EUGENICS. Before WWII, the US power elite were major sponsors of the eugenics movement, which became German Nazism.
These powerful American eugenicists were never tried, and they remained the main force in the postwar American Establishment.
For decades, Hitler’s bloody regime, the Holocaust and the Second World War would be perceived as merely the outgrowth of the unfathomable madness and blind hatred of one man and his movement. But … the war against the weak had graduated from America’s slogans, index cards, and surgical blades to Nazi decrees, ghettos, and gas chambers.
—Edwin Black, War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America's
Campaign to Create a Master Race (2003:318)
Eugenics is the movement that became German Nazism.
Before it became the official ideology of Germany, eugenics was quite popular with the US Establishment.
Powerful fortunes in the US spent vast sums institutionalizing eugenics.
That money also exported the movement to Germany, where it became Nazism.
The wealthy American eugenicists remained in power after WWII.
During WWII, a large number of defenseless prisoners (several thousand) were tortured to death by Nazi doctors in the course of ‘medical’ experiments. Immediately after the war, in the city of Nuremberg, Germany, then still under occupation by the Western Allies, these crimes were examined in the famous Doctors’ Trial by the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg (often called the ‘Nuremberg War-Crimes Tribunal’). Deliberations concluded on 20 August 1947. For their crimes, the Nazi doctors in custody all hanged.
The Nuremberg trials were quite public and made the bosses in the Allied countries that fought Hitler look good. But what those same bosses were doing in secret—and in the very same instant—doesn’t look so good.
In secret, these bosses were protecting another criminal doctor, Shiro Ishii, the Japanese counterpart of Nazi Dr. Josef Mengele. What was Ishii like?
“[it is] estimated that at least 3000 subjects were killed as a result of [Dr. Shiro Ishii’s] experiments. Some died of disease, while others were executed after becoming physical wrecks unfit for further experimentation.”1
Instead of trying, convicting, and hanging Ishii for treating human beings—including captured American soldiers!—like lab rats and then killing them, the top brass of the US military recruited Ishii and his team, protected them, and apparently even paid them in exchange for the data of their criminal medical experiments.
Because they hoped to gain an advantage for the US bioweapons program, started by Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Two years later, the US military began developing bioweapons in earnest (and sharing its technologies with the CIA). As part of that research program, the US military sprayed millions (yes, millions) of non-consenting and unsuspecting US citizens with experimental bioweapons.
As I narrate elsewhere, these crimes of the US military against American citizens remained a secret until 1975-77, when two investigating committees of the US Senate discovered the Army’s biowarfare tests and exposed them. Called to testify, Army spokespeople confessed to having conducted 239 such open-air tests on unsuspecting Americans in many different cities and regions up until the year 1969.
One obvious question is: How could that happen in the United States?
How could US bosses secretly turn their own citizens into lab rats immediately after publicly trying Nazi doctors at Nuremberg for doing the same? Does that make any sense?
Sadly, infuriatingly, it does. But one cannot make sense of this without first knowing what the ideology of these US bosses was. And that requires an acquaintance with the eugenics movement. Because the US bosses were eugenicists.
And what is eugenics? It’s the movement that became German Nazism.
Before becoming a powerful movement in Germany, eugenics was a powerful movement in the United States. And it was thanks to American leadership, financing, technical assistance, and legal example that eugenics flourished in Germany, until it became Nazism.
Quite likely, you never heard that before.
And that is remarkable, because eugenics caused the biggest geopolitical event the world has ever seen, World War II, and was therefore, without question, the most important social and political force of the first half of the 20th century. Yet even when a stray US citizen can say one or two things about eugenics (not too common), none but a handful understand the link between American eugenics and German Nazism. And that’s despite maverick historian Edwin Black’s best efforts, since 2003, to expose this link.
In this piece I will briefly :
explain how the link between American eugenics and German Nazism was obscured and submerged; and
summarize the nature of the link itself.
Once this is understood, we can begin to make sense of the US Army biowarfare ‘tests’ conducted on unwitting US citizens after WWII (and so much else).
