From a "Race of Masters" to a "Master Race": 1948-1848


(SAMPLE CHAPTER: Chp. 1, Sec. 7 -"From a "Race of Masters" to a "Master Race": 1948-1848")
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Francis Bacon, in his 1626 Utopian vision “The New Atlantis,” described the role that the international intellectual elite played in the formation of his utopia:

For the several employments and offices of our fellows, we have twelve that sail into foreign countries under the names of other nations (for our own we conceal), who bring us the books and abstracts, and patterns of experiments of all other parts. These we call merchants of light. (Pg. 269, Francis Bacon/Basil Montagu, “The Works of Francis Bacon, Lord Chancellor of England: With a Life of the Author”, Carey and Hart, Vol. 1, 1844)

These “merchants of light” provided that most ephemeral, but crucial ingredient, indispensable to the creation of utopias; these “merchants” traded in ideas. As utopias, by their very nature failed or survived on the sustenance of ideas, the “merchants of light” in the 20th century too peddled in the currency of ideas. This was especially true for a Germany trying to lift itself out of the devastation caused by World War I and the subsequent Great Depression. Historians have adequately documented the street-level violence that broke out among the different factions in the absence of direction or order. Historians have explained that this vacancy, this destitution in a decimated economy, led some to desire the heavy hand of the totalitarian state to provide what individuals could not provide on their own in those circumstances. It can be said that the market was ripe for utopian schemes, where the public could be enticed to “escape” from the “burdens of freedom,” as one propagandizing Austrian would preach to them. Through propaganda and showmanship, they would sell the false virtues of surrendering to a statist utopia, to a “total state” that would lead them away from “degeneracy” and into world domination, to their status as the alleged superior “race,” to be the “masters” of European civilization.

These 20th Century “merchants of light” injected the masses with precise dosages of the utopian ideal through propaganda. In 20/20 hindsight the differences between the Fascist “total state,” the Bolshevik “total state,” or the National Socialist “total state,” may be academic, but to the “merchants of light,” as it is with any good merchant, the minuscule differences between them were magnified beyond reason.

These “merchants” of elusive utopian ideas, these elitist intellectuals were there, ready to share all the advances made in the United States and Britain had made in eugenic science and law with Germans that were still struggling with basic survival in the wake of World War I and The Great Depression. Eugenics had been a British creation by their proudest and most celebrated scientists. Through the international eugenic organizations run by Leonard Darwin, Karl Pearson, and Francis Galton, British eugenic organizations became a beacon guiding anyone in the market for eugenic utopian solutions to significant social problems. This is how Germany became the proving ground, the blank slate, for all the eugenic goals that could or would not be adopted by the democratic governments of the United States or Britain. This is what drove the American eugenicists, Joseph DeJarnette, to utter that now-infamous comment to the Richmond Times-Dispatch about the strides that Adolf Hitler’s Germany was making with eugenics: “The Germans are beating us at our own game and are more progressive than we are.”[1]

Leonard Darwin of the British Eugenics Society and son of Charles Darwin was the beacon who summoned eugenic-minded scientists and policymakers to England. The stated goal of his organization was to inform, educate and disseminate the gospel of eugenics, or more precisely the “religion” of eugenics, as Francis Galton thought of his creation. It was founded in 1907 as the Eugenics Education Society, becoming the Eugenics Society in 1926, and was popularly referred to as the British Eugenics Society as to distinguish it from the other eugenic societies. The organization quietly and conveniently changed its name to the Galton Institute in 1989, removing the overt reference to “eugenics” in the wake of The Holocaust.

This book will document the many and varied ways in which key members of the international eugenics community networked and collaborated in forwarding their cause. Figures such as Margaret Sanger, Ernst Rüdin, Harry H. Laughlin, C.M. Goethe, and Charles B. Davenport excelled in the exchange of information and the collaborative refinement of policies. Evidence of this still exists in the correspondence between the various members on various continents. The Cold Spring Harbor archives still have a letter dated November 11, 1922, from the American, Charles B. Davenport to the Briton, Leonard Darwin, discussing the increased collaboration with the German and Austrian scientists, namely their fellow British Eugenics Society member and subsequent Hitler supporter, Alfred Ploetz.[2] The relationship between the high-ranking members of the British Eugenics Society and Alfred Ploetz is not inconsequential. Alfred Ploetz’s and Ernst Rüdin’s relationship with Leonard Darwin, Charles B. Davenport, Harry H. Laughlin, and Margaret Sanger is historically critical when you realize that Ploetz and Rüdin were given the job of drafting National Socialism’s eugenic and racial policies by Hitler.

