Synopses & Reviews
When Hitler published Mein Kampf
in 1924, he held up a foreign law as a model for his program of racial purification: The U.S. Immigration Restriction Act of 1924, which prohibited the immigration of those with hereditary illnesses and entire ethnic groups. When the Nazis took power in 1933, they installed a program of eugenics--the attempted "improvement" of the population through forced sterilization and marriage controls--that consciously drew on the U.S. example. By then, many American states had long had compulsory sterilization laws for "defectives," upheld by the Supreme Court in 1927. Small wonder that the Nazi laws led one eugenics activist in Virginia to complain, "The Germans are beating us at our own game."
In The Nazi Connection, Stefan Kühl uncovers the ties between the American eugenics movement and the Nazi program of racial hygiene, showing that many American scientists actively supported Hitler's policies. After introducing us to the recently resurgent problem of scientific racism, Kühl carefully recounts the history of the eugenics movement, both in the United States and internationally, demonstrating how widely the idea of sterilization as a genetic control had become accepted by the early twentieth century. From the first, the American eugenicists led the way with radical ideas. Their influence led to sterilization laws in dozens of states--laws which were studied, and praised, by the German racial hygienists. With the rise of Hitler, the Germans enacted compulsory sterilization laws partly based on the U.S. experience, and American eugenists took pride in their influence on Nazi policies. Kühl recreates astonishing scenes of American eugenicists travelling to Germany to study the new laws, publishing scholarly articles lionizing the Nazi eugenics program, and proudly comparing personal notes from Hitler thanking them for their books. Even after the outbreak of war, he writes, the American eugenicists frowned upon Hitler's totalitarian government, but not his sterilization laws. So deep was the failure to recognize the connection between eugenics and Hitler's genocidal policies, that a prominent liberal Jewish eugenicist who had been forced to flee Germany found it fit to grumble that the Nazis "took over our entire plan of eugenic measures."
By 1945, when the murderous nature of the Nazi government was made perfectly clear, the American eugenicists sought to downplay the close connections between themselves and the German program. Some of them, in fact, had sought to distance themselves from Hitler even before the war. But Stefan Kühl's deeply documented book provides a devastating indictment of the influence--and aid--provided by American scientists for the most comprehensive attempt to enforce racial purity in world history.
"Despite several excellent recent books on the history of eugenics, Kuhl's little book has moved the history of eugenics to a new level: the international connections that nationally researched studies have heretofore failed to make. The role of American intellectual and scientific encouragement for first German and then Nazi ideas on eugenics--and beyond--is simply dynamite information. Kuhl's close dissection of the persistence of eugenical ideas despite shifts in definition over time is a powerfully documented and necessary contribution."--Carl N. Degler, author of Out of Our Past and Affluence and Anxiety
Includes bibliographical references (p. 141-157) and index.
About the Author
About the Author -
Stefan Kühl is a sociological researcher in Bielefeld, Germany.