Alfred Ploetz

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Alfred Ploetz

Alfred Ploetz (born August 22, 1860 in Swinoujscie ; † March 20, 1940 in Herrsching am Ammersee ) was a German doctor and racial researcher . Together with Wilhelm Schallmayer, he is considered the founder of eugenics in Germany and coined the term racial hygiene .


Ploetz spent his school days in Breslau . Even then he made friends with his classmate Carl Hauptmann , brother of Gerhart Hauptmann . As a primary school student, he founded a student secret society in 1879 to “train the race”. In Gerhart Hauptmann's drama Before Sunrise , which premiered on October 20, 1889 in Berlin and shows the dangers of inherited physical and psychological stress for society in the case of a "degenerate" family, the key figure of the journalist Loth bears the traits of Ploetzen.

After finishing school, studied Ploetz in Wroclaw initially economics . There he joined the student "Free Scientific Association". In addition to his brother, his circle of friends initially included Ferdinand Simon (who later became August Bebel's son-in-law ), the brothers Carl and Gerhart Hauptmann, Heinrich Lux and Charles Proteus Steinmetz . This group read the works of Haeckel and Darwin with enthusiasm . Carl Hauptmann was a student of Ernst Haeckel; Gerhart Hauptmann and Ploetz attended some of his lectures. This circle expanded, developed a plan to found a colony in one of the Pacific states and established itself as the "Pacific" association. The plan was "a community on a friendly, socialist and probably also Pan-Germanic basis". In the course of the persecution of socialist people as a result of Bismarck's Socialist Law (1878–1890), Ploetz fled to Zurich in 1883, where he continued to study economics with Julius Platter (1844–1923). In his memoirs, Ploetz cites as an important reason for his choice of Zurich that socialist theories were only touched upon while studying in Breslau. In Zurich he was able to deal with it more intensively and make the acquaintance of some socialists and social democrats. In the 1880s, free Switzerland with its liberal asylum law was the target of various people suffering from political persecution.

In the same year the association "Pacific" was registered with the police on November 1, 1883 in Breslau. Ploetz was designated as president, Gerhart Hauptmann as minister for culture and Carl as minister for science. The founders of “Pacific” were strongly influenced by Étienne Cabet's Voyage en Icarie . On behalf of "Pacific", Ploetz was sent from Zurich to the USA to examine this utopian colonist idea in an Icarian colony that had a branch in Iowa . In Chicago he also studied the various socialist colonies in the state library, but found that almost all of them were built on a religious basis. He lived with the Icarieans for half a year, but had disappointing experiences because of the human weaknesses that also prevailed there, which led him to the realization that the "race" must not only be protected but also improved.

The association "Pacific" was indicted in the Wroclaw socialist trial. Gerhart Hauptmann was questioned about this in 1887 and also asked about Ploetz, who had fled to Switzerland “from the henchmen of the Socialist Law”.

Back in Zurich, Ploetz began studying medicine. In Zurich he met the psychiatrist Auguste Forel , who exerted a tremendous attraction on a number of socially critical students and who was a passionate advocate of anti-alcoholism and women's rights . A group of students and professors formed, in which there was a lot of discussion and which, in addition to Ploetz and Forel, included Gustav von Bunge , Frank Wedekind , Richard Avenarius , Adolf Fick , Rudolf Pöch, and Carl and Gerhart Hauptmann.

Hauptmann described this group as follows: “Hereditary issues were discussed a lot in medicine and beyond. Under Forels and Ploetzen's leadership also in our circle. ”There are various statements in the literature about the composition and the participants of the circle. So be Otto Lang and Agnes Bluhm , and Ernst Rudin (known in the family also Paule) and his sister Pauline, Eugen Bleuler and Hans Wolfgang Maier called.

In 1889, Ploetz was portrayed by Gerhart Hauptmann in the drama Before Sunrise . He was the model for the figure of the abstainer Alfred Loth, whom Hauptmann had quoted in the drama text from Gustav von Bunge's book The Alcohol Question (1887).

