Nazi Theories of Racial Hygiene

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The smoking chimney of the Hadamar Euthanasia Center

The Racial Hygiene Movement in Germany went back to 1905, but until the Nazis came to power, it had few supporters.

“Only through [the Führer] did our dream of over thirty years, that of applying racial hygiene to society, become a reality.”
Ernst Rüdin - Nazi psychiatrist

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Nazi women and their babies - participants in the Lebensborn Program

The Racial Hygiene Movement advocated the removal of those who would not improve the German population and who had no use in society, those who Hitler called the "useless eaters." This meant killing the mentally ill, those terminally ill, and the physically and mentally handicapped. They euphemistically called this "euthanasia."

It also meant eugenics - the science of improving the race through selective breeding. The Nazis required the sterilization of those who carried hereditary defects, such as types of blindness and deafness and certain diseases which were thought to have a genetic basis, such as Huntington's Chorea and epilepsy.

To further purify the race, those women of mixed blood were to be sterilized, and those with ideal Aryan characteristics were bred like livestock.

But how to determine whether an individual had the ideal Aryan characteristics? The Nazi Bureau for Enlightenment on Population Policy and Racial Welfare recommended the classification of Aryans and non-Aryans on the basis of measurements of the skull and other physical features. They measured the parts of the head and face as well as comparing eye and skin color to color charts.

Many of these ideas were not unique to the Nazis. For example in the early 1900s many states in The United States passed compulsory sterilization laws and prohibited intermarriage between whites and African Americans, Native Americans, and Asians. However, the Nazis were more ruthless and more thorough in their efforts to improve the gene pool.

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