For it was the powerful American eugenicists—top members of the US Establishment, with vast power over its government bureaucracies—who spread their ideology to Germany and made it strong there, until it became Nazism. These American eugenicists were never examined, much less tried, after the war. And they remained in power.
I will flesh this out. But first things first.
The most influential history books erased eugenics
What caused World War II? Most historians answer: Hitler and the Nazis. Indeed. And what caused Hitler and the Nazis? The eugenics movement: German Nazism was an outgrowth of eugenics. And what caused eugenics? The US power elite.
You didn’t know that? You didn’t know that hundreds of thousands of innocent US citizens were either incarcerated, or forcibly sterilized, or forcibly unmarried in the United States, in the first half of the 20th century, for lack of superior ‘Aryan’ blood, long before the same was done in Germany? You didn’t know that the German Nazis were copying US legal precedent when they began carting people off to concentration camps?
Well, it’s hardly surprising. The main works that teach WWII history to Westerners don’t mention it. And this admits of a short demonstration.
Two authors are mainly responsible for our Western historical consciousness of World War II: Winston Churchill and William Shirer.
Upon concluding WWII, Churchill wrote The Second World War, a massive work in six tomes that won the Nobel Prize for literature and was celebrated the world over. It had quite an impact.
“[Churchill’s] historical writings,” comments historian David Reynolds, “have been immensely influential.” None more so than The Gathering Storm, which sold its first 200,000 copies in just the first two weeks. “Between 1948 and 1954,” Churchill’s entire Nobel Prize-winning magnum opus, The Second World War (of which The Gathering Storm is the first part),
“was serialised in eighty magazines and newspapers worldwide, and went on to appear in hardback in fifty countries and eighteen languages. …[A]s Plumb observed, subsequent historians have moved down ‘the broad avenues which [Churchill] drove through war’s confusion and complexity,’ with the result that ‘Churchill the historian lies at the very heart of all historiography of the Second World War.’ ”2
In 1960 came William Shirer, an obediently Churchillian “subsequent historian” who would become the next great influence. Historian Gavriel Rosenfeld comments:
“In the vast historiographical literature on the Nazi period... William L. Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich... has, over the years, acquired a status unparalleled by any prior or subsequent historical work on the subject. ...[I]t has sold millions of copies in the United States and millions more worldwide. Still in print today, Shirer’s work has been translated into numerous European and non-European languages and published in several special editions. It has even been made into a documentary film and recorded as a dramatic cantata. Undoubtedly the best known book ever published on the Nazi era, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich has become more than just another work of history. A singular literary institution, it has acquired a reputation as ‘the bestselling historical work ever written in modern times.’ ”3
We see World War II through Churchill and Shirer, whether or not we have read them, for their ‘official’ narrative is reinforced in untold numbers of other articles, books, movies, and TV shows—and, indeed, in countless other historical works. This is the interpretive paradigm for World War II—the one we learn in school.
So it matters that the word ‘eugenics’ does not appear even once in either The Gathering Storm (Churchill’s explanation of the causes of the war) or in The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.
The downstream consequence of this omission for our understanding of history can be appreciated just leafing through the history books used to teach university undergraduates. For example, the highly regarded The Origins of the Second World War in Europe, a 1997 text by P.M.H. Bell that is supposed to be entirely focused on explaining, as the title says, the origins—which is to say the causes—of World War II. This textbook (once again) does not contain a single mention of the word ‘eugenics.’ And that’s typical.
I’ve seen the effects. I used to ask my students at the University of Pennsylvania to raise their hand if the word ‘eugenics’ rang a bell, but almost nobody moved. These Ivy League students, at one of the most prestigious institutes of higher learning in the United States, had never heard of the most important social and political movement of the first half of the 20th c.—which, to boot, had its first great flowering in the United States.
If we are to understand World War II, we must correct this educational deficiency. So…
What was eugenics?
It was a reaction to the events of the year 1848.
