Interviewee: James Watson DNAi Location:Chronicle>In the third reich>taking the torch Beginning eugenic sterilization When Hitler came to power in 1933, German eugenicists got the large-scale sterilization program they wanted. Taking the torch By the mid-1930s, the scientific basis of negative eugenics had been discredited. The well-documented phenomenon of hybrid vigor refuted notions of racial superiority, while Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium showed that dysgenic genes do not increase in a population. Members of Thomas Hunt Morgan's group showed that the genotype-phenotype relationship is highly variable, while Lionel Penrose found that most cases in a mental institution in Colchester, England resulted from a combination of genetic, environmental, and pathological causes. After a 1935 panel concluded that the work of the Eugenics Record Office was without scientific merit, eugenics research was phased out, and the facility was closed in December 1939. In the meantime, eugenics was gathering steam in Germany ? with help from America. In 1927, the Rockefeller Foundation provided funds for the constructon of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Anthropology, Human Genetics, and Eugenics in Berlin. The director, appropriately named Eugen Fischer, collaborated with Charles Davenport in the management of the International Federation of Eugenics Organizations. On the occasion of the International Eugenics Congress in Rome, in 1929, they drafted a memo to Mussolini encouraging him to move ahead on eugenics with "maximum speed." In 1936, Harry Laughlin's contributions to race hygiene in Germany were recognized with an honorary degree from the University of Heidelberg. Hitler read Fischer's textbook Principles of Human Heredity and Race Hygiene while in prison at Landsberg and used eugenical notions to support the ideal of a pure Aryan society in his manifesto, Mein Kampf (My Struggle). When he came to power in 1933, Hitler charged the medical profession with the task of implementing a national program of race hygiene ? a key element of which was passage of an act permitting involuntary sterilization of feebleminded, mentally ill, epileptics, and alcoholics. Within a year, more than 50,000 sterilizations were ordered, and doctors competed to fill sterilization quotas. By the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, an estimated 400,000 people had been sterilized. James Watson discusses the founding of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Anthropology, Human Genetics, and Eugenics, the German equivalent of the Eugenics Record Office.


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