University of Minnesota
Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies


  • Racism



    Racism: elimination of human beings of minor value

    Ethnic state and racial hygiene in "Mein Kampf"

    In "Mein Kampf", written in the fortress Landsberg in 1923, Adolf Hitler (1889-1945) already expressed the fundamentals of the Nazi policy of racism, which was put into action after 1933. It contained both the eugenic goal according to which only human beings with "hereditary valuable traits" should propagate, and, with reference to the concepts of racial hygiene, the rejection of racial crossbreeding. Consequently, for the Nazi regime this meant the exclusion, or even the extermination of human beings of "non-Aryan" or "related" blood and, on the other hand, the prevention from procreation among members of one's own "race" considered as "inferior", the conscious discrimination vis-à-vis the citizens "of superior value", and finally the killing as "ballast" of no use for the "national unity". In any case, the welfare of the individual was subject to the interests of the "praised race", the "master race that needed breed improvement".

    In his arguments Hitler made use of tendencies observed in eugenics and racial hygiene that, at the turn of the century, developed in different concepts in Germany and. in other countries and strove for a new demography. Their view was characterized by a "social biology" and inter-human relationships, that - in the case of Social Darwinists - even showed as a social model of the "Struggle for Survival" (Charles Darwin) observed in the animal kingdom.

    Adolf Hitler,
    postcard, private

    Menschliche Erblichkeitslehre and Rassenhygiene (Human Heredity Teaching and Racial Hygiene), E. Baur, E. Fischer and F Lenz

    menschliche auslese un rassenhygiene title pageBetween 1921 (1st edition) and 1936/40, this "standard text-book" was repeatedly adapted and published five times. During the times of his confinement, Adolf Hitler read the second edition dated 1923 and processed essential ideas of that volume in "Mein Kampf". The authors of the official commentary on the Nazi sterilisation law also referred to the "Allgemeine Erblehre" (general heredity teaching). The book had two volumes:the first theoretically oriented part contains chapters by Prof. Dr. phil. Dr. med. Erwin Baur (1875-1933; director of the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Institute for Breeding Research) on the principles of heredity; by Prof. Dr. Eugen Fischer on the different racial groups on earth and by Prof. Dr. Fritz Lenz (1887-1976) on human heredity. The second part, written by Lenz only, is exclusively dealing with the topic of racial hygiene. Here, the concept of "race" was used to proclaim the superiority of the "Nordic" strain. As early as 1913, Lenz, a student of the Social Darwinist Alfred Ploetz (1860-1940) who established racial hygiene in Germany, asked for the "man of action" to implement this ideology. In 1933 he became head of department at the Kaiser-Wilhelm Institute for Anthropology, Human Hereditary Teaching and Eugenics in Berlin-Dahlem, replacing the former director who was dismissed for political reasons. He also had his share in shaping the "Law for the Prevention of Hereditary Disease in Posterity" dated 1933. In 1946 Lenz was offered the chair for "Human Hereditary Teaching" with the university of Göttingen.

    Eugen Fischer, (1940)

    eugen fischerProf. Dr. Eugen Fischer (1874-1967) was the. first director of the Kaiser-Wilhelm Institute for Anthropology, Human Hereditary Teaching and Eugenics in Berlin-Dahlem, established in 1927 upon his initiative. Already in 1913, Fischer earned a reputation by publishing his field research concerning the questions of race crossbreeding in the colony of German-Southwest-Africa (today; Namibia). He stood for an absolute prohibition of mixed marriages within the colonies.

    The Kaiser-Wilhelm Institute actively participated in the Nazi policy of racism, in his function of government consultant within the expert committee on demography and racial policy, Fischer, together with Fritz Lenz, planned the enforced sterilization of the so-called "Rhineland bastards", "half-breeds"; who were the descendants of German women and African or Asian colonial soldiers, born during the Rhineland occupation of the years 1920-1927. In 1945, Fischer was denazified as a "follower". In 1952, he became honorary president of the newly founded German Anthropological Society.

    Announcement of the speech "Human Hereditary Research and Eugenics" by Professor Dr. Eugen Fischer in the Hessian National Museum in Kassel, dated 3rd March 1932

    speech announcements
    (click for a larger image)

    The Release of the Destruction of Life Devoid of Value (Life Unworthy of Life). Its measurement and form. Karl Binding and Alfred Hoche, 1922

    The little booklet only including 60 pages and first published in 1920, was of an outstanding importance for the discussion of "euthanasia", even after the beginning of the "Third Reich". With his juridical arguments in support of the killing of "life devoid of value", which clearly opposed all preceding positions, Prof. Dr. jur. Dr. phil. Karl Binding (1841-1920), a highly respected penal law expert, triggered off an avalanche. In his part of the booklet, Dr. med. Alfred Hoche, a professor in psychiatry from Freiburg, provided a cost-benefit analysis regarding psychiatric care and described sick and disabled people as "people with deficits", "elements of minor value" ,"mentally dead" and "ballast existences" .On the basis of a regulated procedure of applications and after the examination by a commission consisting of two physicians and a legal practitioner, both authors requested the painless killing of "incurably" sick persons against their will. They especially referred to inmates of "fools homes" and to cases without hope in "mental homes".

    After the publication of the paper, the statements of both authors raised a broad opposition (thus Ewald Meltzer in his reply dated 1922); however, since the commencement of the worldwide depression, their ideas found more and more followers. The Nazi policy of extermination. clearly referred to the explanations of Binding and Hoche.