An essay on the Holocaust and Nazi Eugenics.
VALERIE L. HARVEY
THE HOLOCAUST (NAZI EUGENICS)
HIS 104: WESTERN CIVILIZATION
NOVEMBER 23, 2009
PROF. DANIEL FRENCH
According to Wikipedia, eugenics is the study and practice of selective breeding applied to
humans, with the aim of improving the species. Englishman Francis Galton (1822-1911) came up with
term eugenics—a Greek word meaning “good in birth.” (Gray) Eugenics developed because some
people felt that they could improve the human race by focusing on the desirable traits and getting rid of
the more undesirable ones. Daniel J. Kevles (1985)-“eugenicists identified human worth with the
qualities they presumed themselves to possess—the sort that facilitated passage through schools,
universities and professional training.” (Gray). Eventually, Hitler’s National Socialism, otherwise known
as the Nazi movement, began to focus on eugenics as a way to get rid of the undesirables, like the Jews,
and other groups of people they deemed as not good enough to be apart of this world.
In 1921, Hitler became chairman of the party now known as the National Socialist German
Workers’ Party. (Bentley/Ziegler). Then in 1929, National Socialism and Hitler attracted disillusioned
people who felt alienated from society and frightened by the specter of socialist revolution.
(Bentley/Ziegler). Number of people blamed young German democracy for Germany’s misfortunes: a
humiliating peace treaty—Treaty of Versailles—identified Germany as responsible for Great War and
assigned reparation payments to Allies; hyperinflation of early 1920s that wiped out the saving of
middle-class; suffering brought on by Great Depression; and a seemingly unending and bitter infighting
among the nation’s major political parties. (Bentley/Ziegler). Adolf Hitler promised to end these
misfortunes by creating a new order that would lead to greatness for Germany. (Bentley/Ziegler).
National Socialism appealed to members of lower-middle classes: ruined shopkeepers and
artisans, impoverished farmers, discharged white-collar workers, and disenchanted students.
(Bentley/Ziegler). Stressing racial doctrines, especially anti-Semitism, Nazis added a unique and
frightening twist to their ideology. (Bentley/Ziegler). The Nazis suppressed the German communist and
socialist parties and abrogated virtually all constitutional and civil rights. (Bentley/Ziegler). Hitler and
his government outlawed all other political parties, and made it a crime to create a new party, and made
the National Socialist Party the only legal party. (Bentley/Ziegler). Hitler and his government outlawed
all other political parties, made it a crime to create a new party, and made the National Socialist Party
the only legal party. (Bentley/Ziegler).
The National Socialist state guided the destruction of trade unions and the elimination of
Collective bargaining, prohibiting strikes and lockouts. (Bentley/Ziegler). The Nazis purged judiciary and
Civil service, took control of all police forces, and removed enemies of the regime—both real and
Imagined--through incarceration or murder. (Bentley/Ziegler). Once in power, Nazi regime translated
Racist ideology, especially notions of racial superiority and racial purity, into practice. (Bentley/Ziegler).
Leaders of Third Reich pursued creation of a race-based national community by introducing eugenic
measures designed to improve both quantity and “quality” of German “race.” (Bentley/Ziegler).
Implicit in racial remodeling was the conviction that there was no room for racially “inferior” or
“biological outsiders.” (Bentley/Ziegler). Alarmed by declining birthrates, the Nazis launched a campaign
to increase the births of “racially valuable” children. (Bentley/Ziegler). The Battle against the empty
cradle meshed agreeably with Nazi ideology, which relegated women primarily to role of wife and
mother. (Bentley/Ziegler). Through tax credits, special child allowances, and marriage loans, authorities
tried to encourage marriage and, hoped, procreation among young people. (Bentley/Ziegler). Legal
experts rewrote divorce laws so that husbands could get a divorce decree solely on the grounds that he
considered his wife sterile. (Bentley/Ziegler). The regime outlawed abortions, closed birth control
centers, restricted birth control devices, and made it difficult to obtain information about family
Annually on 12 August—the birthdate of Hitler’s mother—women who bore many children
received the Honor Cross of the German Mother in three classes: bronze for mothers with more than
four children, silver for those with more than six, and gold for those with more than eight.
(Bentley/Ziegler). By August 1939, three million woman carried this prestigious award, which many
Germans cynically called the “rabbit decoration.” (Bentley/Ziegler). The quantity of offspring became
the only concern of new rulers, who were obsessed with “quality.” (Bentley/Ziegler).
In 1933, the regime initiated a compulsory sterilization program for men and women whom the
regime identified as having “hereditarily determined” sicknesses, including schizophrenia,
feeblemindedness, manic depression, hereditary blindness, hereditary deafness, chronic alcoholism, and
serious physical deformities. (Bentley/Ziegler). Between 1934 and 1939 more than thirty thousand men
and women underwent compulsory sterilization. (Bentley/Ziegler). Beginning 1935, the government
also sanctioned abortions—otherwise illegal in Germany—of “hereditary ill” and “racial aliens.”