In 1890 Ploetz received her doctorate in medicine and married Pauline Rüdin , a doctor who received her doctorate in the same year. Ploetz moved with Pauline to Springfield (USA) in 1890, where they lived for the next four years in a kind of commune in which Ploetz tried to realize his socio-political ideas. Pauline was divorced from Ploetz in 1898 because of “childlessness of marriage”. She committed in 1942 in Switzerland suicide . Also around 1890 Ploetz turned away from his earlier socialist ideals and came to the view that a future society must be shaped in its political organization according to the principles of Darwinism .

After his divorce, Ploetz married Anita Nordenholz and moved with her to Herrsching am Ammersee. They had two sons, Ulrich (called Uli) and Wilfrid (* 1912) Ploetz and in between a daughter Cordelia, called Deda. Thanks to the fortune of his second wife, he became the owner of the Rezensried estate near Herrsching am Ammersee.

Ploetz founded the journal Archive for Racial and Social Biology (ARGB) in 1904 . In 1905 he was the initiator of the establishment of the German Society for Racial Hygiene . His work for the magazine and society was supported by Ernst Haeckel, with whom he was friends and kept in regular contact. In February 1906 he became a member of Haeckel's Monistenbund . From 1910 he was on the board of the German Society for Sociology .

Together with Fritz Lenz and the doctor Arthur Wollny , Ploetz founded the secret organization "Ring der Norda" within the Society for Racial Hygiene in 1907. In 1910, Ploetz, Lenz and Wollny founded another secret society under the name "Nordic Ring", which was later renamed "Bogenclub München". All these secret societies for “saving the Nordic race” were supposed to be the crystallization core of the Society for Racial Hygiene for “Nordic-Germanic racial hygiene” and obliged the members to adhere to the “Nordic idea”.

In 1917, Ploetz called for the establishment of a local group of the German Fatherland Party .

On his 70th birthday on August 22, 1930, he was made an honorary doctorate from the University of Munich.

Ploetz welcomed the seizure of power by the National Socialists and wrote in an address of allegiance to Hitler in April 1933 that he “who leads German racial hygiene out of the undergrowth of its previous path through his willpower into the wide field of free activity” with “warm admiration” squeeze your hand ”.

In the "Expert Advisory Board for Population and Racial Policy" set up by Reich Interior Minister Frick in 1933 , Ploetz was a member of the Working Group for Racial Hygiene and Racial Policy (AG II) alongside Fritz Lenz, Ernst Rüdin and Hans FK Günther . This expert advisory board had the task of examining all draft laws for their demographic and racial effects and for questions of political enforceability before they were passed.

In 1936 he was appointed professor by Hitler because, according to Arthur Gütt , who worked in the Reich Ministry of the Interior , he had “greatly influenced the development of the Third Reich”. He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1936 for his warning about the biological consequences war has on human reproduction . In 1937 he joined the NSDAP (membership number 4,457,957). In 1937 he was elected a member of the Leopoldina .

Ploetz is the grandfather of the translator Dagmar Ploetz , wife of the writer Uwe Timm .


In his book The Efficiency of Our Race and the Protection of the Weak (1895) he sketched a picture of a society in which the ideas of racial hygiene are applied. Tests of moral and intellectual abilities determine the possibility of marriage and the number of children allowed and can also result in a ban on procreation. Unauthorized children are aborted, the sick and the weak, twins and children whose parents, in Ploetz's opinion, are too old or young are "exterminated". It is not clear whether Ploetz describes this as a warning or utopia or as a desired state. He wrote:

“The creation of good children [...] is not left to any chance of a tipsy hour, but regulated according to principles that science has established for time and other conditions [...]. If it nevertheless turns out that the newborn is a weak or misshapen child, the medical college, which decides on the Society's citizenship letter, will give it a gentle death, say with a small can of morphine. "

Alfred Ploetz also positions himself there resolutely against enlightenment efforts to equalize:

"The limitation of the struggle for existence and the increase in counter-selection appear mainly in the wake of the triumphant advance of the humanitarian equality concept through our modern cultural world."