The “International Commission of Eugenics” was one of the major networking organizations that spanned the globe to bring the eugenicists together despite lingering animosities against the Germans after WWI. A November 1922 edition of the “Eugenical News” reports on a key meeting of the “International Commission of Eugenics”: The report documents that this international organization “voted unanimously to invite German delegates to the Commission”, thus commencing the relationship between American, British, and German eugenicists.[3] The intention to include the Germans in the “International Commission of Eugenics” was clearly successful as the subsequent correspondence reveals. Communication across borders and oceans was a monthly, and sometimes weekly in frequency, with members taking every opportunity to meet with each other casually or formally. The members made it a point to send carbon copies of their conversations to players that would prove to be indispensable to the Adolf Hitler’s eugenic program. A June 28, 1925 letter from Leonard Darwin to Harry H. Laughlin housed at Truman University’s Special Collections Department was written in the “International Commission of Eugenics” letterhead.[4] The letterhead displays three offices with Leonard Darwin for London, H.F. Osborn for New York, and Dr. A. Govaerts for Brussels. The group seemed to have gelled into the “International Federation of Eugenic Organizations” as a May 30, 1928 letter from C. Hodson to Harry H. Laughlin demonstrates Alfred Ploetz, the father of German “race hygiene” as Vice President along with H.F. Osborn, and Leonard Darwin as Honorary President, and Davenport as acting President.[5]

Subsequent correspondence displays a similar format, but under the letterhead of “The International Federation of Eugenic Organizations” with Professor Ernst Rüdin in Munich as President, H.F. Osborn as Vice President in New York, and Leonard Darwin as Honorary President in London.[6] The correspondence continues way into the late 1930s and long after Hitler made his convictions clear through barbarous acts. The International Federation of Eugenic Organizations was officially founded in 1925. The Harvard professor, Charles Davenport, head of the Eugenic Records Office housed in the Dulles estate, was its first president, and frequent and substantial collaboration between German and American eugenicists followed.

Stefan Kühl’s “The Nazi Connection” documents that the collaboration goes back as far as the 1912 International Congress where over 300 eugenicists attended, including Davenport, and Winston Churchill:

The Congress succeeded in fulfilling its stated goals, particularly regarding the mission of international organization. The London Congress strengthened existing informal contacts between eugenicists of different countries and led to the creation of the Permanent International Commission of Eugenics. – American eugenicists enjoyed a strong standing among their foreign colleagues. European eugenicists admired the success of their American counterparts in influencing eugenics legislation and gaining extensive financial support for the American eugenics movement. The German racial hygiene movement followed the development of the American eugenics movement closely. During World War I, the Society for Racial Hygiene in Berlin distributed a public flyer extolling “the dedication with which Americans sponsor research in the field of racial hygiene and with which they translate theoretical knowledge into practice.” The Flyer referred to a donation of several million dollars by a widow of a railway magnate in support of the eugenics laboratory in Cold Spring Harbor. (Pgs. 14-15, “The Nazi Connection: Eugenics, American Racism, and German National Socialism”, Oxford Univ. Press, 1994)

The widow mentioned above was the wife of E.H. Harriman, and the Battle Creek institution was that of the Kellogg brothers, the famous breakfast cereal family which would later become chief sponsors of Davenport’s and Laughlin’s Cold Spring Harbor laboratory.

Some of this has to be attributed to the California State at Sacramento President and leader of the California environmentalist movement, C.M. Goethe, which from the onset corresponded with religious consistency with Harry H. Laughlin in order to create the “Goethe Fund” for the Cold Spring Harbor's Eugenic Records Office to study immigration restrictions, and more importantly, in an effort to confederate the eugenics movement across the United States and the world. C.M. Goethe’s correspondence with Harry H. Laughlin reveals the effort to include the “Rotary Clubs,” the “Human Betterment Foundation,” and the “Federal Council of Churches.” Goethe consistently called for the “federation” of eugenics societies in the United States and the World, and consistently suggested ideas and potential connections on how to accomplish this goal. Leonard Darwin chimes in on a June 18, 1925 letter under the “International Commission of Eugenics” letterhead to suggest cooperation with the “Red Cross Societies” and other “Health organizations.”[7] Among the institutions named or copied in the correspondence include the presidents of Columbia and Princeton universities as well as the Carnegie and Rockefeller institutions.

