"Blood and Homeland": Eugenics and Racial Nationalism in Central and Southeast Europe, 1900-1940

By Marius Turda; Paul J. Weindling | Go to book overview
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Eugenics and Catholicism
in Interwar Austria

Monika Löscher

Since the end of the nineteenth century, various proposals for the genetic betterment of human beings have been posited. These plans were not designed solely in Nazi Germany, but represented a worldwide trend. Eugenics, or "racial hygiene" as it was referred to in German-speaking Europe, was simultaneously a scientific and a political program, and was shaped by the interaction of science, politics and the interest of the general public. It was not only the political Right that elaborated eugenic proposals; all interwar movements across the political spectrum were influenced by this new science, although they developed different approaches. Protestant countries such as the Us, some cantons of Switzerland, and Scandinavia, for example, all opted for "surgical solution"1 (including sterilization laws); however, eugenic movements also existed in Catholic countries, and were developed on the basis of social concerns for the "hereditarily healthy" (erbgesunden) and the reversal of social degeneration. The Fédération Internationale Latine des Societés d'Eugénique, founded in Mexico in 1935, represented leading eugenicists from the Catholic countries of southern Europe and South America. According to Stefan Kühl, the work of the federation was not simply undertaken against Nazi race policy, but rather against the wider negative impact of Anglo-American eugenics. Kühl also states that the federation was closely connected to the Catholic Church.2 Moreover, Nancy Leys Stepan suggests that Latin Hispanic eugenicists were in fact liberals and anti-clericals.3

The aim of this chapter is to examine the relationship between Catholicism and eugenics in interwar Austria. Unfortunately, a systematic analysis of Catholic eugenics in Austria, focusing on the interaction between science, Catholicism, politics and society, is still lacking. I shall therefore distinguish between the "official" church and its

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"Blood and Homeland": Eugenics and Racial Nationalism in Central and Southeast Europe, 1900-1940
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