In 1848, the most astonishing year, the peoples of the West, in almost every country, rose up simultaneously in revolution and forced the power elites to accept their demands. They didn’t get what they wanted all at once, or everywhere, but 1848 set the train in motion that would produce the modern democratic world.
The 1848 revolutionaries were demanding universal suffrage, constitutions, parliaments, charters of rights, freedom of speech and association, separation of Church and State, etc. Here was born the political grammar of the modern West. Everything we associate with normal, proper, democratic life began to take shape in 1848.
The power elites didn’t like that, and the search began for creative and novel ways to combat the new power of the people. But the peoples of the West couldn’t simply be kicked back into the Middle Ages, because, rushing in awesome numbers to the barricades, they had demonstrated their raw power—and their willingness to die for change—in the streets. Therefore, a new strategy—an alternative to simple direct repression—was needed. A clever strategy. A modern strategy.
Enter the Briton Francis Galton, a founding father of the academic discipline of psychology.
A few years after 1848, Galton began to argue that the exalted position of the Western ruling elites, their position at the very top of the system, was a consequence of good genes (initially called ‘germplasm’), which made them far superior to the working class ‘degenerates,’ as he called them.
Among the alleged ‘degenerates’ in the working classes, some, he claimed, were just too mentally retarded, so the State should use his newly invented ‘mental tests’ to identify those individuals and then, in his words,
“ ‘…by means of isolation, or some other drastic yet adequate measure, a stop should be put to the production of families of children likely to include degenerates.’ ”4
The general goal became to use fraudulent ‘intelligence tests’—later called ‘IQ tests’—to restrict the opportunities and rights (reproductive, medical, citizen, educational, political) of the masses. And as this movement spread throughout the upper classes all over the Western world, the eugenics movement quickly became one with the goals of ‘Aryan,’ ‘Nordic,’ or ‘Germanic’ supremacists.
This may seem surprising: Why should the idea of Germanic supremacy appeal to elites all over the West? But it is easily explained: the Western elites so enthralled with eugenics can all reasonably lay a claim to ‘Germanic’ ancestry.
After the ‘Western’ Roman Empire came to a close towards the end of the 5th c., it was German military aristocrats who became overlords of the non-Roman, non-German populations formerly under the Roman boot. The new German lords were Visigoths in the Iberian peninsula; Ostrogoths and Lombards in northern Italy; Franks in what is now France, most of Germany, and the Low Countries; Anglo-Saxons and then also Normans in Britain. The Scandinavians in the north, never ruled by Romans, were also German.
When Charlemagne, the Frank who conquered much of Western Europe, was crowned ‘Holy Roman Emperor’ by Pope Leo III in the year 800, the Roman Empire was reborn as a Germanic affair, and Charlemagne’s Germanic military allies got giant land grants and aristocratic titles all over Europe. Thus was the European nobility born, as a Germanic affair. European culture became gothic, from ‘goth’ = German.
In the second half of the 19th c., this proud memory of a common Germanic ancestry became the solidary glue for Western power elites finding common cause against the (to them) horrifying ascendance of popular power. The US power-elite—whose Anglo-Saxon heritage, according to many eugenicists, hailed from the ‘purest’ Germanic stock (whatever that meant)—took leadership of the movement.
The goal was to roll back the gains of the Enlightenment; to bury the legacy of the year 1848.
The methods of eugenics in the United States
There was a major difficulty for the eugenicists. The Enlightenment, and the revolutions it inspired, had established the cultural dominance of liberal democracy and scientific inquiry—this was the new political grammar. Hence, presidents and prime ministers now all had to speak the language of liberty, compassion, public service, and scientifically grounded policy.
In this officially more compassionate or ‘progressive’ era, with the concerns of the lower classes now politically important, the problem of poverty had become an official priority, and science had been recruited to find solutions.
Since it was obligatory for the power elite to pay lip service to the newly dominant grammar—they had to speak its language—they created a pseudoscience to deal with the problems of poverty: eugenics. This new field, which soon taught high-school and university courses all over the United States, argued that poverty was a genetic disease, a consequence of ‘mental retardation.’ The solution to poverty was therefore controlled breeding, like one does with cattle. Unless the poor where scientifically bred, went the argument, their alleged genetic stupidity threatened to overwhelm Society and cripple it fatally.