These institutions overlapped with like-minded organizations, namely Margaret Sanger’s American Birth Control. Margaret Sanger personally invited Harry H. Laughlin to join a “round-table” between eugenicists and “birth control” advocates at her “Sixth International Neo-Malthusian and Birth Control Conference” of March 25-31, 1925.[8] Harry H. Laughlin dutifully agreed and the roster of attendants reveals the overlap in the institutions, including Havelock Ellis, Julian Huxley, John Maynard Keynes, Raymond Pearl, Lothrop Stoddard, and H.G. Wells, all devoted eugenicists.

Stefan Kühl documents how the participation and acceptance into the International Federation of Eugenic Organizations were subsequently used by German eugenicists to justify the Third Reich’s eugenic policies when confronted by international criticism of the policies:

In the summer of 1934, one and a half years after the Nazis came to power in Germany, the International Federation of Eugenic Organizations, meeting in Zurich, passed a resolution to which Nazi propaganda frequently referred in order to illustrate the international acceptance of their race policies. In this unanimously passed resolution, sent to the prime ministers of all the major Western powers, the IFEO stated that, despite all differences in political and social outlooks, the organization was “united by the deep conviction that eugenic research and practice is of the highest and most urgent importance for the existence of all civilized countries.” It recommended that all governments “make themselves acquainted with the problems of heredity, population studies, and eugenics.” It stated that eugenic principles should be adopted as state policies “for the good of their nations . . . with suitable regional modifications. German racial hygienists and Nazi race politicians viewed this resolution as confirmation of German and American dominance in the eugenics movement and as international approval of the 1933 German sterilization law. Although the resolution did not refer directly to Germany, its adoption was seen as an achievement for national Socialists in gaining international acceptance of their policies. (Pgs. 26-27, “The Nazi Connection: Eugenics, American Racism, and German National Socialism”, Oxford Univ. Press, 1994)

Again, the rosters in the letterhead of these societies demonstrate the level of support they had. The American Eugenics Society, Inc. letterhead has Dr. John Harvey Kellogg and Dr. Vernon Kellogg as its “Advisory Council” for 1927, with Harry H. Laughlin as President, Henry Pratt Fairchild as Secretary, and Leon F. Whitney, the direct descendant of the inventor of the cotton gin, as its Executive Secretary. The “Advisory Council” lists Dr. Arthur Eastabrook, one of the parties at the infamous 1927 US Supreme Court case of Buck v. Bell which made eugenic sterilization legal, Dr. David Fairchild, Dr. Earnest A. Hooton, David Star Jordan whom was president of Stanford University, Lothrop Stoddard, Paul Popenoe, Lewis Terman, and Robert Yerkes.

A listing of the members of the British Eugenics Society helps illustrate just how far and wide their influence reached. The two most recognizable members were Neville Chamberlain, the British prime minister between 1937 and 1940, and John Maynard Keynes, the Progressive economist whose policies influenced governments across several centuries. Keynes was the director of the British Eugenics Society between 1937-1944 and then vice president in 1937. The founding and managing leadership from the United States shared membership with the British eugenics societies:

  • LEONARD DARWIN: Son of Charles Darwin, was a Liberal Unionist Member of Parliament. He was the dominant force in the British eugenics movement after his father and uncle, Francis Galton, passed away.
  • JULIAN HUXLEY: Huxley was president of the British Eugenics Society from 1959 to 1962, vice-president between 1937 and 1944, and then president again between 1959 and 1962.
  • CHARLES GALTON DARWIN: An English physicist, the grandson of Charles Darwin. The family entanglements multiplied their British lineage when his sister married into the John Maynard Keynes’s family.
  • RICHARD TITMUSS: Held the founding chair in the subject at the London School of Economics, where Fabian Socialism blossomed. His books and articles of the 1950s helped to define the characteristics of Britain’s post World War II welfare state and of a universal welfare society.
  • WILLIAM BEVERIDGE: First Baron Beveridge was a British economist and social reformer. He is best known for his 1942 report “Social Insurance and Allied Services,” otherwise known as the Beveridge Report, which served as the basis for the post- World War II welfare state put in place by the Labour government elected in 1945.
  • DR. LEONARD JOHN HENRY ARTHUR: A British doctor tried in 1981 for the attempted murder of John Pearson, a newborn child with Down’s Syndrome.
  • HENRY HAVELOCK ELLIS: A British physician and psychologist, writer, and social reformer. He was a co-author of the first medical textbook in English on homosexuality in 1897 and published works on a variety of sexual practices and inclinations, including transgender psychology.
  • SIR RONALD AYLMER FISHER: An English statistician, evolutionary biologist, eugenicist and geneticist. Among other things, Fisher is well known for his contributions to statistics by creating Fisher’s exact test and Fisher’s equation.
  • FRANZ JOSEF KALLMANN: A German-born American psychiatrist, was one of the pioneers in the study of the genetic basis of psychiatric disorders. He developed the use of twin studies in the assessment of the relative roles of heredity and the environment in the pathogenesis of psychiatric disease. As a Jew, he fled Germany in 1936 for the United States. He had been a student of Ernst Rüdin. In a speech delivered in 1935, and several years after Hitler consolidating power, he advocated the examination of relatives of schizophrenia patients with the aim to find and sterilize the “unaffected carriers” of the supposed recessive gene responsible for the condition.
  • KARL PEARSON: In 1911, he founded the world’s first university statistics department at University College London. He was Sir Francis Galton’s protégé and his biographer. Pearson was vocally supportive of the Third Reich and its eugenic policies, a fact that is only underscored by his brother, Roger Pearson, the anthropologist and conservationist, whom after World War II was the founder of the Neo-Nazi organization called The Northern League.
  • MARGARET AMY PYKE: A founding member of the British National Birth Control Committee.
  • MARIE CARMICHAEL STOPES: A British author, paleobotanist, campaigner for women’s rights, and pioneer in the field of birth control.

The American Membership:
  • CHARLES B. DAVENPORT: Largely due to his Harvard education and networking, Davenport was arguably the undisputed leader of the American eugenics movement. He was regarded as America's top scientist of the era.
  • CHARLES M. GOETHE: Founder of California State University in Sacramento, an entrepreneur, land developer, philanthropist, conservationist, founder of the Eugenics Society of Northern California. His philanthropy work included the Save the Redwoods Foundation and the Sierra Club.
  • EZRA GOSNEY: An American philanthropist. In 1928 he founded the Human Betterment Foundation in California. In 1934 Charles Goethe wrote to Gosney from Germany to congratulate him that Gosney’s work “has played a powerful part in shaping the opinions of the group of intellectuals who are behind Hitler in this epoch-making program.”
  • JOHN HARVEY KELLOG: The American medical doctor from Battle Creek, Michigan, best known for the invention of the Corn Flakes breakfast cereal. He ran a sanitarium using holistic methods, with a focus on nutrition, enemas and exercise. Kellogg was outspoken on his beliefs on race and segregation, although he adopted several black children. In 1906, together with Irving Fisher and Charles Davenport, Kellogg founded the Race Betterment Foundation, which became a major center of the new eugenics movement in America.
  • MADISON GRANT: An American lawyer, historian and physical anthropologist, and conservationist. Grant is most famous for authoring “The Passing of the Great Race” in 1916, which is known to be referred to as “his Bible” by Adolf Hitler. At the Doctor’s Trial in Nuremberg, Grant’s “Passing of the Great Race” was one of the pieces of evidence introduced by the defense to demonstrate the parallels between American and German eugenic policies.
  • MARGARET HIGGINS SANGER: An American sex educator, nurse, and birth control activist given credit for coining the term “birth control.” Sanger opened the first birth control clinic in the United States and established Planned Parenthood.
  • DAVID STARR JORDAN: He was president of Indiana University and Stanford University. He was a leading peace activist who worked closely with Ezra Gosney, Paul Popenoe, and Charles M. Goethe to create the eugenic policies in California that would later influence Hitler’s legislators and policymakers.
  • HENRY FAIRFIELD OSBORN: President of the American Museum of Natural History for 25 years and a constant force in the promotion of the cause of eugenics in the United States. His brother, Major General Frederick Henry Osborn, was an American philanthropist, military leader, and eugenicist.
  • PAUL BEECHER BLANSHARD: Assistant editor of The Nation magazine, a lawyer, a socialist, a secular humanist, and from 1949 an outspoken critic of Catholicism. Blanshard and his wife he met at Harvard and became close friends with both Helen Keller and Margaret Sanger.

