The operator of this website is the highly motivated community-minded Martin Mitchell from Australia (himself an instititionalised and abused minor in church institutions in the former West Germany)

( 10.03.2004 )

Cleansing of the unfit : War Against The Weak : Eugenics and America’s Campaign to Create A Master Race : Eradication by sterilisation and institutionalisation of all perceived "scum" and the so-called "dumb" and "worthless" (and all those who were not considered suitable for exploitation or as "service personnel" for the rich and mighty).

Extracted from an Australian newspaper the Green Left Weekly, March 10, 2004 @

Cleansing of the unfit


War Against The Weak: Eugenics and America’s Campaign to Create A Master Race
By Edwin Black
Four Walls Eight Windows, New York
550 pages, [Aus] $58.20 (hardback)

The Montgomery county sheriff’s office in Virginia was kept busy in the 1930s, driving up to the rural “hillbilly” settlements and bringing back hundreds of brothers, sisters and cousins to the county hospital to have their tubes cut or tied to prevent reproduction of more of their “kind”.

This “cleansing of the unfit” of the US, says Edwin Black in War Against the Weak, caught up hundreds of thousands of poor “white trash”, Blacks, Native Americans, people with a mental disability, epileptics, prisoners, the deaf, blind and mute, in mass forcible sterilisation, institutional segregation and marriage restriction during the first seven decades of the twentieth century under the banner of “eugenics”.

Elite universities provided the “science” of eugenics, wealthy capitalists the money, and government officials the political and legal sanction to create a “superior race” by eliminating the reproductive opportunities of those deemed inferior. Black’s book is a very black history of how the wealthy and powerful of the US attempted to control the racial groups and social classes they disliked and feared.

US bigots took passionately to eugenics, a pseudo-science adapted and twisted by the British scientist, Francis Galton, in the 1880s from biologist Gregor Mendel’s theory of heredity. They found in it proof that the “inferior” were so because of genetic defect and that to stop the “race suicide” of “quality bloodstock”, the genetic inheritance of the “defective” and “degenerate” must be terminated. To turn prejudice into policy, however, the eugenicists needed money. Those most fearful of the lower classes were those with the most money, and three of America’s wealthiest capitalist dynasties came to the eugenic party.

The massive fortune of steel boss Andrew Carnegie was successfully tapped in 1904 by Charles Davenport, a Harvard zoologist obsessed with racial breeding, to support his eugenic research laboratories at Cold Spring Harbour in Long Island, New York. The Rockefeller millions were eagerly sought after and no less eagerly provided. The estate of railroad capitalist E.H. Harriman funded the Eugenics Research Office (ERO), set up by the American Breeders’ Association to conduct the data-gathering phase of the eugenic crusade by identifying successive “lower tenths of humanity” for bloodline termination, and so “improve” the human breeding stock as was done with “horses, cows and pigs”.

Prisons, institutions for the sensory-impaired, psychiatric hospitals and poorhouses turned over their confidential records to ERO field officers, who set up vast file indexes of the physically, medically, morally, culturally or socially inadequate, or those just “different”. The different included albinos, the Amish in Pennsylvania, the shy, stutterers, people with poor English — all lumped into a giant eugenic underclass of the unfit. The “defective germ-plasm” of alcoholics and paupers was also indexed by the ERO. None of the people interviewed knew they were being added to a list of candidates for sterilisation, segregation in special camps or restrictive marriage laws.

As Harry Laughlin, Davenport’s chief activist, put it, they had to end the reproduction of those people “unfitted to become parents of useful citizens”. Not all of them, of course, because a master race needs its slave race to do all the work. Davenport proposed that “some tens of thousands of ‘Black fellows’ from central Australia might be induced to come to this country” as a “worker strain”.

Some of the world’s cultural elite carried the eugenic standard. George Bernard Shaw and H.G. Wells were eugenicists. Telephone inventor Alexander Graham Bell was a prominent leader. Prestigious American psychologists developed an “objective” way of measuring “feeblemindedness”, their intelligence tests predictably, given the cultural and class biases of IQ testing, identifying vast numbers of “morons” amongst eugenically “inferior” groups.