Thus bedecked in shiny ‘progressive’ clothing, eugenicists urged on our great grandparents their ‘philanthropic’ emergency measures to save Society. The measures advocated amounted to draconian State powers to abolish the rights and freedoms of many of the (‘non-Aryan’) poor so they could be stopped from spreading their genes overmuch. The middle classes, to a large extent, were beguiled with secondary-school and university courses in eugenics which assured them of their superior ‘intelligence.’ In thrall to ‘science,’ many bought the snake oil of ‘IQ tests.’
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To get a sense for the scandal of these ‘intelligence diagnoses,’ consider that Henry Goddard—the most prominent American intelligence-testing psychologist, and heavily involved with the eugenics movement—considered that a quick glance was enough to identify the ‘mentally retarded.’ By such methods, when the US government sent Goddard and his team to evaluate immigrants at Ellis Island (New York), he diagnosed 83% of arriving Jews as ‘mentally retarded.’5 These ‘retards’ and their descendants—though they are no more than 2% of the US population—would go on to win 40% of all US Nobel prizes.
Precisely because the assessment of ‘intelligence’ was wholly fraudulent, eugenicists had great latitude to arbitrarily diagnose and imprison any troublemakers in special ‘colonies’ until their reproductive periods lapsed. In this manner, a regime of ‘sloppy totalitarianism’ was established.
As historian Edwin Black documents in detail in War against the weak: Eugenics and America's campaign to create a master race, the ‘Anglo-Saxon’ US power elite quickly became the international leader of the eugenics movement. From Black’s introduction:
“Throughout the first six decades of the twentieth century, hundreds of thousands of Americans and untold numbers of others were not permitted to continue their families by reproducing. Selected because of their ancestry, national origin, race or religion, they were forcibly sterilized, wrongly committed to mental institutions where they died in great numbers, prohibited from marrying, and sometimes even unmarried by state bureaucrats. ...[T]his pernicious white-gloved war was prosecuted by esteemed professors, elite universities, wealthy industrialists and government officials colluding in a racist, pseudoscientific movement called eugenics. The purpose: create a superior Nordic race.
To perpetuate the campaign, widespread academic fraud combined with almost unlimited corporate philanthropy to establish the biological rationales for persecution. ...[T]he eugenics movement slowly constructed a national bureaucratic and juridical infrastructure to cleanse America of its ‘unfit.’ Specious intelligence tests, colloquially known as IQ tests, were invented to justify incarceration of a group labeled “feebleminded.” ...Collusive litigation was taken to the U.S. Supreme Court, which sanctified eugenics and its tactics.
…Eugenics targeted all mankind, so of course its scope was global. American eugenic evangelists spawned similar movements and practices throughout Europe, Latin America and Asia. Forced sterilization laws and regimens took root on every continent. Each local American eugenic ordinance or statute—from Virginia to Oregon—was promoted internationally as yet another precedent to be emulated by the international movement. A tightly-knit network of mainstream medical and eugenical journals, international meetings and conferences kept the generals and soldiers of eugenics up to date and armed for their nation’s next legislative opportunity.
Eventually, America’s eugenic movement spread to Germany as well, where it caught the fascination of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi movement.”6
The patrons of eugenics in the United States
Who were these “wealthy industrialists,” so busy institutionalizing eugenics in the United States and then exporting it to the entire world, and especially to Germany, “where it caught the fascination of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi movement”?
The main players were the Carnegie and Rockefeller networks.
