Skip to comments.Margaret Sanger, the NAZIS and Eugenics
Posted on 05/31/2004 5:37:17 PM PDT by Coleus
As reported recently in the British Medical Journal:
The Swedish government is to investigate why thousands of women were forcibly sterilized on eugenic grounds from the 1930s up to the 1970s.... Up to 60,000 people were sterilized [without consent] on the grounds of having 'undesirable racial characteristics or otherwise 'inferior' qualities, such as very poor eyesight, mental retardation, or an 'unhealthy sexual appetite.'
Attitudes which provide the backdrop for these crimes continue. British medical students were asked if they agreed with the statement, "The socially disadvantaged cannot keep having children they can't cope with; it is appropriate in these cases for a doctor to press for sterilization even if it is against the patient's initial wishes." A third of the women and half of the men agreed. A quarter of the men agreed "strongly."
A 1971 University of North Carolina study showed that 77 percent of doctors surveyed favored either compulsory sterilization of welfare recipients or withholding public support for their additional children. An intern at the Los Angeles County-U.S.C. Medical Center told an interviewer that, "If we're going to pay for them, we should control them." The United States pioneered such controls.
America was Nazi Germany's role model. The United States was actually the first country to sanction sterilization. It is reported that the triumph of eugenic sterilization programs in the United States during the 1930's influenced Germany to enact their own sterilization laws*. In 1934, Virginia eugenics pioneer deLarnetts lamented, "The Germans are beating us at our own game."
* Laws which included, interestingly, conscientious objectors who were described to have, "a frame of mind that was considered to be a form of schizophrenia and consequently classified as hereditary." (Of course Britain was doing scabies and scurvy experiments on CO's during WWII).
JAMA article "Medicine Against Society":
As the Nazis radicalized the eugenics and race hygiene movements, the U.S. efforts were regarded as models to be used in developing their own race policies.... German racial theorists clearly believed it was important to focus especially on the United States to argue that Germany was not alone in its efforts to protect and preserve racial purity.
From the book The Nazi Doctors:
German racial hygienists throughout the... period expressed their envy of American achievements in this area, warning that unless the Germans made progress in this field, America would become the world's racial leader.
Nazi physicians on more than one occasion argued that the German racial policies were relatively 'liberal' compared with the treatment of Blacks in the United States... [where] a person with 1/32nd black ancestry was legally black, whereas if someone was 1/8th Jewish in Germany... that person was legally Aryan.
In 1938, German physicians barred Jews from practicing medicine. In 1939, Germany's leading racial hygiene journal reported the refusal of the American Medical Association to admit Black physicians to its membership; 5000 Black physicians had petitioned to join the all-white American body but were turned down.
The American medical literature at the time almost unanimously favored involuntary sterilization for the "feebleminded." Eugenics was one of our nation's favorite topics at the beginning of this century. Laws were lobbied, "to render every male sterile who passes its portals, whether it be almshouse, insane asylum, institute for the feebleminded, reformatory or prison." Between 1907 and 1963 there were eugenical sterilization programs in 30 states. More than 60,000 persons were sterilized pursuant to state laws.
The states were supported in their effort by the federal government. Theodore Roosevelt, for example, was an ardent eugenicist, one who urged Americans to have large families in order to avoid, "racial dilution by the weaker immigrant stock." In the Spring of 1927, concerning the sterilization of Carrie Buck - an 11-year old girl committed to Virginia's State Colony for Epileptics and Feeble-Minded - the Supreme Court upheld involuntary sterilization.
Oliver Wendell Holmes, writing for the 8-1 majority:
In order to prevent our being swamped with incompetents... society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind. The principle that sustains compulsory vaccination is broad enough to cover cutting the Fallopian tubes.,*
* Interestingly Catholic priests and a Tufts neurologist named Abraham Myerson were among the earliest and most successful critics of eugenics in the country.
More children from the fit, less from the unfit - Margaret Sanger
Margaret Sanger - radical socialist, founder of Planned Parenthood, feminist champion - she is credited with coining the term "birth control." She opened America's first birth control clinic, leading to her arrest and incarceration. But she was also a leader of the American eugenics movement.
She felt welfare programs were an obstacle to an effort - in her words - "to weed out the feeble and unfit.... Funds that should be used to raise the standard of our civilization are diverted to the maintenance of those who should never have been born."
Sanger advocated that, "illiterates, paupers, unemployables, criminals, prostitutes, dope fiends" be segregated to "farms" for "immediate sterilization." "Non-Aryan people [of the United States are] a great biological menace to the future of civilization," she said. She described Blacks as, "human weeds."
