The Eugenics Crusade, by American Experience
AIRED OCTOBER 16, 2018
The Eugenics Crusade
WHAT’S WRONG WITH PERFECT?
A hybrid derived from the Greek words meaning “well” and “born,” the term eugenics was coined in 1883 by Sir Francis Galton, a British cousin to Charles Darwin, to name a new “science” through which human beings might take charge of their own evolution. The Eugenics Crusade tells the story of the unlikely –– and largely unknown –– movement that turned the fledgling scientific theory of heredity into a powerful instrument of social control. Perhaps more surprising still, American eugenics was neither the work of fanatics, nor the product of fringe science. The goal of the movement was simple and, to its disciples, laudable: to eradicate social ills by limiting the number of those considered to be genetically “unfit” –– a group that would expand to include many immigrant groups, the poor, Jews, the mentally and physically disabled, and the “morally delinquent.” At its peak in the 1920s, the movement was in every way mainstream, packaged as a progressive quest for “healthy babies.” Its doctrines were not only popular and practiced, but codified by laws that severely restricted immigration and ultimately led to the institutionalization and sterilization of tens of thousands of American citizens. Populated by figures both celebrated and obscure, The Eugenics Crusade is an often revelatory portrait of an America at once strange and eerily familiar.
I believe in striving to raise the human race to the highest plane of social organization, of cooperative work and of effective endeavor.
I believe that I am the trustee of the germ plasm that I carry; that this has been passed on to me through thousands of generations before me; and that I betray the trust if (that germ plasm being good) I so act as to jeopardize it, with its excellent possibilities, or, from motives of personal convenience, to unduly limit offspring.
I believe that, having made our choice in marriage carefully, we, the married pair, should seek to have 4 to 6 children in order that our carefully selected germ plasm shall be reproduced in adequate degree and that this preferred stock shall not be swamped by that less carefully selected.
I believe in such a selection of immigrants as shall not tend to adulterate our national germ plasm with socially unfit traits.
I believe in repressing my instincts when to follow them would injure the next generation.
Beginning in 1930 the Rockefeller Foundation provided financial support to the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Anthropology, Human Heredity, and Eugenics, which later inspired and conducted eugenics experiments in the Third Reich.
The Rockefeller Foundation funded Nazi racial studies even after it was clear that this research was being used to rationalize the demonizing of Jews and other groups. Up until 1939 the Rockefeller Foundation was funding research used to support Nazi racial science studies at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Anthropology, Human Heredity, and Eugenics (KWIA.) Reports submitted to Rockefeller did not hide what these studies were being used to justify, but Rockefeller continued the funding and refrained from criticizing this research so closely derived from Nazi ideology. The Rockefeller Foundation did not alert "the world to the nature of German science and the racist folly" that German anthropology promulgated, and Rockefeller funded, for years after the passage of the 1935 Nuremberg racial laws.
The Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Anthropology, Human Heredity, and Eugenics was founded in 1927 in Berlin, Germany. The Rockefeller Foundation partially funded the actual building of the Institute and helped keep the Institute afloat during the Great Depression.