Volume 6, Issue 1, January 2012
Creating a New Society
Eugenics & Foundations
By Carl Teichrib, Chief Editor
Eugenics, the “applied science” of directing human biological evolution, has a history going back to the era of Darwin and his half-cousin, the “father of eugenics,” Francis Galton. For many students of history, however, the focus of eugenic activity rests on Nazi Germany. Here, eugenics was applied in the “positive,” such as the Lebensborn project and other programs meant to build up the vitality of the Germanic race; and in the “negative,” such as the elimination of “subhuman” populations - Jews and Slavs.
What many in the Western world don’t realize is that the eugenics movement was first dominated by the American and British scientific and intellectual communities, with Indian leading the way in legislating eugenics measures in 1907. However, behind much of the push for directing human evolution during the first half of the last century, one discovers that progressive foundations played a leading role.
This was evident in Publication No.1 from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, entitled Some Road Towards Peace, and published in 1914. Here, under the special guidance of Nicholas Murray Butler was the final report of Charles W. Eliot, who had traveled the Orient to better grasp the cause of peace on behalf of the Endowment.
His observations regarding “racial purity” allowed him to comment on immigration policies.
“The experience of the East teaches that the intermarriage of races which are distinctly unlike is undesirable; because the progeny from such mixtures is, as a rule, inferior to each of the parent stocks, both physically and morally, a fact which has been demonstrated on a large scale…
To mitigate the grievances created by the immigration question, or to prevent the occurrence of such grievances, would be a good way to secure the maintenance of friendly relations between any two nations… If the value of purity of race shall be firmly established among eugenic principles, it will have strong influence for good concerning the ever-increasing race migrations… The East affords numerous illustrations of the safety of race purity, and of the evil consequences of cross-breading between dissimilar varieties of the human species.”2
The Carnegie groups and the Rockefeller Foundation looked to further influence human development by directly funding eugenics research in the United States. To this end, the Carnegie Institute of Washington set up the Department of Experimental Evolution at Cold Spring Harbor, New York in 1906. Actually, the plan for this Department was born in the same year the Carnegie Institute was officially established: 1902.3
While some of us may be surprised at how early this Department came to fruition, it must be remembered that at the time, such a Department of Experimental Evolution wasn’t overly controversial. From the 1880s through to the 1930s, the eugenics movement was often viewed as playing a valuable part in the progression of humanity and civilization; giving birth to sterilization laws, racially driven immigration policies, and forced interning of “feeble-minded” individuals.
Historian Edwin Black calls this the “white-gloved war” – fought not by soldiers but by “esteemed professors, elite universities, wealthy industrialists and government officials.”4 The purpose: to “create a superior Nordic race.”5
In the US, some 60,000 individuals were medically sterilized, and states such as North Dakota banned inter-racial marriages. Those negatively impacted by this science of “human progress” included,
“…poor urban dwellers and rural ‘white-trash’…immigrants from Europe, Blacks, Jews, Mexicans, NativeAmericans, epileptics, alcoholics, petty criminals, the mentally ill and anyone else who did not resemble the blond and blue-eyed Nordic ideal the eugenics movement glorified.”6
Edwin Black put this into a biologically styled, class-oriented context.
“Eugenics was nothing less than an alliance between biological racism and mighty American power, position and wealth against the most vulnerable, the most marginal and the least empowered in the nation. The eugenics crusaders had successfully mobilized America’s strong against America’s weak.”7
But eugenics research went far beyond America. Before and after World War I, these same foundations were major funders of Germany’s racial hygiene programs. And the head of the Carnegie’s Department for Experimental Evolution regularly corresponded with German eugenicists. Edwin Black explains; “the Carnegie Institution became the center of the eugenic world for German researchers.”8
Moreover, the Eugenics Record Office (ERO), a Carnegie Institute affiliate attached to the Cold Spring Harbor project, was used to funnel Nazi eugenics propaganda into the United States. Harry Laughlin, the assistant director at the ERO, “was impressed by the modern methods of Nazi race propaganda, especially by the use of films as a persuasive medium.”9
Laughlin then imported the English edition of Erbkrank, “Hereditary Defective,” a movie about the sterilization of undesirables. He showed it to the members of the Carnegie Institute of Washington and they were impressed by the film’s message. Thus began a push to show this movie in America, and highschools across the country were sent flyers about the film, which ended up playing from March 15, 1937 to December 10, 1938.10
And the Rockefeller Foundation? German sociologist and historian Stefan Kuhl tells us,
“The Rockefeller Foundation played the central role in establishing and sponsoring major eugenic institutes in Germany, including the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Psychiatry and the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Anthropology, Eugenics, and Human Heredity…. The Foundation continued to support German eugenicists even after the National Socialists had gained control over German science.”11
The Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Anthropology, Eugenics, and Human Heredity was instrumental in the development of the Nazi’s scientific justification for its racial policies. Black tells us,
“During the Reich’s first ten years, eugenicists across America welcomed Hitler’s plans as the logical fulfillment of their own decades of research and effort. Indeed, they were envious as Hitler rapidly began sterilizing hundreds of thousands and systematically eliminating non-Aryans from German society. This included the Jews…
Most of all, American raceologists were intensely proud to have inspired the purely eugenic state the Nazis were constructing. In those early years of the Third Reich, Hitler and his race hygienists carefully crafted eugenic legislation modeled on laws already introduced across America.”12
This was the period of the Great Depression and the rise of Technocracy as a movement. Black reminds us; “American foundations such as the Carnegie Institution and the Rockefeller Foundation generously funded German race biology with hundreds of thousands of dollars, even as Americans stood in breadlines.”13 FC
1 John Glad, Future Human Evolution: Eugenics in the Twenty-First Century (Hermitage Publishers, 2006), p.52.
2 Charles W. Eliot, Some Roads Towards Peace: A Report to the Trustees of the Endowment on Observations Made in China and Japan in 1912 (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1914), pp.8-9.
3 The Carnegie Institution of Washington: Scope and Organization (Carnegie Institution of Washington, December 13, 1909), p.10.
4 Edwin Black, War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America’s Campaign to Create a Master Race (Four Walls Eight Windows Publishing, 2003), p.xv.
5 Edwin Black, War Against the Weak, p.xv.
6 Edwin Black, War Against the Weak, p.xvi.
7 Edwin Black, War Against the Weak, p.57.
8 Edwin Black, War Against the Weak, p.263.
9 Stefan Kuhl, The Nazi Connection: Eugenics, American Racism, and German National Socialism (Oxford University Press, 1994), p.48.
10 Stefan Kuhl, The Nazi Connection, pp.48-50.
11 Stefan Kuhl, The Nazi Connection, pp.20-21.
12 Edwin Black, War Against the Weak, p.277.
13 Edwin Black, War Against the Weak, p.258.