Into the Darkness : Chapter 16: In a Eugenics Court

Into the Darkness : An Uncensored Report from Inside the Third Reich at War 

by Lothrop Stoddard




Chapter 16: In a Eugenics Court

Nothing is so distinctive in Nazi Germany as its ideas about race. Its concept of racial matters underlies the whole National Socialist philosophy of life and profoundly influences both its policies and practices. We cannot intelligently evaluate the Third Reich unless we understand this basic attitude of mind. Unfortunately such understanding is not easy, because the whole subject has been so obscured by passion and propaganda.

I have long been interested in the practical applications of biology and eugenics ­ the science of race­betterment ­ and have studied much along those lines. During my recent stay in Germany I supplemented this academic background by first­hand investigation, including discussions with outstanding authorities on the subject. These included both official spokesmen such as Reichsministers Frick and Darre, and leading scientists ­ Eugen Fischer, Fritz Lenz, Hans Guenther, Paul Schultze­Naumburg, and others. Through their recommendations I was able to sit beside the judges during a session of the Eugenic High Court of Appeals.

As is well known, the Nazi viewpoint on race and the resultant policies are set forth by Adolf Hitler himself in the pages of Mein Kampf, the Bible of National Socialism. The future Fuehrer therein wrote:

It will be the duty of the People’s State to consider the race as the basis of the community’s existence. It must make sure that the purity of the racial strain will be preserved. It must proclaim the truth that the child is the most valuable possession a nation can have. It must make sure that only those who are healthy shall beget children and that there is only one infamy: namely, for parents who are ill or show other defects to bring children into the world. But on the other hand it must be branded as reprehensible to refrain from giving healthy children to the nation. Herein the State must come forward as the trustee of a millennial future, in face of which the egotistic desires of individuals count for nothing. Such individuals will have to bow to the State in such matters.

In order to achieve this end the State will have to avail itself of modern advances in medical science. It must proclaim that all those people are unfit for procreation who are afflicted with some visible hereditary disease, or are the carriers of it; and the State must adopt practical means of having such people rendered sterile. On the other hand the State must make sure that the healthy woman will not have her fertility restricted through a financial and economic system of government which looks on the blessing of children as a curse to their parents. The State will have to abolish the cowardly and even criminal indifference with which the problem of social provision for large families is treated, and it will have to be the supreme protector of this greatest blessing that a people can boast of. Its attention and care must be directed towards the child rather than towards the adult.

When we analyze Hitler’s pronunciamento we observe that he is here dealing with two very dissimilar things. The first of these concerns differences between human stocks. Hitler assumes that such differences are vitally important and that “the purity of the racial strain” must be preserved. Therefore, logically, crossings between them are an evil. This is the Nazi doctrine best described as racialism.

The interesting thing is that Hitler does not here stop to labor the point. He takes it for granted as self­evident and passes on to other matters which he treats in detail. These concern improvements within the racial stock, that are recognized everywhere as constituting the modern science of eugenics, or race ­betterment.

The relative emphasis which Hitler gave racialism and eugenics many years ago foreshadows the respective interest toward the two subjects in Germany today. Outside Germany, the reverse is true, due chiefly to Nazi treatment of its Jewish minority. Inside Germany, the Jewish problem is regarded as a passing phenomenon, already settled in principle and soon to be settled in fact by the physical elimination of the Jews themselves from the Third Reich. It is the regeneration of the Germanic stock with which public opinion is most concerned and which it seeks to further in various ways.

There are one or two German ideas about race which, it seems to me, are widely misunderstood abroad. The first concerns the German attitude toward Nordic blood. Although this tall, blond strain and the qualities assumed to go with it constitute an ideal type in Nazi eyes, their scientists do not claim that Germany is today an overwhelmingly Nordic land. They admit that the present German people is a mixture of several European stocks. Their attitude is voiced by Professor Guenther when he writes:

The Nordic ideal becomes for us an ideal of unity. That which is common to all the divisions of the German people is the Nordic strain. The question is not so much whether we men now living are more or less Nordic; the question put to us is whether we have the courage to make ready, for future generations a world cleansing itself racially and eugenically.

Another misconception is that the Nazis regard the Jews as a distinct race. To be sure, that term is often used in popular writings and many ignorant Nazis may believe it, but their scientific men do not thus defy obvious anthropology. They therefore refer to the Jews as a Mischrasse. By this they mean a group which, though self­ consciously distinct, is made up of several widely diverse racial strains. It is because most of those strains are deemed too alien to the Germanic blend that the Nazis passed the so­called Nuremberg Laws prohibiting intermarriage between Jews and Germans.

Without attempting to appraise this highly controversial racial doctrine, it is fair to say that Nazi Germany’s eugenic program is the most ambitious and far ­reaching experiment in eugenics ever attempted by any nation.

