National Socialist Racial Hygiene

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Plaque commemorating the role of eugenicists in Nazi crimes, Berlin

The National Socialist racial hygiene (or Nazi racial hygiene ) was the radical variant of eugenics operated at the time of National Socialism , at that time also called hereditary care . The practical implementation took place through the enforcement of the Nuremberg Race Laws and the marriage prohibitions stipulated therein , through compulsory sterilization of various diseases and population groups, through compulsory abortions and through the " destruction of life unworthy of life " in the " Action T4 " and the so-called " child euthanasia " within the framework of the murders of the sick in the time of National Socialism .

The Nazi rulers made it possible for the eugenicists / racial hygienists in Germany to implement their ideas in a more radical way than their colleagues in the UK , the USA or Sweden, for example, were able to do . Most of them joined National Socialism. Of the best-known anthropologists , human geneticists and racial hygienists of the Nazi era, whose personnel files are stored in the Berlin Document Center (BDC), more than 90% were members of the NSDAP , 36% of them belonged to the SS and 26% to the SA .

Ideological foundations

The concept of racial hygiene

Racial hygiene was originally the German term for eugenics . The contents are not clearly delineated, the terms are often used synonymously.

The term goes back to the doctor Alfred Ploetz , who first used it as a German synonym for eugenics in his book The Efficiency of Our Race and the Protection of the Weak from 1895.

“Eugenics is the self-regulation of human evolution ”: Logo of the second International Eugenics Conference, 1921

The term “ racial hygiene” , influenced by modern racism , indicates that the term “ race” is being given greater weight . While eugenics originally set itself the goal of “Aufartung”, that is, the selection of healthy and supposedly high-quality genes , and it was not about the breeding of a special, for example “ Aryan race ”, but rather the development of a “vital race” of a “genetically healthy” humanity, the idea of ​​a Nordic “ master race ” fell on fertile ground, especially in Germany. Scientists who, like the doctor Wilhelm Schallmayer, advocated a more neutral term than racial hygiene, could not prevail. Schallmayer spoke of “racial hygiene” instead of “racial hygiene” in order to distinguish himself from the increasing typological use of the term “race”, which was mainly related to the fashionable reception of Gobineau . Schallmayer also suggested Eugenics and National Biology (analogous to economics ) before.

A distinction is made between positive eugenics and positive racial hygiene, i.e. the supposed improvement of the genetic material through breeding measures e.g. B. Promotion of large families, and negative eugenics or negative racial hygiene, that is, the removal of undesired genetic material from the gene pool of a population for the benefit of future generations.

The idea of ​​eugenics or racial hygiene goes back a long way and is a phenomenon not limited to Germany. It all began in England.


Social Darwinism is an essential foundation of racial hygiene . It is based on the transfer of central metaphors ( struggle for life , in German often translated as “struggle for existence”) from the biological evolution theory designed by Charles Darwin to human society. Darwin himself was not a social Darwinist; for properties like altruism are supported by Darwin's theory of evolution. The actual concept of social Darwinism comes from Herbert Spencer . Spencer also coined the term (often incorrectly attributed to Darwin) of the survival of the fittest (“survival of the most suitable / best adapted”, incorrectly also “survival of the fittest”). While this resulted in the survival of the most suitable race in Germany, in Great Britain it remained the survival of the suitable individuals.

In 1920 the publication The Release of Destruction of Unworthy Life was published. Its size and shape by Karl Binding and Alfred Hoche , which, beyond medical specialist circles, had a strong impact on lawyers and an interested public. As early as 1929, Adolf Hitler declared at the NSDAP party congress in Nuremberg:

"[...] if Germany had a million children a year and 700,000 to 800,000 of the weakest were eliminated, then in the end the result might even be an increase in strength."

Houston Stewart Chamberlain's major racist work The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century , which was first published in 1899 to 1944 , had a major influence on the emergence of the racial hygiene ideology . Other masterminds from before 1933 were Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919), Alfred Ploetz (1860-1940), Alfred Hoche (1865-1934) and Karl Binding (1841-1920), Alfred Methner (1857-1933) and Fritz Lenz (1887-1976).

For a more detailed description of the basics of racial hygiene, see Eugenics # Basics


Looking at the history as a whole, the Weingart / Kroll / Bayertz team of authors comes to the conclusion that the majority of eugenicists were "nationalistic, if not folkish, racist or Nazi". The racist ideas behind racial hygiene, however, are not to be found solely on the part of the nationalist movement. Racial hygiene ideas can also be found among other aims among bourgeois, democratic, socialist, social democratic, liberal or Christian authors. The basis is above all concern about genetic and cultural degeneration or “ degeneration ” of humanity as well as the reorganization of sexuality under a rationalist dispositive .

Racial hygiene and Hitler's Mein Kampf

Hitler had dealt intensively with racial hygiene during his imprisonment in Landsberg am Lech. Among other things, he read the 2nd volume of the work Outline of the human heredity theory and racial hygiene by Baur , Fischer and Fritz Lenz, i.e. the part human selection and racial hygiene written by Fritz Lenz . Ideas from this work were incorporated into Hitler's Mein Kampf , some passages have been taken almost verbatim. So Hitler leaves no doubt that he wants to carry out a rigorous anti-natalist program: “He” [the völkisch state] “has to see to it that only those who are healthy, children can show that there is only one shame: their own but to put their own disease and defects children into the world [...]. "From euthanasia is in Mein Kampf no question.

Lenz, in turn, reviewed Mein Kampf after the NSDAP's gains in the 1930 Reichstag elections in an article in the Archive for Racial and Social Biology .

"[Hitler is] the first politician of really great influence who has recognized racial hygiene as a central task of all politics and who wants to work actively for it."

Lenz wrote in the fourth edition of the standard work Human Heredity and Racial Hygiene :

"[D] that National Socialism honestly strives for a recovery of the race is not to be doubted."

Real history of racial hygiene in National Socialism

Population policy of the National Socialists

An "information poster" from the exhibition Miracles of Life 1935 in Berlin

Until the National Socialist “ seizure of power ” in 1933, the process of political implementation of the racial hygiene program in Germany ran along the same lines as in other Western European countries. With the seizure of power, however, a radicalization process began. Racial hygiene had paved the way for the National Socialists' population policy.

The Nazi state was interested in both a quantitative and a qualitative population policy. This comprised pro and anti-natalistic measures on the one hand to control the type and size of the population in accordance with Nazi racial doctrine. In addition to promoting the “genetically healthy” and “ Aryan ” offspring, the number of people defined by National Socialism as hereditary and non-Aryan should be reduced through “extermination”, sterilization and persecution. For this purpose, laws were passed and authorities created, such as the hereditary health courts or the racial hygiene and population biological research center .

As early as 1933, an intensive propaganda program was intended to ensure acceptance among the population with regard to racial hygiene measures. In addition to lectures and training courses in hospitals and psychiatric institutions, which were supposed to win over and prepare doctors and nursing staff for the new tasks, attempts were made to manipulate the population by using all available media. In films such as “Erbkrank” and “Victims of the past”, sick people were lumped together with murderers and claims like: “The Jewish people represent a particularly high hundred mentally ill” made. Racial hygiene ideas were disseminated through magazines, posters, calendars, at rallies and in school lessons.

Overall, however, the German population remained skeptical, and the potential victims - unlike the policy against German Jews - were no longer limited to a more or less sharply defined group of people, but could potentially include everyone.

Pronatalistic politics

The interwar period was marked by stagnation of births and an aging population . Before 1910 there were always more than 30 births per 1000 inhabitants per year - since 1926 fewer than 20. The National Socialists wanted to use a pro-natalist policy to get the birth rate under control and to increase the “childbearing performance” of German women. Only children of “racially valuable” women were welcome. The reproduction of those 20–30 percent of the German population who were considered “inferior” according to strict racial hygiene criteria should be prevented. Health exams stipulated that not every woman was allowed to marry, whereby particularly strict standards were applied to the spouses of professional soldiers and members of the SS.

"Lebensborn" and the ban on abortion

Sister in a Lebensborn home, Federal Archives, from: SS Leitheft 9/3 S 33 f. 1943

1935 founded Heinrich Himmler the Lebensborn , which made itself the task "to support the abundance of children in the SS to protect every mother of good blood and to assist and to help needy mothers and children of good blood to care." Lebensborn gave unmarried "valuable" women the material opportunity to carry their children to term and thus offered them an alternative to abortion. One of the first laws passed by the new regime was the reintroduction of Sections 219 and 220 of the Criminal Code , which made abortion more punishable again. Before 1933, abortions were mainly punishable by fines and prison terms of less than three months. Under the Nazi regime, the proportion of higher prison sentences increased significantly.