The mania for “racial health” culminated in a state-sponsored euthanasia (“mercy killing”)
Program, responsible for the murder of approximately two hundred thousand women, men, and
children. (Bentley/Ziegler). Between 1939 and 1945, the Nazis systematically killed—by gassing, lethal
injections, or starvation—those people judged useless to society, especially the physically and mentally
handicapped. (Bentley/Ziegler). Nazi eugenics measure served as the precursor to the wholesale
extermination of peoples classified as racial inferiors, such as gypsies and Jews. (Bentley/Ziegler).
Anti-Semitism, or prejudice against Jews, was the key element in designs to achieve a new racial
order and became the hallmark of National Socialist rule. (Bentley/Ziegler). Immediately after coming
into power in 1933, the Nazis initiated systematic measures to suppress Germany’s Jewish population.
(Bentley/Ziegler). Nazi anti-Semitism was based on biological racial theories dating back to the 19th
Century where government authorities used religious descent to determine who was a Jew.
(Bentley/Ziegler) A Flood of discriminatory laws and directives were designed to humiliate, impoverish,
And segregate Jews from the rest of society. (Bentley/Ziegler). In1935, the notorious Nuremberg Laws
deprived German Jews of their citizenship and prohibited marriage and sexual intercourse between Jews
and other Germans. (Bentley/Ziegler).
The Nazi party, in cooperation with government agencies, banks, and businesses, took steps to
eliminate Jews from economic life and expropriate their wealth. (Bentley/Ziegler). Jewish civil servants
lost their jobs, and Jewish lawyers and doctors lost their gentile, or non-Jewish, clients. (Bentley/Ziegler).
Party authorities supervised the liquidation of Jewish-owned businesses or argued for their purchase—
at much a less than their true value—by companies owned or operated by gentiles. (Bentley/Ziegler).
The official goal of the Nazi regime was Jewish emigration. (Bentley/Ziegler). Throughout the
1930s,thousands of Jews left Germany, depriving nation of many of its leading intellectuals, scientists,
And artists. (Bentley/Ziegler). The exodus gained urgency after what came to be know as “the night of
broken glass” (Kristallnacht). (Bentley/Ziegler). During the night of 9-10 November 1938, the Nazis
arranged for the destruction of thousands of Jewish stores, the burning of most synagogues, and the
murder of more than one hundred Jews throughout Germany and Austria. (Bentley/Ziegler).
Pogrom (Yiddish term for devastation) was a signal that the position of Jews in Hitler’s Reich was about
To deteriorate dramatically. (Bentley/Ziegler).Although they had difficulty finding refuge, approximately
250,000 Jews left Germany by 1938. (Bentley/Ziegler). Those staying behind, especially the poor and
The elderly, comtemplated an uncertain destiny. (Bentley/Ziegler).
By the end of World War II, the Nazi regime and accomplices had physically annihilated millions
of Jews, Slavs, Gypsies, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, communists, and others targeted as
undesirables. (Bentley/Ziegler). The Jews were the primary target of Hitler’s racially motivated
genocidal policies and the resulting Holocaust epitomized the tragedy of conquest and occupation of
World War II. (Bentley/Ziegler). The Holocaust, an almost complete destruction of European Jews by
Germany, was a human disaster on a scale previously unknown. (Bentley/Ziegler). The Murder of
European Jews preceded a long history of vilification and persecution of Jews. (Bentley/Ziegler). For
centuries, certain communities were singled out by Christian society as “a problem,” and by the time of
the Nazi regime, they arose to power in 1933, with anti-Semitism contributing significantly to
widespread tolerance for anti-Jewish measures. (Bentley/Ziegler). Marked as outsiders, Jews found few
defenders in their societies. (Bentley/Ziegler).
The Nazi determination to destroy Jewish population and Europeans’ passive acceptance of anti-
Semitism laid the groundwork for genocide. (Bentley/Ziegler). Most nations outside the Nazi orbit
the limited migration of Jewish refugees, especially if they were impoverished, as most of them were
because the Nazi authorities appropriated their wealth. (Bentley/Ziegler). Nazi “racial experts” toyed
with the idea of deporting Jews to Nisko, a proposed reservation in eastern Poland, or to the island of
Madagascar,and island off of Africa. (Bentley/Ziegler). These ideas proved to be impractical and
Threatening. (Bentley/Ziegler). Concentration of Jews in one area led to dangerous possibility of the
creation of a separate Jewish state; hardly a solution to the so-called Jewish problem in the Nazi view.
The German occupation of Poland in 1939 and the invasion of the Soviet Union in summer of
1941 gave Hitler the opportunity to solve what he considered a problem of Jews in Germany and
throughout Europe. (Bentley/Ziegler). When German armies invaded Soviet Union in June 1941, Nazis
dispatched three thousand troops in mobile detachments known as SS Einsatzgruppen (“action squads”)
to kill entire populations of Jews, Roma (or Gypsies), and many non-Jewish Slavs in newly occupied
territories. (Bentley/Ziegler). Action squads undertook mass shootings in ditches and ravines that
became mass graves. (Bentley/Ziegler). By the end of 1941, special units had killed 1.4 million Jews.