“Support for the poor should only be minimal and only given to people who no longer have any influence on brood care. Such and other 'humane emotional drudgery' such as caring for the sick, the blind, the deaf and mute, and generally all the weak, only hinder or delay the effectiveness of natural selection. "

Ploetz gave the " Nordic race " a special place. His writings had a strong influence on the National Socialist racial doctrine .

The later connection of racial hygiene with anti-Semitism was by no means planned by Ploetz himself. In view of the first anti-Semitic electoral successes in 1893, he even praised the qualities of the “Jewish race” and criticized anti-Semitism: “The high qualifications of the Jews and their outstanding role in the development process of humanity must without further ado with joy in view of the names of Jesus, Spinoza, Marx be recognized [...] The whole anti-Semitism is a blow in the water, the waves of which will slowly pass in the flood of scientific knowledge and humane democracy. "

The early Alfred Ploetz found no essential difference in the “racial character” between Aryans and Jews. The intellectual talent of the Jews as well as their role in the development process of mankind made them an indispensable factor in the “racial mixture”, which Ploetz considered a suitable means for increasing “racial fitness”. However, the Jews of Ploetz were only considered valuable because of their Aryan racial proportion, that is, Ploetz associated racial affiliation with a certain quality, which is why he judged the Semitic racial proportion as the inferior compared to the Aryan. In the 1920s, his attitude changed insofar as the Jews were now considered to be racially and optically identifiable, that is to say, a pure type.

He later revised this view as well. Ploetz distanced himself from the idea of ​​positive racial mixing and advocated racial purity. He emphasized the peculiarity of the Jews, whose intellectual characteristics would now turn negatively into profit-making, individualism or a lack of love for the military and the nation. In addition to internal selection, he favored the global dominance of the Aryan race.

After his death in 1940, the National Socialist and racial hygienist Otmar Freiherr von Verschuer attested that he had "experienced the National Socialist movement and admired the work of the Führer" with "inner sympathy and enthusiasm [...]." His brother-in-law Ernst Rüdin, also a committed National Socialist, paid tribute to him two years earlier as a man "who, through his meritorious achievements, contributed to the development of our National Socialist worldview".

Fonts (selection)

  • The processes in the frog testicles under the influence of the season: comparison of Rana temporaria and esculenta . Inaugural dissertation Zurich, Univ., Diss., 1890; Archive for Anatomy and Physiology, Suppl., 1890; Veit, Leipzig 1890
  • The efficiency of our race and the protection of the weak. An experiment on racial hygiene and its relationship to humane ideals, especially to socialism. Basic lines of a racial hygiene, 1st part. Fischer, Berlin 1895; again Books on Demand , 2010, ISBN 1-148-79841-2 , this edition
  • Aims and tasks of racial hygiene . Vieweg, Braunschweig 1911. Reprint from: German quarterly journal for public health care , Volume 43, 1
  • The importance of early marriage for the renewal of the people after the war . JF Lehmanns, 1918, pp. 77-87
  • Social anthropology. Teubner, Leipzig 1923
  • Public opinion. Heredity. Marriage counseling. 1930
  • Racial Hygiene and War. In: Population issues. Report of the International Congress for Population Science, Berlin, August 26 - September 1, 1935. Munich 1936, pp. 615–620.