“the [pseudo-]scientific rationales that drove killer doctors at Auschwitz were first concocted on Long Island at the Carnegie Institution’s eugenic enterprise at Cold Spring Harbor. ...[D]uring the prewar Hitler regime, the Carnegie Institution, through its Cold Spring Harbor complex, enthusiastically propagandized for the Nazi regime and even distributed anti-Semitic Nazi Party films to American high schools. ...[T]he Rockefeller Foundation’s massive financial grants [to] the German scientific establishment... began the eugenic programs that were finished by [Dr. Josef] Mengele at Auschwitz.”7
Henry Ford, for his part, became the most important distributor of Nazi antisemitic propaganda worldwide. Hitler called him his “inspiration” and awarded him, in 1938, with the highest official honor to foreigners in the Third Reich.
The central role of American eugenics in producing and supporting German eugenics and the German Nazi movement is narrated in detail in Edwin Black’s War Against the Weak. This historical documentation by Black and others creates a problem for the standard interpretation of World War II. Is that why the textbooks have expunged this context? Might this be an instance of the management of historical reality?
That question must be explored elsewhere. But it is worth pointing out, if only in passing, that the wealthy industrialist eugenicists, even before World War II, had been making giant efforts to control the information system.
Here I wish to draw attention to the following: the powerful American eugenicists were not scrutinized—much less indicted and tried—after the war. Or later. They remained the US power elite. In fact, the Rockefeller brothers were intimately involved in the postwar creation and operation of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), among many other prominent roles.
We may now return to our original question: How to explain that, in the immediate postwar, US military bosses began secretly spraying millions of US citizens with experimental bioweapons? And we have an answer: the people running the postwar US Establishment were the same eugenicists, and eugenicists do not consider humans to have rights.
The biowarfare tests on US citizens are documented here:
Cole, L. A. (1988). Clouds of Secrecy: The Army's Germ Warfare Tests Over Populated Areas. United Kingdom: Rowman & Littlefield. (p.13)
Reynolds, D. (2001). Churchill's Writing of History: Appeasement, Autobiography and "The Gathering Storm". Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 11, 221-247.
Rosenfeld, G. D. (1994). The Reception of William L. Shirer's The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich in the United States and West Germany, 1960-62. Journal of Contemporary History, 29(1), 95-128. (p.95)
Black, E. (2003). War against the weak: Eugenics and America's campaign to create a master race. New York: Four Walls Eight Windows. (p.18)
Sometimes Goddard used Binet tests, important to him because Alfred Binet, the father of what we now call ‘IQ tests,’ was a true scientist, and Goddard meant to claim scientific status based on the prestige of Binet’s work. But “Goddard’s original translation of the Binet scale,” explains Stephen J. Gould, “scored people harshly and made morons out of subjects usually regarded as normal” (Gould 1981:166).
As Raymond Fancher, another historian of the intelligence movement, explains, Goddard “did not say exactly how all of his diagnoses of feeblemindedness were made, but apparently only a few were based on actual Binet tests, while the majority came from possibly unreliable personal impressions” (Fancher 1985:114).
Indeed, according to Goddard himself, he could sniff them out in a second. Edwin Black, historian of the eugenics movement, writes that Goddard “believed in the ‘unmistakable look of the feebleminded,’ bragging that to spot the feebleminded, just ‘a glance sufficed’ ” (Black 2003:78). This could be done at some distance. In Goddard’s own words: “ ‘After a person has had considerable experience in this work, he almost gets a sense of what a feeble-minded person is so that he can tell one afar off.’ ” At Ellis Island, a team of Goddard assistants, all females, “were instructed to pick out the feeble-minded by sight” (Gould 1981:165).
By such ‘methods’ Goddard ‘found,’ in that population of immigrants, that “83 percent of the Jews, 80 percent of the Hungarians, 79 percent of the Italians, and 87 percent of the Russians were feeble-minded” (Gould 1981:166).
SOURCES IN THIS FOOTNOTE:
Black, E. (2003). War against the weak: Eugenics and America's campaign to create a master race. New York: Four Walls Eight Windows.
Fancher, R. (1985). The intelligence men: Makers of the IQ controversy. New York: Norton.
Gould, S. J. (1981). The Mismeasure of Man. New York: Norton.
From the introduction to War Against the Weak (op. cit)
From the introduction to War Against the Weak (op. cit)