Eugenics theory sprang from turn-of-the-century scientific beliefs asserting that Charles Darwin’s theories of “survival of the fittest” could be applied to humans. Supporters, spanning the globe and political spectrum, believed that through careful controls on marriage and reproduction, a nation’s genetic health could be improved.
Head shots showing various racial types. Most western anthropologists classified people into "races" based on physical traits such as head size and eye, hair and skin color. This classification was developed by Eugen Fischer and published in the 1921 and 1923 editions of Foundations of Human Genetics and Racial Hygiene. Credit: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
The Nazi regime was founded upon the conviction that “inferior” races and individuals had to be eliminated from German society so that the fittest “Aryans” could thrive. The Nazi state fully committed itself to implementing a uniquely racist and antisemitic variation of eugenics to “scientifically” build what it considered to be a “superior race.” By the end of World War II, six million Jews had been murdered. Millions of others also became victims of persecution and murder through Nazi “racial hygiene” programs designed to cleanse Germany of “biological threats” to the nation’s “health,” including “foreign-blooded” Roma and Sinti (Gypsies), persons diagnosed as “hereditarily ill,” and homosexuals. In German-occupied territories, Poles and others belonging to ethnic groups deemed “inferior” were also murdered.
Please see our list of Additional Resources for websites, journal articles, and books on Eugenics and the Holocaust.
page updated on 11/02/2011