  • The illegitimate, a sensitive measure of the moral strength of our people. Celebrated: Alfred Ploetz . Series: Archives for Racial and Social Biology including Racial and Social Hygiene, 36. Lehmanns, Munich 1942

See also


  • Peter Emil Becker: Social Darwinism, Racism, Anti-Semitism and Völkischer Thought . Series: Paths to the Third Reich, 2. Thieme, Stuttgart 1990, ISBN 3-13-736901-0
    • ders .: On the history of racial hygiene. Series: Ways into the Third Reich. ibid. 1988, ISBN 3-13-716901-1 , chap. "Alfred Ploetz", pp. 57-137
  • Stefan Breuer : Orders of Inequality. The German right in the conflict of their ideas 1871-1945. WBG, Darmstadt 2001, ISBN 3-534-15575-0 . Chapter “Blood”, p. 47–76, especially the section “Racial Hygienist”, p. 61 ff.
  • Bernhard vom Brocke : Population science , quo vadis? Possibilities and problems of a history of population science in Germany . Leske + Budrich, Opladen 1998, ISBN 3-8100-2070-2
  • Jürgen Peter : The breach of racial hygiene in medicine. Impact of racial hygiene on thought collectives and medical specialties from 1918 to 1934 . Frankfurt 2004
  • Peter Weingart , Jürgen Kroll, Kurt Bayertz: Race, Blood and Genes. History of eugenics and racial hygiene in Germany . 3. Edition. Frankfurt a. M. 2001, ISBN 3-518-28622-6
  • Werner Doeleke: Alfred Ploetz (1860-1940). Social Darwinist and social biologist . Frankfurt am Main 1975
  • Paul Weindling : Health, Race and German Politics between National Unification and Nazism, 1870-1945 . Cambridge University Press, New York 1993, ISBN 0-521-42397-X
  • Hans-Peter Kröner:  Ploetz, Alfred Julius. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 20, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 2001, ISBN 3-428-00201-6 , p. 549 ( digitized version ).
  • Hans-Peter Kröner: Ploetz, Alfred. In: Werner E. Gerabek , Bernhard D. Haage, Gundolf Keil , Wolfgang Wegner (eds.): Enzyklopädie Medizingeschichte. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 2005, ISBN 3-11-015714-4 , p. 1170 f.
  • Johanna Bleker, Svenja Ludwig: Emancipation and Eugenics. The letters from the women's rights activist, racial hygienist and geneticist Agnes Bluhm to Alfred Ploetz's college friend from 1901–1938 . Treatises on the history of medicine and the natural sciences, 100. Matthiesen, Husum 2008, ISBN 978-3-7868-4100-5

