“Passive eugenicide allowed babies deemed “defective” to starve, or be denied medical attention.”
The “Unfit” defined: Eugenics as an instrument of race improvement was inspired by animal husbandry that improved livestock through selective breeding, and culling undesirables from breeding stock. Eugenics sought to apply the principle to human breeding.
Eugenics “ideal” for America’s racial stock was the Nordic blue-eyed, blond-haired Aryan. The “unfit” included the “feeble minded,” homosexuals; persons evidencing criminal traits, alcoholism, blindness, deafness, schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder and a wide range of “mental illnesses.” To eugenicists even “laziness” was understood as a genetic trait to be eliminated from the race.
Also slated for elimination were “emancipated Negroes, immigrant Asian laborers, Indians, Hispanics, East Europeans, Jews, dark- haired hill folk, poor people, the infirm and anyone classified outside the gentrified genetic lines drawn up by American raceologists.” To secure the racial stock eugenics promoted strengthening existing laws prohibiting sexual contact between whites and non-whites (miscegenation). Race-segregated population centers was another humane option. As regards the Jews, at least in the years before National Socialism in Germany, eugenics promoted anti-immigration laws, which were discussed last week.
But there was another instrument of racial cleansing that, while not formally legal, was still selectively applied.
Euthanasia and the “unfit”: Eighteen solutions were explored in a Carnegie-supported 1911 Preliminary Report of the Committee of the Eugenic Section of the American Breeder''s Association to Study and to Report on the Best Practical Means for Cutting Off the Defective Germ-Plasm in the Human Population. Point No. 8 was euthanasia.
“The most commonly suggested method of eugenicide in America was a ‘lethal chamber,’ public locally operated gas chambers.” Other methods employed, particularly by physicians and other medical practitioners involved allowing the patient to die, “by some adverse feature of the environment, such as excessive cold, or bacteria, or by bodily deficiency." Passive eugenicide allowed babies deemed “defective” to starve, or be denied medical attention. In 1916 New York urologist William Robinson wrote a widely read eugenics textbook, Eugenics, Marriage and Birth Control (Practical Eugenics) in which he advocated, “The best thing would be to gently chloroform these children [of the unfit] or to give them a dose of potassium cyanide.”
“[M]any mental institutions and doctors practiced improvised medical lethality and passive euthanasia on their own. One institution in Lincoln, Ill., fed its incoming patients milk from tubercular cows believing a eugenically strong individual would be immune. Thirty to 40 percent annual death rates resulted at Lincoln… Other doctors at mental institutions engaged in lethal neglect.”
On December 6, 2011, Edwin Black testified before a subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee on eugenics. His introductory remarks included the following:
“INTRODUCTION: Preface: I come not as a Democrat or a Republican, nor as an advocate or adversary of the legislation now under consideration but rather as a historian who has chronicled the dark chapters of racist and genocidal eugenics in America and Nazi Germany… My remarks will trace the early 20th Century collusion by government, academia, and tax exempt philanthropic organizations in a county-by-county and state-by-state crusade to eventually eliminate an estimated 90 percent of Americans. The population control and social engineering techniques debated and proffered to legislators included gas chambers, euthanasia, abortion, forced sterilization, confinement, and internal deportation. Many of these techniques were adopted into law, some were debated by legislatures, and some were adopted as de facto policy by governments. Targets were Blacks, Native Americans, Southern Italians, Eastern Europeans, Jews, Hispanics, the poor, criminals, the intellectually unaccepted, the so-called “shiftless,” Appalachian whites with brown hair, and many others. Eventually, American eugenics proliferated its medicalized concept of racial supremacy into Nazi Germany which then emulated and expanded on what the U.S. had done. This was not less than a genocidal movement by the government against its own citizens, done in the name of progress. This movement did not end until the 1970s.
“I attach some in-depth materials for the record to be considered in tandem with my testimony.”
In 1927 the Supreme Court ruled on Virginia’s sterilization law in Buck v. Bell.
Carrie Buck was a patient who was compulsorily sterilized. (Wikipedia)
Carrie Buck was an inmate of the Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded. Diagnosed “feeble-minded” she was ordered to undergo compulsory sterilization Under Virginias eugenics-inspired Racial Integrity Act. In finding for Virginia United States Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote, “It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind.”(In its infamous 1927 decision upholding states rights regarding eugenic sterilization laws, Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote, "It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind…. Three generations of imbeciles are enough." It turns out that Carrie, was not "feeble-minded" at all, but that she had been put away to hide her rape, perpetrated by the nephew of her adoptive mother.”
“Nazis on trial at Nuremberg after World War II cited the influence of American eugenics programs on their policies and mentioned Buck v. Bell in their testimony.” They specifically referred to the U.S. Supreme Court decision in their defense.
Empty poison Zyklon-B canisters, found by the Allies at the end of World War II(Wikipedia).
As we will see in future writings American eugenicists actively trained, funded and, in the end, were envious of Hitler striving for an eugenic society, a genetic ideal, the German Master Race. Which raises questions regarding how far American eugenics would have gone in achieving its own Aryan ideal had the United States not entered the war, or been defeated; had the pro-Nazis Henry Ford or Charles Lindbergh decided to run for president and defeated Franklin D. Roosevelt for president?
Recent writings in this Series: