Master race theories
developed in U.S.: author
Special to The CJN
Adolf Hitler’s quest for a master race was based on eugenics, a
“pseudoscience” developed in the United States in the first three
decades of the 20th century, says author Edwin Black.
Eugenics was a movement whose ultimate goal was the creation of “a
Nordic, white, master, blonde and blue-eyed race,” said Black at a
recent lecture at Shaare Zion Congregation.
A child of Holocaust survivors, Black is the author of the newly
published War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America’s Campaign to
Create a Master Race as well as IBM and the Holocaust: The Strategic
Alliance Between Nazi Germany and America’s Most Powerful Corporation.
The early years of the last century were, he said, “a time of great
racial conflict and ethnic upheaval.” Blacks had been emancipated from
slavery, Jews began coming to America from Europe, Asians had been
brought in to help build the railroads and Mexicans were present in
great numbers as a result of being displaced during the
Black said at that time, the United States was run by “a post-Civil War
era generation with its racist and ethnic baggage.” The goal of the
eugenicists was to improve society by getting rid of all those who did
not conform to the ideal Nordic stereotype. Targets included blacks,
Jews, Asians, Indians, Latinos and those considered “mongrels or poor
Many in the small crowd gathered in the synagogue’s main sanctuary were
visibly shocked when Black said the eugenics movement received massive
financial support from the Carnegie Institution and the Rockefeller
Foundation and that scientists from some of the most respected
universities, including Harvard, Yale and Princeton, manipulated and
even faked their data in support of eugenics.
Black said a 1911 study, financed by the Carnegie Institution,
identified 18 possible methods of implementing eugenics. Gas chambers
were deemed to be the most effective method, but it was felt that
American society was not yet prepared to accept them. Instead, a
number of other methods were adopted, most notably mass sterilization.
By continually identifying and sterilizing those deemed unfit for
reproduction, it was estimated that the ultimate goal of the master
race could be achieved over a period of generations.
According to Black, eugenics laws, which allowed forced sterilization,
racial segregation and marriage restrictions, were passed in 27 states.
Approximately 60,000 people were sterilized under those laws.
Eventually, a test case was brought to the U.S. Supreme Court when the
state of Virginia wanted to sterilize Carrie Buck, a poor white woman,
as well as her mother and daughter. In a 1927 decision allowing
the sterilization, and thus upholding the constitutionality of eugenics
laws, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote: “It is better for all the
world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime,
or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those
who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind. Three generations
of imbeciles are enough.”
American eugenicists, said Black, cultivated relationships with
like-minded scientists in Europe, most particularly in Germany, where
the Rockefeller Foundation financially supported their work. One ardent
disciple of eugenics was Hitler, who wrote about his
eugenics-influenced racial and anti-Semitic theories in his 1924 book
Black said when the Nazis came to power, eugenics became a state
priority under the direction of Otmar Verschuer of the Kaiser Wilhelm
Institute. Mass sterilization was quickly introduced, as was
experimentation, particularly on twins. By 1943, with the war and the
Holocaust underway, Verschuer dispatched his assistant, Dr. Josef
Mengele, to Auschwitz, where he continued his horrible experimentation
After the war, Black said, eugenics was deemed a crime against humanity
at the Nuremberg trials and “the American movement went
underground.” Eventually, it developed into the scientific study
of human genetics. Black expressed concern about the consequences of
modern genetic science, including “discrimination based on ancestry” in
“We need to look back and make sure genetics does not return to from whence it came,” he said.
Black’s lecture was presented by the congregation’s Max and Raelene
Routtenberg Institute of Adult Jewish Studies, the Ann and Max Bailey
Centre for Human Rights and Cultural Diversity and the Montreal Centre
for Genocide Studies at Concordia University. Black was introduced by
Montrealer Phyllis Bailey of the Bailey Centre, who was one of the 50
researchers in four countries who helped Black gather material for War
Against the Weak.