The American Eugenics Society started by promoting racial betterment, eugenic health, and genetic education through public lectures, exhibits at county fairs and world exhibitions, but after World War II and the negative publicity by the awareness of the role of eugenics in The Holocaust, the American Eugenics Society changed both its name and its focus under the direction of Frederick Osborn. The Society placed greater emphasis on issues of population control, genetics and, later, medical genetics, and was reorganized and renamed “The Society for the Study of Social Biology” as its uncomfortable past was deemed politically inconvenient in the wake of the US Supreme Court’s decision on Roe v. Wade. Osborn was pleased with the direction of birth control as a eugenic measure and did not want to hinder its progress by any immediate relationship between eugenics and birth control. Osborn claimed that the change in name was “because it became evident that changes of a eugenic nature would be made for reasons other than eugenics, and that tying a eugenic label on them would more often hinder than help their adoption. Birth control and abortion are turning out to be great eugenic advances of our time.”[9] His fears were justified. The Roe v. Wade opinion directly cites Buck v. Bell, the 1927 US Supreme Court case that made eugenics “constitutional” in the United States.

To illustrate the pervasiveness of eugenics among the American elite, it is useful to document the other eugenic organizations in operation at the time when Hitler’s “merchants of light” set out to source the knowledge of eugenic utopianism. The Human Betterment Foundation was an American eugenics organization established in Pasadena, California, in 1928 by E.S. Gosney and C.M. Goethe. It primarily served to compile and distribute information about compulsory sterilization legislation in the United States. Through the Human Betterment Foundation, C.M. Goethe lobbied the state to restrict immigration from Mexico and carry out involuntary sterilizations of mostly poor women, defined as “feeble-minded” or “socially inadequate” by medical authorities between 1909 and the 1960s. Around 20,000 patients in California state psychiatric hospitals were sterilized with minimal or non-existent consent between 1909 and 1950 when the law went into general disuse before its repeal in the 1960s. The initial board of trustees were C.M. Goethe, the founder of Cal State Sacramento, David Starr Jordan, the chancellor of Stanford University, Justin Miller, Stanford graduate and dean of the University of Southern California Law, Otis Castle, a Los Angeles attorney from Stanford, and Paul Popenoe, the famous biologist from Stanford. Later members included William B. Munro, a Harvard professor of political science, Herbert M. Evans, U.C. Berkeley anatomy professor, Samuel J. Holmes, U.C. Berkley zoologist. A member of particular importance was Lewis Terman, the Stanford psychologist best known for creating the Stanford-Binet IQ test, which is used to this day to test the intelligence of children. Terman was a pioneer in educational psychology in the early 20th century at the Stanford University School of Education. In 1916 Terman published the Stanford Revision of the Binet-Simon, based on previous work by Alfred Binet and Theodore Simon of France. Terman promoted his test as an aid for the classification of developmentally disabled children. The first mass administration of IQ testing was done with 1.7 million soldiers during World War I when Terman served in the US military while conducting psychological tests. The results of this skewed test were later regurgitated repeatedly by eugenicists to propagate fear that the population of the United States was “degenerating” because of immigration.

More specific to the purpose of this book, E.S. Gosney and Paul B. Popenoe published a report touting the results of the sterilizations in California. This would culminate in several works, most prominently their joint-authored “Sterilization for Human Betterment: A Summary of Results of 6,000 Operations in California, 1909-1929.” This specific report was cited by the German defendants at the Doctor’s Trial in Nuremberg as evidence that the programs adopted by Hitler’s government were no different than those adopted by other Western nations.

The Human Betterment Foundation had an East Coast equivalent: The Human Betterment League. The East Coast version was founded by James G. Hanes in 1947 and Dr. Clarence Gamble, an heir to the Procter and Gamble fortune.[10] Closely aligned with the Human Betterment Foundation, the Human Betterment League of North Carolina used mass media and advertisements to propagandize and peddle their eugenic views. The media campaign was intended to convince the public that sterilizations were necessary measures. The public was informed that most of the “unfit” did not live in mental institutions but were in the community and “breeding,” according to the literature, with normal people. An equally disturbing period of mass sterilizations occurred in North Carolina as a result of these propaganda campaigns. The campaign began with the passage of the North Carolina Sterilization Act in 1929. While many states dismantled their sterilization programs after World War II due to fears that their eugenics efforts might be compared to those of Hitler’s Germany, North Carolina only redoubled their effort sterilization campaign and are regarded as responsible for a vast swath of the post-war eugenic sterilizations in the United States.

