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

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

Racial Politics and Biomedical
Totalitarianism in Interwar Europe

Aristotle A. Kallis

There is no more pertinent evidence of the totalitarian nature of the National Socialist regime in Germany than its uncompromising ambition to exercise full authority over every aspect of individual and collective life. Firstly through a series of legislative initiatives (including most notably the 1933 "Sterilization Law" and the 1935 "Citizenship and Marriage Laws"), and from 1939 onwards through the torrent of murderous policies (for example the T-4 "Euthanasia Program" and the "Final Solution of the Jewish Question"), the National Socialist state became the primary arbiter of human value, survival and elimination.1 This was a bio-political project of the most extreme kind, a Radićal counter-utopia. In their fanatical pursuit of the "ideal Vaterland" the Nazis received crucial support from the German biomedical community—support that was verbal and logistic as well as technocratic and political. More than half of German medical practitioners became members of the NSDAP, a quarter joined the SA, and almost one in ten felt that either their professional or scientific interests would be best advanced through the SS.2 The apparent willingness with which the biomedical community bowed to National Socialist demands for cooperation can be described as "anticipatory" co-ordination (Gleichschaltung). This involved the voluntary and pre-emptive implementation of measures aimed to placate the new Nazi authorities and thus to achieve the best possible arrangement with them. Even this interpretation, however, runs the risk of becoming reductionist, assuming that there was a pre-conceived Nazi norm to which the medical profession subscribed, through intimidation, peer pressure, opportunism, or even enthusiastic endorsement. In truth we are dealing with the conjunction, collusion and synthesis of two separate modern visions with totalitarian scope and implications, each with its own distinctive history, values

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