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

By Marius Turda; Paul J. Weindling | Go to book overview

Eugenics, Social Genetics and Racial Hygiene:
Plans for the Scientific Regulation of Human
Heredity in the Czech Lands, 1900–1925

Michal Šimůnek

Contemporary interest in the history of eugenics is not only reflected in current discussions on the "new eugenics," "neo-eugenics" or "backdoor-eugenics" but also at the political and ideological level.1 Today it is clear that, when assessing the history of eugenics, it is necessary to build on the existence of multiple parallel eugenic movements as well as several modes of eugenic thinking, and that an important aspect of the current research focuses on a deeper analysis of their mutual interactions. In Toward a Comparative History of Eugenics (1990), Mark Adams identified six dimensions of the historical development of eugenics needing to be further explored. The first is "scientific"; the second "disciplinary"; the third "professional"; the fourth "institutional"; the fifth "popular and pedagogical"; and the sixth "ideological and political."2 With these criteria in mind, this chapter discusses the adoption of eugenics by Czech intellectuals at the turn of the twentieth century. I shall not, however, analyse the adoption of eugenics among German-speaking intellectuals in the Czech lands. This is a topic that still requires substantial research.3


Local Sources and External Influences (1900–1918)

Like intellectuals elsewhere in Western and East-Central Europe, the Czechs aspired to create a "healthier" society in the face of the crisis of individual and national "degeneration." This was the point at which the movement for the "reform of life" (Lebensreform) in Central Europe began.4 Although it is possible to find numerous explications of "degeneration" before 1914, the problem was mostly understood as a consequence of certain long-term processes that had led to deviations

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