Eugenics is the scientifically erroneous and immoral theory of “racial improvement” and “planned breeding,” which gained popularity during the early 20th century. Eugenicists worldwide believed that they could perfect human beings and eliminate so-called social ills through genetics and heredity. They believed the use of methods such as involuntary sterilization, segregation and social exclusion would rid society of individuals deemed by them to be unfit.

The eugenics movement started long before the Holocaust and continued long after. The eugenics movement in Germany, and during the Holocaust took a particularly dark, outright proactive, turn. [Author’s note: I doubt if there were any “light” turns in this movement.]

In any discussion of eugenics, the terms unfit and undesirable constantly appear. Upon examination, these appear to be political rather than scientific definitions, which of course means that the definitions keep changing. It can be said that the Pharaohs practiced eugenics in Exodus by drowning Jewish infants. The Chinese practiced eugenics by killing (or more recently aborting) female children. More recently, in the 20th century, eugenics came to mean sterilization.

 The Nazis of course carried this to extremes and performed outright killings.

The Personalities

An American lawyer, anthropologist, writer, and zoologist known primarily for his work as a eugenicist and conservationist, an advocate of scientific racism, and as one of the leading thinkers and activists of the Progressive Era.

Grant’s work was embraced by proponents of the National Socialist movement in Germany and was the first non-German book ordered to be reprinted by the Nazis when they took power. Adolf Hitler wrote to Grant, “The book is my Bible.” At the postwar Nuremberg Trials, three pages of excerpts from Grant’s Passing of the Great Race were introduced into evidence by the defense of Karl Brandt, Hitler’s personal physician and head of the Nazi euthanasia program, in order to justify the population policies of the Third Reich, or at least indicate that they were not ideologically unique to Nazi Germany

This man may be the key to the whole puzzle of the magnitude of the Holocaust. Born in 1893, a renowned psychiatrist and a major advocate of the idea that the German race was becoming “polluted”[1]

At a conference on alcoholism in 1903, he argued for the sterilization of ‘incurable alcoholics’, but his proposal was roundly defeated. In 1904, he was appointed co-editor in chief of the newly founded Archive for Racial Hygiene and Social Biology, and in 1905 was among the co-founders of the German Society for Racial Hygiene (which soon became international). He published an article of his own in Archives in 1910, in which he argued that medical care for the mentally ill, alcoholics, epileptics and others was a distortion of natural laws of natural selection, and medicine should help to clean the genetic pool.

Perhaps his personality and views are best summarized by the following quote:

In 1942, speaking about ‘euthanasia’, Rüdin emphasized “the value of eliminating young children of clearly inferior quality”.

This was a psychiatrist and a racist and a strong advocate of euthanasia of “inferiors”. He joined the Nazi party in 1937, and for Rüdin and Hitler, it was love at first sight.

Rüdin gave Hitler something he craved, a scientific basis for his beliefs. Hitler gave Rüdin what he needed, funding to implement his ideas. This was the perfect storm. Shortly thereafter “euthanasia centers” (see section ‎4 below) began to appear throughout Germany.

One could easily nominate Rüdin as “The Father of the Holocaust”.

Alfred Ploetz (22 August 1860 – 20 March 1940) was a German physician, biologist, Social Darwinist, and eugenicist known for coining the term racial hygiene (Rassenhygiene), a form of eugenics, and for promoting the concept in Germany.

Ploetz wrote in April 1933 that year that he believed that Hitler would bring racial hygiene from its previous marginality into the mainstream.

Euthanasia Centers

In 1939, with Hitler’s financial backing, a series of “euthanasia centers” began to appear.

Beginning in the fall of 1939, gassing installations were established at Bernburg, Brandenburg, Grafeneck, Hadamar, Hartheim, and Sonnenstein. Patients were selected by doctors and transferred from clinics to one of these centralized gassing installations and killed.

These “euthanasia centers” were widespread throughout Germany.

On January 9, [1939] the first “gassing test” using carbon monoxide took place in the Brandenburg sanitarium. Between 18 and 20 people were killed, watched by psychiatrists, physicians, and nurses. In 1941, the psychiatric institution at Hadamar celebrated the cremation of its 10,000th patient where everyone—secretaries, nurses, and psychiatrists—received a bottle of beer for the occasion.

It was at these centers that the prototype for the mass killings was developed. The “patients” were gassed, and bodies cremated.

T4 CenterOperation timetableNumber of victims
T4 CenterFromTotal
Grafeneck20 January 19409,839
Brandenburg8 February 19409,772
Bernburg21 November 19408,601
Hartheim6 May 194018,269
SonnensteinJune 194013,720
HadamarJanuary 194110,072
Total 70,273

It is important to note that this was almost three years before the first mass killing facility, Chemlo, went into operation. When Chemlo went into operation, the killing became an industry.

Tiergartenstrasse 4 – Aktion T4

No discussion of the Holocaust is complete without a discussion of Aktion T4. Many consider Aktion T4 to be the dress rehearsal for the Holocaust.

The [T4] Euthanasia Program represented in many ways a rehearsal for Nazi Germany’s subsequent genocidal policies. The Nazi leadership extended the ideological justification conceived by medical perpetrators for the destruction of the “unfit” to other categories of perceived biological enemies, most notably to Jews and Roma (Gypsies).

Planners of the “Final Solution” later borrowed the gas chamber and accompanying crematoria, specifically designed for the T4 campaign, to murder Jews in German-occupied Europe. T4 personnel who had shown themselves reliable in this first mass murder program figured prominently among the German staff stationed at the Operation Reinhard killing centers of Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka.

The description of the operation of Aktion T4 bears an uncomfortable resemblance to an Orwellian novel.

Beginning in October 1939, public health authorities began to encourage parents of children with disabilities to admit their young children to one of a number of specially designated pediatric clinics throughout Germany and Austria. In reality, the clinics were children’s killing wards. There, specially recruited medical staff, murdered their young charges by lethal overdoses of medication or by starvation.

There is not much more to say about this. It was methodical, cold blooded and efficient, and, under guidance of medical professions It grew into the Holocaust.