(Bentley/Ziegler). Sometime during 1941, Nazi leadership was committed to “a final solution” of the
Jewish question; a solution that entailed the attempted murder of every Jew living in Europe.
(Bentley/Ziegler). The Wannsee Conference, 20 January 1942, 15 leading Nazi bureaucrats gathered to
discuss and coordinate the implementation of a final solution. (Bentley/Ziegler). They agreed to
evacuate all Jews from Europe to camps in eastern Poland, where they would be worked to death or
exterminated. (Bentley/Ziegler). German forces—aided by collaborating authorities in foreign
countries—rounded up Jews and deported them to specially constructed concentration camps in
occupied Poland. (Bentley/Ziegler). The victims from nearby Polish ghettos and distant assembly points
all across Europe traveled to their destinations by train. (Bentley/Ziegler). On the way, the sick and
elderly often perished in overcrowded freight cars. (Bentley/Ziegler). Jewish victims packed into these
suffocating railway cars never knew their destinations, but rumors of mass deportations and mass
deaths nonetheless spread among Jews remaining at large and among Allied government leaders, who
were apparently apathetic to the fate of the Jews. (Bentley/Ziegler).
In camps like Kulmhof (Chelmno), Belzec, Majdanek, Sobibor, Treblinka, and Auschwitz, the final
solution took on an organized and technically sophisticated character. (Bentley/Ziegler). The killers
introduced gassing as the most efficient means for mass extermination, though other means of
destruction were always retained, such as electrocution, phenol injections, flamethrowers, hand
grenades, and machine guns. (Bentley/Ziegler).
The largest of the these camps was Auschwitz, where at least one million Jews perished.
(Bentley/Ziegler). Nazi camp personnel subjected victims from all corners of Europe to industrial work,
starvation, medical experiments, and outright extermination. (Bentley/Ziegler). A German commandant
of Auschwitz explained proudly how his camp became the most efficient at killing Jews: by using fast-
acting crystallized prussic acid Zyklon B as a gassing agent, enlarging the size of gas chambers, and lulling
victims into thinking they were going through delousing process. (Bentley/Ziegler). At Auschwitz and
elsewhere, Germans also constructed large crematories to incinerate the bodies of gassed Jews and hide
evidence of their crimes. (Bentley/Ziegler). This systematic murder of Jews constituted what war crime
tribunals later termed a “crime against humanity.” (Bentley/Ziegler).
Murder of European Jewry was carried out with the help of the latest technology and the utmost
efficiency. (Bentley/Ziegler). For most victims, the will to resist was sapped by prolonged starvation,
disease, and mistreatment. (Bentley/Ziegler). Thousands of Jews joined anti-Nazi partisan groups and
resistance movements while others led rebellions in concentration camps or participated in ghetto
uprisings from Minsk to Krakow. (Bentley/Ziegler). The best known uprising took place in Warsaw in the
spring of 1943. (Bentley/Ziegler). Lacking adequate weapons, sixty thousand Jews who remained in the
ghetto that had once held four hundred thousand, rose against their tormentors. (Bentley/Ziegler). It
took the German about three weeks to overtake the Jews. (Bentley/Ziegler). As a result, approximately
5.7 million Jews perished in the Holocaust. (Bentley/Ziegler).
Late 1942, Raphael Lemkin, a refugee Polish-Jewish lawyer living in the United States, coined the
term genocide to describe the systematic mass murder during World War II perpetrated by Nazi regime.
(Bentley/Ziegler). In an effort to realize racial utopia, leaders of Germany were still in process of
murdering millions of “racial undesirables,” targeting all Jews in particular for physical annihilation.
(Bentley/Ziegler). Three years after the war, the newly created United Nations adopted Lemkin’s
definition of genocide and passed an act known as the Genocide Convention that took effect in 1951.
(Bentley/Ziegler). The Genocide Convention provided a legal definition of genocide and established it as
a crime under international law. (Bentley/Ziegler). Article II of Genocide Convention defines genocide as
“any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national ethnic, racial,
or religious group, as such : (a) Killing members of the group; (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm
to members of the group; (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring
about its physical destruction in whole or in part; (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births
within a group; (e) “Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.” (Bentley/Ziegler).
Jerry Bentley & Herb Ziegler. Traditions & Encounters: A Global Perspective on the Past. Pp. 996-1000,
Nazi Eugenics. (2009, October 30). InWikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.
http://en.wikipedia/org/w/index. php ? Title = Nazi_Eugenics & oldid = 3228355150.
Paul Gray. (1999, January). Cursed by Eugenics. Time, 153(1), 84-85.