When the Nazis came to power, Germany was biologically in a bad way. Much of her best stock had perished on the battlefields of the Great War. But those war losses were surpassed by others during the post­war period, due to the falling birth­rate. Economic depression, mass­unemployment, hopelessness for the future, had combined to produce a state of mind in which Germans were refusing to have children. The birth­rate dropped so fast that the nation was no longer reproducing itself. Furthermore, the lowest birth­rates were among those elements of highest social value. The learned and professional classes were having so few children that, at this rate, they would rapidly die out. At the other end of the scale, the opposite was true. Morons, criminals, and other anti­social elements were reproducing themselves at a rate nine times as great as that of the general population. And those lowest elements were favored in their breeding by the welfare measures of the Weimar regime. Statistics indicate that it cost far more to support Germany’s defectives than it did to run the whole administrative side of Government ­ national, provincial, and local.

As the Nazis saw it, they had a two­fold task: to increase both the size and the quality of the population. Indiscriminate incentives to big families would result largely in more criminals and morons. So they coupled their encouragements to sound citizens with a drastic curb on the defective elements. That curb was the Sterilization Law.

The object of the statute is set forth in its official title: An Act for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring. The grounds for sterilization are specifically enumerated. They are: (1) Congenital Mental Deficiency; (2) Schizophrenia, or split personality; (3) Manic­Depressive Insanity; (4) Inherited Epilepsy; (5) Inherited (Huntington’s) Chorea; (6) Inherited Blindness; (7) Inherited Deafness; (8) Any grave physical defect that has been inherited; (9) Chronic alcoholism, when this has been scientifically determined to be symptomatic of psychological abnormality.

It should be understood that all these defects and diseases have been proven to be hereditary by scientists throughout the world. It was estimated that at least 400,000 persons in Germany were known to be subjects for sterilization. But the law specifically forbids sterilization for any non­hereditary cause. Even mentally diseased persons, habitual criminals, and ordinary alcoholics cannot be sterilized. Each case up for sterilization must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt before special district courts, and appeals from their verdict can be taken, first to a regional court of appeals, and ultimately to the High Appellate Court sitting in Berlin.

Such are the provisions of the Sterilization Law. So many charges have been made outside Germany that it is being used to sterilize politically undesirable persons that I particularly welcomed the opportunity to study at first­hand the High Court’s proceedings. Parenthetically it should be noted that the term “sterilization” does not mean castration. The law specifically prescribes methods which involve only a minor operation and result in no diminution of sexual activity other than incapacity to produce offspring.

Germany’s Eugenic Supreme Court sits in an impressive building at Charlottenburg, one of Berlin’s western suburbs. I arrived just as court was opening. On the bench sat a regular judge in cap and gown. At his right was the celebrated psychopathologist, Professor Zutt, a typical savant with mild blue eyes and a Vandyke beard. At the judge’s left was a keen­eyed younger man who was a specialist in criminal psychology and beside whom I sat during the proceedings. All three courteously explained points to me at frequent intervals.

Since this was the court of last resort, all matters came up to it on appeal from lower courts, and thus tended to be “hairline” cases. The thing that struck me most was the meticulous care with which these cases had already been considered by the lower tribunals. The dossier of each case was voluminous, containing a complete life­history of the subject, reports of specialists and clinics, and also exhaustive researches into the subject’s family history. In reaching its decision, the High Court not only consulted the records of the case but also personally examined the living subjects themselves.

The first case I saw looked like an excellent candidate for sterilization. A man in his mid­thirties, he was rather ape-­like in appearance ­ receding forehead, flat nose with flaring nostrils, thick lips, and heavy prognathous jaw. Not vicious ­looking, but gross and rather dull. His life­history was mildly anti­social ­ several convictions for minor thefts and one for a homosexual affair with another boy when a lad. In early manhood he had married a Jewess by whom he had three children, none of whom had showed up too well. That marriage had been dissolved under the Nuremberg Laws. He was now seeking to marry a woman who had already been sterilized as a moron. The law forbids a non­sterilized individual to marry a sterilized person; so he was more than willing to be also sterilized. The lower court recommended sterilization.

All three members of the High Court interrogated the man at length. Questions disclosed the fact that he conducted a newspaper delivery route in the suburbs, that he was able to run this simple business satisfactorily, and that he answered the Court’s queries with a fair degree of intelligence. The Court concluded that sterilization had not been proven mandatory and sent back the case for further investigation.