Dr. Gamble also spearheaded the movement to gain acceptance for birth control in the United States along with Margaret Sanger. Dr. Gamble urged the unification of Margaret Sanger’s Clinical Birth Control Research Bureau with the competing American Birth Control League. In 1939, the two organizations became the Birth Control Federation of America. Dr. Gamble had started his work to disseminate the gospel of “birth control” through the Pathfinder Fund in 1929 when he gave $5,000 to open a maternal health clinic in Cincinnati, Ohio. Clarence Gamble would always call the drive to make birth control available world-wide the “Great Cause.” The Human Betterment Foundation went out of existence in 1988, but before this, it changed its focus from sterilization to that of promoting “birth control.” During the early 1970s, the League stopped promoting eugenic sterilizations and started producing educational material regarding birth control and genetic counseling. The League’s name changed to The Human Genetics League as part of this transformation.

In summary, the above list is a veritable who’s who of influence and progressive-minded elitism, even when leaving out some of its lesser-known but wealthiest members. For the sake of brevity, what honest historian could claim that the Allied prosecution at Nuremberg was oblivious to the decades of work and philanthropy of these internationally recognized individuals?

To be more precise, when Adolf Hitler finally reached his goal of assuming unchecked power, he created a committee to delve deeper into the specifics of how to create the “racial state” he had vaguely described in “Mein Kampf.” In 1933, Reich Interior Minister Wilhelm Frick established an “expert advisory committee for population and racial policy,” which included Ploetz, Fritz Lenz, Ernst Rüdin and Hans F.K. Günther. This expert advisory committee had the task of advising Hitler's government on the implementation and enforcement of legislation regarding racial and eugenic issues. In fact, it can be said that Hitler was quite correctly sourcing from the recognized original authority on “race.” Alfred Ploetz was not just the vice-president of the British Eugenics Society in 1916. Ploetz was the German physician known for coining the term “racial hygiene,” or Rassenhygiene. Hitler was copying the work of Ploetz and his eugenic colleagues when writing “Mein Kampf,” and not the other way around. Hitler was following the lead of the prominent international eugenicists, as opposed to leading in that direction as history has credited him. Ploetz voiced this very sentiment when in April 1933 he wrote that he believed Hitler would bring racial hygiene from its previous marginality into the mainstream.[11] Hitler was providing these scientists and doctors the opportunity that the governments in the United States and the United Kingdom were prevented from fully implementing due to their nation's libertarian legal traditions.

To understand just how crucial these international relationships were, one only need to recognize that the laws that Hitler’s government implemented were verbatim translations from the “Model Eugenical Sterilization Law” that had been written by Harry H. Laughlin. Laughlin had distilled his “Model Eugenical Sterilization Law” after almost a decade of helping draft the laws of more than 30 States and sourcing the expert opinion of the most prominent lawyers, judges, and legislators in the United States. Through the International Federation of Eugenic Organizations, Adolf Hitler was given access to tried and true law that had taken the best minds of the legislatures and courts of the United States various decades to mature. This was no small gesture, as “racial hygiene” was beyond policy in Third Reich law; it was its guiding principle.

Furthermore, when one puts this into the context of the timeline, one notices this transfer of knowledge was utilized at the fortuitous moment just after the Reichstag fire and Hitler’s consolidation of power with the passing of the Enabling Act of 1933. The perfecting of a “Model Eugenical Sterilization Law” had consumed a lot of Rockefeller, Carnegie, Kellogg, Goethe, and Merriman money along with the sizeable staff these institutions employed in Cold Spring Harbor and London to arrive at this work product. Through Ploetz and Rüdin, Hitler was given fully matured and proven legal mechanisms and bestowed the luxury of not having to start from scratch.

