The first few decades of the turn of the century were accompanied by increased interest in medical and scientific endeavors, among which featured genetics and eugenics.

Eugenics, according to __TEXTBOOK___, was in its modern form coined by Sir Francis Galton in 1883 due to the publication of Hereditary Genius, which “aimed at improving the genetic quality of the human gene pool” (1). It is important to note, however, that eugenics was as much about the promotion of desirable genetic traits as it was about the elimination of those perceived to be undesirable. The former was termed positive eugenics, while the latter was called negative eugenics.

The Nazi eugenics program was largely fueled by a Social Darwinist approach to the evaluation of human life (2). This model was originally inspired by the work of scientist Charles Darwin on the theory of evolution, and later adapted to a social context. More specifically, Darwin’s notion that the most well-adapted animals are the most likely to survive their environments was translated by Nazis (using Social Darwinism) into the idea that only the most fit and able humans should be allowed to reproduce. According to Hitler and the Nazi Party, the ideal German was a fairly narrow type of individual.

A crucial detail of the Nazi viewpoint on the subject is a complete lack of emphasis placed on environmental stimuli which can be equally influential on a person’s life, health and personality (3). Therefore no matter what evidence was demonstrated to the contrary, the Nazis stood by their conviction that an individual’s national, religious, or physical status was proof enough of their villainy or their innocence.

“By 1933, the existence of a lively international scientific community of human geneticists and eugenicists was one of the most important prerequisites for the symbiotic relationship forged between German biomedical scientists and functionaries of the Nazi state” – Sheila Weiss, 2010, pp. 20

Click on the links below to discover some of the Third Reich’s many eugenics-based endeavors:

  • The Lebensborn Program (positive eugenics)
  • Genocide (negative eugenics)


Cover Photo Credit:

1 – Textbook page 827

2 – Ibid.

2 – Weiss, Sheila Faith. The Nazi Symbiosis : Human Genetics and Politics in the Third Reich. University of Chicago Press, 2010. page 23