There are few chapters in history more bereft of humanity than the Holocaust, where Adolf Hitler sought to implement his "final solution" by way of mass genocide. What most do not realize, however, is that Eugenics, as a social movement and scientific application, was actually part of the American landscape long before it reached Germany.
In fact, American academia's advocacy, and later the country's use of genetic manipulation to purge society of its "undesirables" inspired the fuhrer.
In practice, Eugenicists' first order of business in the late 18th and early 19th century was to identify society's "degenerates." Those deemed undesirable ranged from the mentally ill, handicapped, and the physically disabled (this included the blind and deaf), to the poor and uneducated, promiscuous women, homosexuals and certain racial groups — particularly Jews and blacks.
Once the unfit groups were sufficiently identified, institutionalization and euthanasia were two Eugenics-driven approaches to "solve the problem." Advocates of the practice marketed it as a humane way to end suffering and ensure a fit and "healthy" society prevailed.
While even Alexander Graham Bell and Leonard Darwin (Charles Darwin's son) sat on the earliest International Congress of Eugenics in 1912, it was Adolf Hitler and his Third Reich's adoption of the practice that took this dark art and plunged it into unspeakable depths of depravity and barbarism.
Hitlers' was the most "successful" Eugenics campaign to date, and began with something as rudimentary as a "caliper" test to assess the broadness of one's nose. To the Nazis, broad-noses equated to ethnic "inferiority" -- in other words: "life unworthy of life." That sum comprised 6 million Jews, nearly 3 million Poles, an estimated 1 million Romany-gypsies, 15,000 homosexuals, at least 300,000 institutionalized disabled men, women and children and 400,000 more who were spared only to be forcibly sterilized.
Others erased from existence were Africans who had been brought to Germany by the French during the Allied occupation in World War I -- many of whom married German women and produced what Hitler called the "Rhineland Bastards."
The fuhrer laid out his plan in Mein Kampf, stating he would eliminate these "insults" on the German nation. Under the stewardship of Dr. Eugen Fischer, a group called "Commission Number 3" was created to organize the forced sterilization of the Rhineland Bastards through Germany's "Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring."
Throughout their crusade, the Nazis showed neither remorse nor mercy, and always presented their ethnic cleansing, just as the Americans had done before them, as a means for good. By ridding Germans of the societal, financial and, ultimately, genetic burden of the "undesirable," and by ridding the undesirables of their "miserable" existence, the Germans maintained that theirs was actually an act of virtue.
Far from the shores of the Rhineland and some years prior to the Holocaust, however, Eugenics advocate Woodrow Wilson signed into law a sterilization act, and the following year Theodore Roosevelt wrote of the need to improve “racial qualities.” Even Calvin Coolidge, along with author Arthur Calhoun, acknowledged the role Eugenic-driven procreation would play "in the new social order."
In "The Dark Roots of Eugenics," Dr. Dennis L. Cuddy wrote that philanthropists like Andrew Carnegie and the Rockefeller family all financially buoyed the movement, and in the early 20th century John D. Rockefeller himself introduced Margaret Sanger -- the founder of Planned Parenthood -- to the rainmakers who would bankroll her Birth Control League.
Initially, this organization was not designed so much to empower women but as a vehicle for propping up the practice of Eugenics. Sanger was a staunch admirer of the Nazis, often incorporating articles from Nazi-doctors into her monthly publication, "The Birth Control Review." Her own article, "A Race of Thoroughbreds," offered sweeping praise of Eugenics and strongly condemned a society where the inferior were allowed to dwell.
In the end, through compulsory laws, some 60,000 people were sterilized in the U.S., rendering untold generations extinguished from future existence.
One author who has written extensively on this dark chapter in America history is Edwin Black, who appeared on Monday evening's Glenn Beck Program to discuss the twisted practice and why he believes it could be poised to rear its ugly head once more. Black, whose parents were Holocaust survivors, also explained how Hitler was inspired by the Americans in this disturbing arena.