The United States and Britain had enjoyed the luxury of developing these eugenic measures at the time when Germans could simply not aspire to do so because of the devastation following World War I and the Great Depression. This allowed the Hitler government to erase the decades which Germany had fallen behind in the science of eugenics. One only needs to gauge the numbers murdered per month by Hitler’s henchmen to put a price on the true value of the time saved by being able to source a ready-made and fully designed “racial state” from the United States and Britain. Most importantly, Adolf Hitler got what he wanted most: international legitimacy and the ability to claim that his racial laws were no different than those already adopted by the United States and Britain. Hitler certainly was thankful. Adolf Hitler recognized his indebtedness to Ploetz in 1936 by appointing him to a professorship. Ploetz reciprocated by officially joining the National Socialist party in 1937. The German institutes of higher education during Hitler’s reign, in turn, awarded Harry H. Laughlin and Karl Pearson with honors. International recognition and press coverage followed. According to the Nobel Prize nomination database, the Scandinavian eugenic-minded Erling Bjørnson and Alf Mjøen of the Norwegian Parliament nominated Ploetz for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1936 for his work on eugenics.[12]

As late as August 12, 1939, just two weeks before Hitler’s Germany would invade Poland and a full year after the intensification of aggression against the Jewish population commenced with Kristallnacht, Harry H. Laughlin was still corresponding with Ernst Rüdin to coordinate the Fourth International Congress for Eugenics, scheduled to take place in Vienna during 1940. Laughlin had been the Secretary of the Third International Congress and was writing to Rüdin, who had been named president of the Fourth International Congress to “evaluate the technique of practical population-control” and to “exchange experiences and plans among leaders in the biological betterment of mankind.”[13]

Mark Lilla, author of “The Reckless Mind” addresses the fixation the intellectual and political elite have with utopian schemes. Lilla reminds us that the love for a pristine idea is “maddening” and potentially intoxicating, just like a physical passion:

What has philosophy to do with love? If Plato is to be believed, everything. While all lovers are not philosophers, philosophers are the only true lovers, since they alone understand what love blindly seeks. Love evokes in us all an unconscious memory of the beauty of the Ideas, and this memory maddens us; we feel possessed by a frenzied yearning to couple and to “beget in the beautiful.” (Pg. 3, “The Reckless Mind: Intellectuals in Politics”, Review Books, 2006)

With social stature comes the danger of overestimating one’s opinion on social matters, and thus society’s most prominent members often suffer from this “reckless passion” for controlling, molding or ordering society. Mark Lilla points to Plato’s “philosopher kings” in his famous “Republic” as being the prototypical cultural elitist, enamored with their vision of the world as being the only correct vision, and the goal for which all else should be sacrificed. In the end, the eugenic ideal is largely driven by an aesthetic ideal about an ordered and predictable society, free from disease and unpleasantness. The popularity of utopian novels by H.G. Wells and the allure of the socialist perfectionism, despite their obvious dangers and pitfalls, only serves to evidence the addictive nature of the utopian vision. These visions, by their very nature, failed or survived on the sustenance of ideas. These “merchants of light,” provided that most ephemeral but crucial ingredient indispensable to the creation of utopias: the idea, refined and ready for implementation by willing “philosopher kings,” or führers, whatever the difference may be.


(Numbering adapted for this extract.)
  1. “1933: American donates $1,000,000 to Kaiser-Wilhelm; “400,000 Germans to be sterilized”, Alliance for Human Research Protection website: [Back]

  2. Item ID: 10435 -, November 11, 1922 letter from Charles B. Davenport to Leonard Darwin, DNA Learning Center online archives. [Back]

  3. Pg. 117 – “Eugenical News”, American Eugenics Society, Volume No. 7, No. 11, Nov. 1922. [Back]

  4. BOX: C-2-5:6 – Harry H. Laughlin Papers, Truman University Archives, Special Collections, Pickler Memorial Library. [Back]

  5. Ibid. [Back]

  6. BOX: C-4-4:7 - Harry H. Laughlin Papers, Truman University Archives, Special Collections, Pickler Memorial Library. [Back]

  7. BOX: C-2-5:6 - Laughlin Papers, Truman Univ., Special Collections. [Back]

  8. BOX: E-1-1:1 – Ibid. – See Illustration. [Back]

  9. Pgs. 3, 65 – “Organized Eugenics”, American Eugenics Society, Inc., Jan. 1931. [Back]

  10. “The Human Betterment League”, Maggie Ghallager, National Review, December 12, 2011. [Back]

  11. Pg. 507 - “The Third Reich in Power”, Richard J. Evans, Penguin Books, 2006. [Back]

  12., Nomination Database, Nominee: Alfred Ploetz, Number: 29-1. [Back]

  13. BOX: C-2-5:3, Letter dated: Aug. 12, 1939, Laughlin to Rüdin, Truman Univ., Laughlin Collection. [Back]

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