haunted house of eugenics
An interview with Edwin Black
Few people knew that the United States helped to
fund Nazi eugenics. In his new book, “The War Against the Weak,”
the award-winning author Edwin Black documents the collaboration of
American corporate philanthropic organizations with Nazi Germany researchers
to create a white, Nordic master race. Black has also documented the
forceful sterilization of 60,000 Americans in genetic-control campaigns
taking place as recently as 1900. The journalist, who is also author
of the best-selling book “IBM and the Holocaust,” will speak
at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 11, in the Gold Room of the MSU Union. Sponsored
by the Center for Global Culture/Great Lakes World Affairs Council,
the event will be followed by a discussion with the author at Barnes
& Noble in East Lansing. Daniel Sturm interviewed Black.
doctor Joseph Mengele, who did inhumane experiments with twins in Auschwitz,
is a well-known horror figure. Now you tell us in “War Against
the Weak” that Mengele was financed by the Rockefeller Foundation.
Rockefeller spent a great deal of money financing Nazi scientists and
eugenic institutions in Germany, among them Otmar Freiherr von Vershuer.
Vershuer was particularly interested in twins. With twins you could
unlock the mysteries of defective reproduction, they thought, and also
with twins you could discover the secret to multiplication of the master
race. Vershuer sent his assistant, whose name was Joseph Mengele, into
Auschwitz to finish the program originally financed by Rockefeller.
But of course, Mengele went there after the war began.
Did the Rockefeller Foundation know that they were funding Nazis?
They knew it from the very beginning, because Rockefeller was funding
the Nazi eugenicists throughout the entire pre-war period. Rockefeller
was receiving constant letters of protest because of its open involvement
with Nazi medicine.
In the first 65 years of the 20th century more than 60,000 Americans
were sterilized. What was the mindset behind this?
General admission $15, students $10. The discussion at Barnes &
Noble is free. For more information, contact the Great Lakes World
Affairs Council at (517) 699-2960. The Center for Global Culture
can be reached at 483-4588. Or e-mail CenterGlobalCulture@hotmail.com
it is the urge to create a master race. But this urge attached itself
to so many other societal movements — the women’s movement,
the labor movement, the educational movement, and medical movements.
Eugenics and the life science behind it infected so many other social
welfare movements that it was easy to say, “we were trying to
make a better society, we were trying to use our educational dollars
better, we were trying to wipe out tuberculosis.” While what they
really wanted to do was make the “problem people” disappear.
This was the time when agronomists became capable of breeding better
strains of corn, and doctors similarly bent on breeding a eugenically
superior race. But weren’t doctors and supporters of eugenics
aware of the inhumane effects of their acts?
It was originally mainly a non-medical movement. It was a movement of
animal breeders, agronomists, anthropologists, and these types of people,
who were trying to engineer a society. In the beginning there was very
little medical backing for it, unless you want to include psychology
and psychiatry. Obviously, there were great surgeons who later supported
eugenics, including sterilization.
You write that many people who were sterilized never discovered the
truth until decades later.
Black: That’s right. Of the 60,000 Americans who were forcibly
sterilized, many underwent the procedure without knowing what was happening.
Typically, they would ask a young hillbilly girl: Do you like the movies?
And she’d say yes. Do you like the funnies? And she’d say
yes. Would you mind if we did something to help out your health? And
she’d say yes. She wouldn’t know what was happening. The
incision would be very small, the operation would take just a couple
of minutes, and she would be sterilized.
Why did it take so long to uncover the relationship between Rockefeller/Carnegie
and Nazi Germany?
To a large degree, it takes the mindset of an investigative reporter
who thinks like a criminal and acts like a cop. The historian will ask
for permission, while people like me start when we’re told “no.”
When lawyers and other entities tried to stop me from seeing the records,
they even claimed doctor-patient confidentiality for Joseph Mengele!
That’s when we get going. I have a large team of reporters, researchers,
historians, and writers. People are welcome to volunteer at “researchers
needed” on my Web site, at www.edwinblack.com.
In the 1930s and 40s, the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann
Arbor was an outspoken proponent of eugenics. Can you tell us more about
Michigan’s role in the eugenics movement?
Michigan was one of 27 states with eugenic sterilization laws. Doctors
in Michigan forcibly sterilized more than 2,388 people by 1943, and
3,786 by 1964. In Indiana, where sterilization began, there were 1,231
For many the Nazi movement seems like a dark age that’s long gone.
But you say there’s a new eugenics movement on the horizon, as
great as its precursor. Companies fear that insuring people predisposed
to “certain genetic effects” would increase their costs.
Yes. It’s no longer based upon racist dogma and national flags,
it is more based upon the economic worth of an individual, globalization,
and the profit margin an individual can offer the corporate world. It
will come in the form of insurance exclusions and employment denials.
This is why the anti-genetic discrimination act has just passed in the
Senate and is waiting for approval in the House.
So that’s a good thing, isn’t it?
It’s a good start. But human engineering is so globalized and
high-velocity a science that it is preceding far faster than any local
jurisdiction can keep up with it.
Your give the example of a Quebec man who died in an automobile crash,
but his life insurance payout was canceled when the company learned
that he was born in a region with a high rate of a degenerative disease
that causes a debilitating relaxation of the muscles. How far away are
we from this scenario?
This was a test case, but the insurance company told me they intend
to implement it. This company even said that they would cancel death
benefits in automobile collisions because of smoking. We are not far
away from it at all. This approach is now being advocated and implemented
on an ever-increasing rate. The insurance world says very clearly that
they cannot survive unless they rewrite the rules. They originally were
redlining, then they were green lining, and now they are gene lining.
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