Case Two was obviously unbalanced mentally, though not an asylum case. Swinging a cane like a fine gentleman, he entered Court with an “air,” which went incongruously with his shabby­ genteel clothes and the battered felt hat tucked under his left arm. There was no doubt that he should be sterilized. The lower courts had decided he was either a schizophrenic or a manic­depressive, and both defects came under the law. But which of the two it was had to be clearly determined before the operation could be legally performed. This man wanted to marry an unsterilized woman, so he was strongly opposed to sterilization. His case­ history showed two prolonged mental breakdowns, irrational violent quarrels, and queer actions. Ten years previously he had evolved a plan for a Utopian State and had been arrested when he tried to lay it personally before President Hindenburg. He answered questions intelligently, revealing education, but he got excited easily; and his eyes, which were never normal, became wild on such occasions. The Court inclined to think him a manic­ depressive, but they also detected schizophrenic symptoms. Since they were not absolutely sure, the case was remanded for further clinical investigation.

Case Three was an eighteen ­year ­old girl. A deaf­mute, she talked through an interpreter. She was obviously not feeble­ minded, but had a poor family record. The parents, who also appeared, were most unprepossessing. Her case had first come before the lower court two years ago. It then decided against sterilization because no hereditary deafness was shown in the family record. Recently it had recommended sterilization because several unfortunate hereditary factors in the family had been disclosed by further investigation. The High Court ordered the girl sent to a clinic for observation. It also ordered more research into the family record.

Case Four was a seventeen­ year ­old girl. The issue was feeble­ mindedness. She certainly looked feebleminded as she sat below the bench, hunched in a chair, with dull features and lackluster eyes. Left an orphan at an early age, she had had a haphazard upbringing. The record showed her to have been always shy, backward, and unable to keep up with normal schooling.

At present she was employed as helper in a cheap restaurant. When her case first came before the lower court, its verdict was: Wait and see. Perhaps this is a case of retarded intelligence due to environmental factors, which will ripen later. But it did not ripen; so there were further hearings, at which two specialists had disagreed.

The members of the High Court examined this poor waif carefully and with kindly patience. She had no knowledge of or interest in even the most elementary current events. For instance,  she barely knew there was a war going on. But the psychologist discovered that she was able to make change for small customers’  bills in her restaurant and that she could perform other duties of her humble job. So the Court finally concluded that, despite her most unprepossessing appearance and her simple, childlike mind, she was not a moron within the meaning of the law and therefore should not be sterilized.

There were other cases that day, all conducted in the same painstaking, methodical fashion. I came away convinced that the law was being administered with strict regard for its provisions and that, if anything, judgments were almost too conservative. On the evidence of that one visit, at least, the Sterilization Law is weeding out the worst strains in the Germanic stock in a scientific and truly humanitarian way.

To turn from negative to positive eugenics, the first active measure for increasing both the quantity and quality of the population was the Law for the Promotion of Marriages. I have already mentioned the young Friesian milker and his wife who were enabled to furnish a home through a 1,000 ­Mark Government loan, 25 per cent of which was canceled on the birth of each child born to them. These loans are made to young couples, not in cash, but in the form of certificates for household goods; before being eligible for the loan, the couple must have passed medical and mental tests proving that they are sound, healthy stock. Since the law went into effect, more than 900,000 such loans have been made.

Another population stimulus was official grants ­in­ aid to large families in poor circumstances. This was later expanded to a regular system of child­ allowances. The taxation laws were likewise revised to lighten the burdens which large families tend to bear. An example of this is the tax on salaries, which is 16 per cent for the unmarried and 10 per cent for a married man without offspring, but which decreases with each child until it vanishes after four children have been born. In all measures requiring official loans or allowances, only sound, healthy persons can benefit. It should be understood that these specific measures dovetail with all those social­welfare and public health activities discussed in previous Chapters. Thus the entire system is permeated with the eugenic point of view.

These stimuli to population growth have produced remarkable results. In 1933, the year when the Nazis came to power, only 957,000 children were born ­ far below the reproductive rate for the nation. The very next year births had shot up to 1,197,000, and they increased steadily until, when the war broke out, they were running about 1,300,000 annually. This is entirely contrary to the general trend in other countries of Western and Northern Europe, where average birth rates are low, with slight changes during the past decade. Even Mussolini was unable to get as good results from his efforts at increasing Italy’s population until he recently copied several measures from the Reich. And we should remember that Fascism seeks quantity production, without the eugenic requirements for quality that are in force in Germany.

Before closing this survey, we should note the psychological aspect of Nazi population policy. The rulers of the Third Reich do not stop with laws and economic regulations. They realize that, for the full attainment of their goal, ideology must be mobilized. So the German people is systematically propagandized for the upbuilding of what may be described as a racial and eugenic consciousness. Here, for instance, are the Ten Commandments for the Choice of a Mate. Couched in the exhortatory form of the German Du, this new racial decalogue is brought so constantly to the attention of every German youth and maiden that they must know it by heart.