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Bernhard vom Brocke: Population science - Quo vadis? Possibilities and problems of a history of population science in Germany . Leske + Budrich, Opladen 1998, ISBN 3-8100-2070-2 , p. 60
  2. ^ Paul Weindling: Health, Race and German Politics between National Unification and Nazism, 1870-1945. Cambridge University Press, New York / New Rochelle a. a. 1989/1993 , ISBN 0-521-42397-X , p. 68
  3. Peter Emil Becker: To the history of racial hygiene. Paths to the Third Reich. Thieme, Stuttgart 1988, ISBN 3-13-716901-1 , p. 59
  4. ^ A b Peter Emil Becker: To the history of racial hygiene. Paths to the Third Reich . Thieme, Stuttgart 1988, ISBN 3-13-716901-1 , p. 68
  5. ^ Heinz Dieter Tschörtner : The seven. Gerhart Hauptmann and the Icarians . In: Schlesischer Kulturspiegel , issue 4, October – December 2003, p. 70 f.
  6. ^ Heinz Dieter Tschörtner: The seven. Gerhart Hauptmann and the Icarians . In: Schlesischer Kulturspiegel , issue 4, October-December 2003, p. 71
  7. Peter Emil Becker: To the history of racial hygiene. Paths to the Third Reich . Thieme, Stuttgart 1988, ISBN 3-13-716901-1 , p. 61
  8. Gerhart Hauptmann: Complete Works. Centenary issue. Volume 7: Autobiography ; Propylaea, Berlin 1962, p. 1065
  9. ^ Rolf Winau : Human breeding - utopias and ethical evaluation . In: Alfred Schäfer, Michael Wimmer (eds.): Feasibility fantasies . VS Verlag, 2002, ISBN 3-8100-3628-5 , p. 56
  10. Thomas Huonker : Diagnostics and "Eugenics", on the diagnoses "schizophrenia" and "moral idiocy" and their influence by Eugen Bleuler and Hans Wolfgang Maier . Presentation on the day of remembrance of the victims of National Socialism in the Reichenau Psychiatry Center , January 27, 2004
  11. ^ Pauline Rüdin in the online documentation at the Free University of Berlin: Doctors in the Empire . Retrieved May 8, 2020 .
  12. Matthias M. Weber: Harnack Principle or Führer Principle? Hereditary biology under Ernst Rüdin at the German Research Institute for Psychiatry (Kaiser Wilhelm Institute) in Munich . In: Bernhard vom Brocke, Hubert Laitko (ed.): The Kaiser Wilhelm Max Planck Society and its institutes . de Gruyter, Berlin a. a. 1996, ISBN 3-11-015483-8 , p. 412
  13. ^ Ernst Klee: The dictionary of persons on the Third Reich . Fischer, Frankfurt / Main: 2003, ISBN 3-10-039309-0 , p. 466.
  14. ^ A b Bernhard vom Brocke: Population Science - Quo vadis? Possibilities and problems of a history of population science in Germany . Leske + Budrich, Opladen 1998, ISBN 3-8100-2070-2 , p. 436
  15. ^ A b Paul Weindling: Health, Race and German Politics between National Unification and Nazism, 1870-1945 . Cambridge University Press, New York 1993, ISBN 0-521-42397-X , p. 132
  16. Georg Simmel (Ed.): Negotiations of the First German Sociological Conference from 19. – 22. October 1910 in Frankfurt a. M .: Speeches and lectures and debates . JCB Mohr (Paul Siebeck), Tübingen 1911, p. IX .
  17. ^ Ernst Klee: German Medicine in the Third Reich . Fischer Verlag, 2001, p. 27
  18. Stefan Kühl: The International of Racists. The rise and fall of the international eugenics and racial hygiene movement in the 20th century . Campus reference book, 1997, ISBN 3-593-35755-0 , p. 123
  19. Anahid S. Rickman: Race care in the völkisch state. On the relationship between racial hygiene and National Socialist politics (PDF; 1.9 MB). Diss. Phil. Bonn 2002, p. 331.
  20. ^ Bundesarchiv Zehlendorf party files
  21. Uwe Timm in the WDR 5 radio broadcast Uwe Timm and his novel "Ikarien" . on May 10, 2018 (repeated on June 3, 2018, 11 p.m.), which broadcast a moderated reading of his then most recent novel Ikarien at the “ Lit.Cologne Spezial” in October 2017; see Icaria .
  22. The Fitness of Our Race and the Protection of the Weak , p. 144
  23. The efficiency of our race and the protection of the weak , p. 116
  24. The efficiency of our race and the protection of the weak , p. 146)
  25. The efficiency of our race and the protection of the weak , pp. 141f .; quoted from Massimo Ferari Zumbini: The roots of evil. Founding years of anti-Semitism: From the Bismarckian era to Hitler . Vittorio Klostermann, Frankfurt am Main 2003, ISBN 3-465-03222-5 , p. 406
  26. Julia Schäfer: Measure - drawn - laughed at. Images of Jews in popular magazines 1918–1933 . Campus Verlag, 2005, ISBN 3-593-37745-4 , p. 181 f.
  27. Julia Schäfer: Measuring - drawn - ridiculed images of Jews in popular magazines 1918–1933 . Campus Verlag, 2005, ISBN 3-593-37745-4 , p. 182
  28. ^ Otmar von Verschuer: Alfred Ploetz . In: Der Erbarzt , 8/1940, pp. 69–72, 1940; here p. 71
  29. Ernst Ruedin: Honor of Prof. Dr. Alfred Ploetz . In: ARGB , 32/1938, pp. 473-474, here p. 474