Engineering Oblivion: Eugenics, the Remaking of Man and Unmaking of Morality: Eugenicists Placed Such a Premium on Human Physical Perfection That There Was No Consideration of the Methods Used to Achieve It, nor the Consequences of the Ideal

By Duke, Selwyn | The New American, August 30, 2010 | Go to article overview

Engineering Oblivion: Eugenics, the Remaking of Man and Unmaking of Morality: Eugenicists Placed Such a Premium on Human Physical Perfection That There Was No Consideration of the Methods Used to Achieve It, nor the Consequences of the Ideal


Duke, Selwyn, The New American


The year is 1941, and the Nazis are in the midst of their Lebensborn program. Men of pure Aryan stock--especially members of the Waffen-SS, thought the cream of the crop--have a special purpose. In many occupied countries, they are encouraged to mate with blonde-haired, blue-eyed women--those reflecting the very picture of the Aryan ideal themselves. And "mate" is the word; romance is not necessary here, nor marriage, nor moral constraints. For the program is to serve as a baby factory that will produce future Aryan supermen for the Third Reich.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Lebensborn grows out of what is central to the Nazi philosophy: eugenics, which is the improvement of the human race through the process of selective breeding. And the Nazis embrace it for a very interesting reason: They have a penchant for indulging ancient myths, and one of these is that they are descended from a race of Aryan supermen who lost their superhuman capabilities because they procreated with inferior races, thus visiting upon themselves a kind of biological devolution. And they aim to reverse the process by jump-starting and accelerating evolution in a sort of hothouse environment.

Of course, talk of breeding supermen based upon an ancient template sounds kooky; speaking of inferior races disgusts the modern palate; and "eugenics," now joined at the hip with the Nazis, has become a dirty word. Yet it is not at all accurate to say that the Nazis created eugenics. It is more correct to say that eugenics created the Nazis.

Eugenics, at least in a more primitive form, dates back to the time of the Greek philosopher Plato, who, inspired by the Spartans, advocated murdering "weak" children. It wasn't until 1883 and the theory of evolution's ascendancy, however, that the word "eugenics" was coined by English scientist Francis Galton, a cousin of Charles Darwin. It was at this time that the field was catching on like wildfire, and it would gain increasing acceptance during the next few decades. For, while it may be hard to believe today, eugenics was considered to be Science with a capital "S," a "thinking man's" philosophy, the politically correct theory of the age, only finding opposition from those shackled by faith and fancy. And although German Nazis made it infamous, in the United States in the early 20th century, it was downright popular.

Eugenics Breeding Grounds

Helped by well-heeled benefactors such as the Carnegie Institution, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Harriman railroad fortune, the eugenics movement was already roaring in the Roaring '20s. And it sometimes manifested itself in relatively innocuous ways. For instance, writes Carol Squiers in Perfecting Mankind: Eugenics and Photography:

  "Fitter Families" contests were staged at state agricultural fairs
  throughout the U.S. in the 1920s. They judged the eugenic worth of
  local families. Mary T. Watts, the co-organizer of the first contest
  at the 1920 Kansas Free Fair, explained that when anyone inquired
  what the contests were, "we say, 'while the stock judges are testing
  the Holsteins, Jerseys, and whitefaces in the stock pavilion, we are
  judging the Joneses, Smiths & the Johns.'" The American Eugenics
  Society supported the contests, which grew out of a "Better Baby"
  competition at the 1911 Iowa State Fair. The family contests were
  featured at seven to ten fairs yearly and were held in the "human
  stock" sections.

As is always the case when man is reduced to animal, however, the eugenic mindset inspired darker actions as well. Edwin Black treated this subject in The Horrifying American Roots of Nazi Eugenics, writing:

  Elements of the [eugenics] philosophy were enshrined as national
  policy by forced sterilization and segregation laws, as well as
  marriage restrictions, enacted in twenty-seven states. In 1909,
  California became the third state to adopt such laws. 

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