than the wretched insanity of our day which preserves the most pathological subject, and indeed at any price, and yet takes the life of a hundred thousand healthy children in consequence of birth control or through abortions, in order subsequently to breed a race of degenerates burdened with illnesses.

Nazi eugenics program

The Nazis based their eugenics program on the United States' programs of forced sterilization.

The Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring, proclaimed on July 14, 1933, required physicians to register every case of hereditary illness known to them, except in women over forty-five years of age. Physicians could be fined for failing to comply.

In 1934 the first year of the Law's operation, nearly 4,000 people appealed against the decisions of sterilization authorities. 3,559 of the appeals failed. By the end of the Nazi regime, over 200 Hereditary Health Courts (Erbgesundheitsgerichten) were created, and under their rulings over 400,000 people were sterilized against their will.

Nazi eugenics institutions

The Hadamar Clinicmarker was a mental hospital in the German town of Hadamarmarker, which was used by the Nazi-controlled German government as the site of their T-4 Euthanasia Program. The Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Anthropology, Human Heredity, and Eugenicsmarker was founded in 1927.

In its early years, and during the Nazi era, it was strongly associated with theories of eugenics and racial hygiene advocated by its leading theorists Fritz Lenz and Eugen Fischer, and by its director Otmar von Verschuer. Under Fischer, the sterilization of so-called Rhineland Bastards was undertaken. Grafeneck Castle was one of Nazi Germany's killing centers during the Euthanasia, today it is a memorial place dedicated to the victims of the Action T4.

See also

Further reading


Academic articles


  • Burleigh, M. (1991). Selling Murder: The Killing Films of the Third Reich. London: Domino Films.
  • Michalczyk, J.J. (1997). Nazi Medicine: In The Shadow Of The Reich. New York: First-Run Features.


  1. Ian Kershaw, Hitler: A Profile in Power, Chapter VI, first section (London, 1991, rev. 2001)
  2. Dónal P O'Mathúna: " Human dignity in the Nazi era: implications for contemporary bioethics", BMC Med Ethics 2006. online March 14, 2006
  3. Eugenics and the Nazis - the California connection
  4. - The Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased
  5. Robert Proctor, Racial Hygiene: Medicine Under the Nazis (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1988): 108.

External links

General reference

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

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