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

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

Central Europe Confronts German
Racial Hygiene:
Friedrich Hertz, Hugo Iltis and Ignaz
Zollschan as Critics of Racial Hygiene

Paul J. Weindling

The new national states of interwar Europe were fertile seedbeds for the growth of eugenics as science, ideology and medical practice. Sandwiched between the two pariah states of Germany and the Soviet Union, Central European eugenics was astonishingly diverse. In part, there were influences from abroad. The Rockefeller Foundation sought to promote hygiene and welfare in the European successor states; social medicine in Weimar Germany had fertility control as a core interest; and there were socialist endeavors to produce a "new man." Undoubtedly, there were heterogeneous streams in each country, which meant that population and health policies took on distinctive national forms.

The strength of an articulate opposition to German race theory and the Nazification of racial hygiene merits comparison with the fragile political context of interwar Central and Southeast Europe. In this chapter I shall show how Radićal critiques emerged from within the Central European crucible, and how it moved from an initial concern with anti-Semitism, and the racial mythology of Houston Stewart Chamberlain (1855–1927) and Arthur de Gobineau (1816–1882), to targeting Nordic racial anthropology and the eugenics of the German ultra-Right.

Three figures took the lead in mounting critiques of the scientific pretensions of racial theory: the social scientist Friedrich Otto Hertz (1878–1964); the biologist and geneticist Hugo Iltis (1882–1952); and the radiologist Ignaz Zollschan (1877–1948). Zollschan was also a committed Zionist, while Hertz was nominally a Roman Catholic, although his father was of Jewish descent. Iltis was also nominally Catholic with a father of Jewish descent. Hertz and Iltis were both socialists and secular in outlook. All shared a common background in the Habsburg Monarchy, where, in Hertz's words, "no race could seri-

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