Here is the text:

1. Remember that thou art a German! All that thou art, thou owest, not to thine self, but to thy people. Whether thou wiliest it or no, thou belongest thereto; from thy people hast thou come forth. In all thou doest, bethink thee whether it be to thy people’s best advancement.

2. Thou shalt maintain purity of Mind and Spirit! Cherish and foster thy mental and spiritual capacities. Keep far from thy mind and soul whatsoever is instinctively foreign to them, what is contrary to thy true self, what thine inner conscience rejects. Seeking after money and worldly goods, after quick preferment, after material pleasures, may often lead thee to forget higher things. Be true to thine own self, and before aught else be worthy of thy future life­mate.

3. Keep thy body clean! Maintain the good health received from thy parents, in order to serve thy people. Guard against expending it uselessly and foolishly. A moment’s sensual gratification may lastingly wreck thine health and heritable treasure whereon thy children and children’s children have a compelling claim. What thou demandest from thy future life­ partner, that must thou demand of thyself. Remember that thou art destined to be a German Parent.

4. Being of sound stock, thou shalt not remain single! All thy qualities of body and spirit perish if thou diest without heirs. They are a heritage, a donation from thine ancestors. They exist as a chain, of which thou art but a link. Durst thou break that chain, save under stern necessity? Thy life is straitly bound by time; family and folk endure. Thy hereditary estate of body and spirit prospers in thy waxing offspring.

5. Marry only for love! Money is perishable stuff and ensures no lasting happiness. Where the divine spark of love is absent, there can no worthy marriage endure. Wealth of heart and soul is the foundation of a lasting, happy union.

6. As a German, choose a mate only of thine own or kindred blood! Where like meets like, there rules true unison. Where unlike races mix, there is discord. Mixing racial stocks which do not harmonize leads to the degeneracy and downfall of both strains and peoples. The more unlike the mixtures, the faster this takes place. Guard thyself from such ruin! True happiness springs only from harmonious blood.

7. In choosing thy mate, consider the ancestry! Thou weddest not alone thy mate but also thy life­ partner’s forebears. Worthy descendants are to be expected only where worthy ancestors went before. Gifts of mind and spirit are just as much inherited as the color of hair and eyes. Bad traits are bequeathed precisely like lands or goods. Naught in the whole world is so precious as the seeds of a gifted stock; noxious seeds cannot be transformed into good ones. Wherefore, marry not the one worthy member of a bad family.

8. Health is the prerequisite for even outward beauty! Health is the best guarantee for lasting happiness, for it is the basis for both external charm and inward harmony. Demand of thy mate medical assurance of fitness for marriage, as thou thyself must also do.

9. In marriage seek, not a plaything but a help mate! Marriage is not a transient game but a lasting union. The supreme aim of marriage is the raising of healthy offspring. Only by the union of beings who are like in spirit, body and blood can this high goal be attained, to the blessing of themselves and their people. For each race has its own ethos; so like souls can alone endure together.

10. Thou shalt desire many children! Only by engendering at least four children can the continuance of thy people be assured. Only by having an even larger number can the greatest possible proportion of the merits inherited from thine ancestors be surely handed down. No child wholly resembles another. Each child inherits different traits. Many gifted children greatly enhances the worth of a people and are the surest guarantees for its future. Thou wilt soon pass away; what thou givest to thy descendants endures. Thy people liveth forever!

What an amazing mixture of idealisms and propaganda! This Marital Decalogue is a striking instance of the Nazi attitude and methods.

Chapter 2: Berlin Blackout
Chapter 3: Getting on with the Job
Chapter 4: Junketing Through Germany
Chapter 5: This Detested War
Chapter 6: Vienna and Bratislava
Chapter 7: Iron Rations
Chapter 8: A Berlin Lady Goes to Market
Chapter 9: The Battle of the Land
Chapter 10: The Labor Front
Chapter 11: The Army of the Spade
Chapter 12: Hitler Youth
Chapter 13: Women of the Third Reich
Chapter 14: Behind the Winter­Help
Chapter 15: Socialized Health
Chapter 16: In a Eugenics Court
Chapter 17: I See Hitler
Chapter 18: Mid­Winter Berlin
Chapter 19: Berlin to Budapest
Chapter 20: The Party
Chapter 21: The Totalitarian State
Chapter 22: Closed Doors
Chapter 23: Out of the Shadow



PDF of this post (click to download or view):  Into the Darkness – Chap 16
Version History
Version 3: Nov 27, 2014 – Added PDF of post.
Version 2: Wed, Feb 5, 2014. Added Chapter links.
Version 1: Published Jan 28 2014.
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6 Responses to Into the Darkness : Chapter 16: In a Eugenics Court

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