State bureaucracies created their own eugenic organisations, and forced sterilisations became legal in dozens of states. Public opposition, however, and some state officials’ concerns that eugenic sterilisation may be unconstitutional, slowed the eugenic pace until a 1925 decision by the US Supreme Court to uphold the compulsory sterilisation by Virginia state of teenage sole mother Carrie Buck as a “mental defective”. Through the Supreme Court floodgates flowed pent-up waves of eugenic sterilisations, 30 000 in the 15 years to 1940.

The eugenic movement also had success with US immigration policy. For decades, race-based immigration quotas heavily discriminated in favour of the blond, blue-eyed “Nordic” races (from Germany, Scandinavia and north-western Europe) and against eastern and southern Europeans, and Jews, with fatal [consequences in the] 1930s.

The US vigorously exported its eugenic doctrines. Although Britain was sluggish, tens of thousands of eugenic sterilisations were lawfully carried out in Canada, Switzerland, Finland, Holland, Denmark, Norway and Sweden.

But the tearaway success story was in Germany. Hitler closely followed US eugenic legislation — “I have studied with great interest the laws of several American states concerning prevention of reproduction by people whose progeny would be of no value or be injurious to the racial stock”. After the Nazis seized power in 1933, Hitler modelled his ‘race cleansing’ sterilisation laws on US legislation.

US eugenicists looked at Nazi Germany with both “parental fascination” and “Nordic admiration”. Communication and scientific exchanges flowed across the Atlantic, as did Rockefeller funds to numerous Kaiser-Wilhelm Institutes which were scientific fronts for Nazi eugenic and anti-Semitic ideology. Eugenical News, the official voice of the American eugenic movement, praised Hitler for his “ideological salvation of humanity”.

The executive secretary of the American Eugenics Society lamented that US was “pussyfooting around” with terminology whereas Hitler’s Germans were “calling a spade a spade”, a sub-human a sub-human, a “useless mouth a useless mouth”.

Nothing could dampen the US eugenic ardour for its Nazi prodigy, not the anti-Semitic persecution, nor the inhumane sterilisations (which topped 200 000 by 1937 before they stopped counting), not the gassing of 100 000 aged, mentally disabled and other “useless” people.

After the war, however, Hitler’s “eugenicide”, and the hideous eugenic medical experiments of Dr Josef Mengele at Auschwitz on Jews, Russian POWs, Romany (Gypsies), homosexuals and the mentally disabled, took the wind out of the US eugenic sails.

Four decades of funding of racial eugenics by capitalist wealth dried up but America’s eugenic laws did not — for 30 post-war-years tens of thousands of Americans continued to be forcibly sterilised, and untold others institutionalised and legally prevented from marriage on the basis of racial and eugenic laws. Seven decades into the 20th century and 70,000 Americans had been sterilised, most of them women. Many laws still remain on the books.

Stripped of its scientific cover, eugenics is nothing but bigotry. [The] practice [of eugenics] is recognised as a crime against humanity by the UN. Whilst a racist eugenic fringe lives on (a West Coast sperm bank “caters exclusively to Americans who desire Scandinavian sperm from select and screened Nordics”), and whilst “corporate eugenics” conducts genetic-based discrimination in insurance, credit and employment, geneticists now try to understand heredity to preserve life rather than end it, and public revulsion at the eugenic “war against the weak” is a healthy sign of moral progress.

When the head of the Third Reich’s eugenic ‘Race and Settlement Office’, in the dock at the Nuremberg Trials after the war, could not understand why the US prosecutors were after him, he quite reasonably cited the sterilisation laws which had been passed in 29 US states and the 30 states which outlawed inter-racial marriages. He got 25 years, but there should have been many others up there with him.

[ Date of first publication on this Website: 10 March 2004 ] [ Main heading added by the editor ]


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