The Origins of Nazi Genocide: From Euthanasia to the Final Solution

By Henry Friedlander | Go to book overview

Chapter 12 Excluding Gypsies

The handicapped were the first but not the last victims of Nazi genocide. The mass murder of the handicapped was rapidly followed by the mass murder of Jews and Gypsies. Nazi ideology and race science had always targeted not only the so-called degenerate portion of the Volk, that is, the handicapped, but also the members of so-called alien and inferior races. In Germany and Central Europe, those aliens were Jews and Gypsies. Although both minorities had resided in Central Europe for centuries, and had become citizens, the public continued to consider them alien races.

Of course, some non-Caucasian persons did live in Central Europe, but their numbers were small, they were usually individuals holding foreign citizenship, and they stood under the protection of foreign governments. One small group of non-Caucasians, however, did not have this kind of protection. They were children, usually illegitimate, of German mothers and colonial soldiers in the Allied armies that had occupied the Rhineland after World War I. The Germans disapproved of these fathers as so-called colored people; most were black French soldiers from North Africa, especially Morocco, but a few were Asians and at least one was an African American. Copying the language first introduced by Eugen Fischer, the Germans called the children "Rhineland bastards."1

Even before the Nazis came to power, German politicians and scientists deplored the presence of colored hybrids on German soil; German antagonism was intensified by the fact that these children were the offspring of hated occupiers.2 After Hitler's appointment as chancellor, the German government decided to move against these children, who ranged in age from four to fifteen. First, the regime believed it necessary to define and count the members of the group. As we have seen, definition was essential to assure the noninvolved members of the majority that they were not threatened by exclusion. At first, the figures were inflated; eventually the experts collected data on just 385 children.3

The Prussian Ministry of Interior thereupon commissioned a race scientist to scrutinize and classify the children. In the summer of 1933, Wolfgang Abel, head of the department on race in Eugen Fischer's Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Anthropology, undertook this scientific investigation. Abel's sample was small, but his conclusions were definitive and hostile. With his measurements of the children, he attempted to prove their inferiority by cataloging such

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