Many think of eugenics as just a remnant of America’s past or of Hitler’s Third Reich. But that’s wrong. Today it is wrapped up in a pretty bow and delivered to us as a right to murder an unborn child or the right to die with dignity. No one sees how deeply this anti-life ideology is embedded into the American psyche.
In pre-war Germany, the eugenics movement, the pseudo-science of improving the quality of human stock by weeding out the unfit, the disabled, the mentally ill, was heavily financed by powerful American based foundations involved in the American eugenics movement.
The concept of “useless eaters” was not a Nazi invention. The first mass killers in pre-war Germany were psychiatrists, physicians, pediatricians and nurses backed up by an incredibly vast and efficient government bureaucracy.
In Destruction of Life Devoid of Value, published in 1920, psychiatrist Alfred Hoche and jurist Karl Binding argued that the killing of “worthless people” was not a criminal act. A practical suggestion on how such killings might be carried out was provided by French born medical scientist Dr. Alexis Carrel, a Nobel-prize winner, who in his 1933 best seller Man the Unknown called for the creation of small euthanasia stations equipped with suitable gases to “humanely and economically dispose of the mentally ill and criminal class” whom he described as “useless and harmful beings.”
The very first victims of Germany’s euthanasia program were ordinary citizens from disadvantaged families, considered to be “mentally deficient,” a category which included children of all races and religions. According to Henry Friedlander, author of The Origins of Nazi Genocide, it was not until 1940 that the decision was made to murder handicapped Jewish patients simply for being Jews.
Hitler did not order doctors to kill, he only gave them permission. It was the legislators who laid down the rules for deciding who would live or die. As time elapsed, the category of other potential ‘beneficiaries’ of the euthanasia program was expanded to include crippled and maimed WWI veterans, patients with polio, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and brain tumors. Legislators played God and gloried in their power over life and death.
In A Sign for Cain, Dr. Frederic Wertham devoted a chapter, he called The Geranium in the Window to these pre-war murders. Wertham described a special department at a pediatric psychiatric center outside of Munich that contained 25 beds and cribs in a small room. Four or five times a month handicapped children from ages 6 months to 16 years were taken to this room by a psychiatrist and nurse to be murdered by lethal injection. The child’s brains were extracted, placed in carefully labeled jars and sent to a psychiatric research institution for microscopic studies and then their bodies were burned as rubbish.
These murders were organized and planned by prominent members of Germany’s medical profession at university-based centers who justified their actions under the headings of ‘help for the dying’ or mercy killings.
Public opinion was carefully molded to accept it. Adults were propagandized by films like “I Accuse” in which a doctor murders his wife who has MS to the accompaniment of soft piano music. School children were taught to compute the cost benefit ratio of eliminating state care for the “the crippled, the criminal and the insane.”
Germany’s religious leadership was willing to tolerate euthanasia under certain circumstances, much like some churches of today who are willing to ‘tolerate’ abortion and mercy killings.
After the war ended very few of the doctors were ever tried and the few that were, were not sentenced to life imprisonment or death for the crimes they had committed. In the opinion of the judges and juries in Munich, the extermination of mental patients was not murder, but manslaughter. In Cologne, a court acquitted a doctor who had conducted one of the euthanasia programs by rationalizing that the patients he killed were just “burned-out human husks.”
And lest we forget, Germany’s euthanasia and eugenics programs were imported from America. Supported and funded by the likes of Carnegie, Rockefeller, the Harriman Railroad fortune and John H. Kellogg, eugenics was promoted by numerous universities, writers, doctors, scientists and feminists, the most famous of which was Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood.
The desire to rid the world of the “unfit” ran rampant in early 20th century America. Since poverty and race was associated with prostitution and ‘mental idiocy,’ women of the lower classes, predominately immigrants or women of color were the first to be deemed ‘unfit’ and discouraged from bearing children by means of birth control or abortion.
In 1911 a Carnegie Institute report mentioned euthanasia as one of the most recommended solutions to the problem of cleansing society of unfit genetic attributes by setting up local gas chambers.
While everyday America wasn’t ready for ethnic cleanings, many doctors found clever ways to implement the program. For example, a mental institution in Lincoln, Illinois, fed its incoming patients milk infected with tuberculosis, resulting in 30 to 40 percent annual death rates. Other doctors practiced euthanasia through various forms of ‘lethal neglect.’
The drive-by media, and Hollywood pushed eugenics and euthanasia in stories and films featuring mercy killings. In 1931 the Homeopathic Medicine Association began lobbying for the right to euthanize ‘imbeciles’ and other defects. Numerous states instituted eugenics based compulsory sterilization laws and by 1933, California had subjected more people to forceful sterilization than all other U.S. states combined.
The Rockefeller Foundation helped develop and fund various German eugenics programs, including the one that Josef Mengele worked in before he went to Auschwitz.
Some people would proclaim how far we have come but I would say, how little things have changed.
Our society has become a real-life version of the movie Gattaca in which a “perfect” society is built, not by eliminating defects, but by eliminating people.
We must do better. Every life is precious, without exception. No life should ever be viewed as unworthy or unwelcomed.
source: Modern-Day Eugenics: Who Lives and Who Dies? by Fr. Shenan Boquet, Human Life International