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Writer to discuss U.S. role in Nazi eugenics

By Jeff Brumley Religion writer
November 1, 2003

PORT ST. LUCIE — The goal of creating a "master race" originated not with Adolph Hitler and the Nazis of World War II, but with the intellectual and financial elite of the United States at the beginning of the 20th century, a best-selling author says.

"American eugenics funded and founded Nazi eugenics," said Edwin Black, an investigative reporter and author of the newly released "War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America's Campaign to Create a Master Race."

Black, who is Jewish and whose parents were Holocaust survivors, is best known for writing the 2001 international bestseller "IBM and the Holocaust," which uncovered the Nazi government's use of IBM punch-card technology to efficiently execute its "final solution" of genocide of the Jews.

The author will lecture on the findings of his latest book, as well as other topics, during a three-day tenure as scholar-in-residence Nov. 7-9 at Temple Beth El Israel in Port St. Lucie.

Eugenics is the study of hereditary improvements through genetic controls. It flourished in the United States at the turn of the century because that was a period of "racial and demographic upheaval," Black said, caused by increased immigration from Eastern Europe, the emancipation of black slaves, Hispanics annexed by war and the continuing integration of Native Americans into society.

Funded by American philanthropic organizations such as the Carnegie Institution and the Rockefeller Foundation, and backed by some major universities, eugenics was used to justify government policies of coerced sterilization, birth control and other methods to stem the birthrate among impoverished Americans, immigrants and other "mongrel" populations in the United States, Black said.

"They felt that mankind could be bred like you would breed a better herd of cattle or a better field of wheat," he said.

During the first three decades of the century, about 60,000 Americans were sterilized, some forcibly, in 27 states that adopted laws that required sterilization, marriage restrictions and annulment, Black said. Florida never adopted such laws.

"Their idea was to eliminate all other racial and ethnic groups and those considered medically or socially or psychologically unacceptable," Black said in a telephone interview from his office in Washington, D.C. "Their idea of utopia was where no one would exist but themselves."

After Hitler came to power in the 1930s, his existing anti-Semitic ideology became infused with American eugenics ideas, methods and money, leading ultimately to the now-infamous Nazi gas chambers and human medical experiments by war criminals such as Joseph Mengele, Black said.

He said his talks at the temple — and at other stops on his 40-city tour — will be dramatic events.

"It will be a far more sad and disconsolate presentation, where people will be shocked and have to come to grips with the unhappy truth about America's role in ethnic cleansing," he said.

- jeff.brumley@scripps.com

If You Go

What: Scholar-in-Residence Weekend featuring investigative reporter Edwin Black, author of "War Against the Weak" and "IBM and the Holocaust."

When: 8 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. Nov. 8, and 10 a.m. Nov. 9

Where: Temple Beth El Israel, 551 S.W. Bethany Drive, Port St. Lucie.

Cost: Call for ticket prices.

Contact: Skip Harris at (772) 288-7401, or the temple at (772) 336-2424. Edwin Black's Web site is www.edwinblack.com.

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