Clarence Gamble, one of her associates, wrote to her, "There is a great danger we will fail because the Negroes think it is a plan for extermination." Sanger wrote back to him on October 19, 1939; "We do not want word to get out that we want to exterminate the Negro population."
According to a Bulletin of the History of Medicine article entitled "The Physician versus the Negro," the belief in the Negro's extinction became one of the most pervasive ideas in American medical and anthropological thought during most of the late nineteenth century. Doctors theorized that the effect of emancipation had been, "too overwhelming for the race."
"That the immediate emancipation of the Southern Negro was a most deplorable event in the history of that unhappy race has become quite manifest," wrote one physician. "The only hope for the southern end of the United States is just these forces that are tending to exterminate the Negro." Doctors suggested that society should help that process of extinction along.
The welcome address of the American Surgical Association's national meeting a hundred years ago:
Preserving ethnological purity as an ethical instinct in our contact with the lower races, and, therefore, race dominance, we have developed and overspread islands and continents, always in the direction of the greatest possibilities.... On this continent we did not commingle with, but wiped out, the incorrigible Indian....
In depopulating a continent during the American slave trade, doctors participated in the selection process, much as they did in the concentration camps. Often, the slaves who survived the journey, but were not selected, were decapitated and their bodies thrown overboard. Slave ship surgeons, it is recorded, were the persons in charge of manipulating the torture instruments onboard.
One psychiatrist convicted of war crimes committed at Buchenwald was a former member of the faculty at Harvard Medical School. He testified at Nuremburg that he had drafted for the governor of New Jersey the law for sterilization of epileptics, criminals and incurably insane, following the state of Indiana which first introduced the law in 1910.
Another defendant reminded U.S. prosecutors of Madison Grant, the Chairman of the New York Zoological Society and curator of the American Natural History Museum, who wrote:
A strict selection by exterminating the insane or incapable - in other words, the scum of society - would solve the whole problem.... Otherwise future generations too will be burdened with the curse of an ever increasing number of victims of misguided sentimentality.
America's atrocity precocity extended to human experimentation as well - Appendix 65b.
 Armstrong, C. "Thousands of Women Sterilized in Sweden Without Consent." British Medical Journal 315(1997):563.
 Savage, WD and P Tate. "Medical Students' Attitudes Towards Women." Medical Education 17(1983):159-164.
 Boisaubin, EV. "Nazi Medicine." Journal of the American Medical Association 279(1998):1496.
 Barondess, JA. "Medicine Against Society." Journal of the American Medical Association 276(1996):1657-1661.
 Lifton, RJ. The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide New York: Basic Books, 1986.
 Tell, D. "Eugenics Then and Now." Weekly Standard 15 September 1997:9.
 Elvin, J. "Did Mother of Free Love Urge Selective Breeding?" Insight on the News 12(1996):18.
 "Margaret Sanger." Spartacus 1997(Fall):8-11.
 Haller, JS. "The Physician Versus the Negro." Bulletin of the History of Medicine 44(1970):154-167.
 Bruwer, A. "Thoughts After Reading Robert Jay Liftons 'The Nazi Doctors.'" Medicine and War 5(1989):185-196.
 Lapon, L. "Mass Murderers In White Coats." in From Harvard To Buchenwald: A Chronology Of Psychiatry And Eugenics.
Thanks for posting it.
'unhealthy sexual appetite.'
I wonder how folks like Sanger, who had multiple affairs, determined whose sexual appetite was unhealthy.
Later that year, Sanger separated from her husband, William. Being a sexually liberated woman, Margaret began a series of affairs with several men, including ...H.G. Wells.
BTTT for Life!
Thanks for posting this. Of course we love to denigrate the Nazis, but we often forget that our own history is not spotess.
There is a huge difference between forced sterilization and denying further benefits for those who insist on having children they do not have the resources to support.
more ammo ping
Sounds reasonable to me.
Hitler liked dogs, that doesn't make liking dogs wrong.
He also was godfather to the Volkswagen and pushed eugenics.
If so, it's sad commentary on who they choose to revere.
Some ideas never change. What does change is the label for them. Now it is believed to be high brow "knowledge" that makes this evil acceptable.
Oh, oh, oh...I have to read this, but my liberal aunt is standing over my shoulder. Be back later. Don't let me forget to read this.
And Sanger was probably smart enough to stay away from Sweden. :-)
So many who have had the luxury to nurture their social conscience have asked themselves the question, "Where can I make the biggest difference? For me, I came to choose medicine.
In college though, I learned a lot more than biology. Thanks to resources like Cornell's Alternatives Library, I started reading Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn. I started to get more active.
Do realize this guy is a flaming lefty? He's perfectly comfortable with abortion, he just doesn't want it forced on poor people.
Thanks for the tidbit, I didn't know that and will try to find out.