At the same time, access to contraceptives was made more difficult. Women with “good blood” should neither prevent nor terminate pregnancies in the future. Children of Jewish women or other undesirable groups, on the other hand, were allowed to be aborted without giving a reason.

From 1942, due to the low birth rate, “Aryan”-looking, blond and blue-eyed children from occupied territories were abducted and Germanised from occupied territories.

Child benefits and marital loans

In addition to repressive measures, the regime used financial incentives to induce “racially valuable” women to reproduce. Large married couples were given tax breaks and financial support. Since 1936, working-class and salaried families whose monthly income was below 185 Reichsmarks received 10 RM per month for the fifth and each additional child. Two years later, this child benefit was made available for the third and fourth child.

Another incentive was the offer of a marriage loan . Since 1933, those willing to marry, who met the racial and social quality requirements, could claim a loan of up to RM 1,000. In addition to making it easier to get married and start a household, the loan was also intended to ensure more children per marriage: the loan debt per child was reduced by a quarter and was considered to be "weaker" after four births.

Propaganda and "Mother's Cross"

1st grade mother's cross in gold (eight or more children) with clasp and box

In addition to repressive and financial measures, well-staged propaganda was intended to ensure that women fulfilled their most important civic task of giving birth and raising children. Politicians have repeatedly insisted that every child born is "a battle she [the mother] fights for the being or not of her people". Motherhood was no longer a private matter, but was placed at the service of racial hygiene policy. Their value - for example for population policy - was underlined by a large number of public ceremonies. The Third Reich celebrated Mother's Day as a national festival with official honors for mothers who were happy to give birth, with speeches and gifts. On Mother's Day 1939, the state awarded about three million women the “ Cross of Honor of the German Mother ”.

Success of the pro-natalistic politics

In fact, the birth rate rose: in 1939, at 20.4 births per 1,000 inhabitants, it was more than five points higher than in 1932 and had almost returned to the 1924 level. It is questionable whether this increase was due to the National Socialist measures to increase the birth rate. The fact that more children were born in the five years after 1933 than in the corresponding period did not mean that the number of children per marriage rose. All efforts to stop the development of the two-child family failed. In the marriages concluded in 1920, an average of 2.3 children were born, in the 1930 and 1940, however, only 2.2 and 1.8 children respectively. The average household and family size continued to shrink in the Third Reich. Married couples apparently do not allow themselves to be deterred by the ban on abortion, child benefits or marriage loans from keeping the number of their offspring small.

Anti-natalist politics and negative eugenics

The National Socialists placed more emphasis on eliminating the “bad” genetic makeup than on the positive eugenic measures. The basis for the action against unwanted gene carriers can already be found in the racial hygiene development before 1933. In negative eugenics, the mutual influence and cooperation between racial hygiene and National Socialism become particularly clear. Hereditary racial hygiene mingled with anthropological racial theories.

Victims of racial hygiene

The victims of racial hygiene were physical, psychological, sensory (deafness, blindness) and especially mentally handicapped people, so-called " anti-social " and "foreign races". The assignments could overlap.

Physically, mentally and mentally disabled
Five disabled Jews in Buchenwald concentration camp , June campaign, propaganda recording, 1938

Physically, mentally and mentally handicapped inmates of the institution were particularly hard hit by the National Socialists' “Aufartungspolitik”. Her illness could mean, among other things, sterilization, abuse through neglect and medical experimentation, and (falsely so-called) euthanasia. But also people with disabilities outside of the institutions were not safe from National Socialist politics. The term mentally and mentally ill in the Nazi era was very broad. The testimony of neighbors and police officers, family backgrounds, the school leaving certificate and dubious questionnaires, in which above all cultural knowledge was queried, could lead to classification as "imbecile" and thus to sterilization. There was also the category of “moral idiocy”, which meant that all doors were open to diagnostic subjectivity. The transition from "feeble-minded" to "anti-social" was fluid.

Sensory disabled people (deaf and blind)

Sterilization of deaf people in particular was carried out with coercive measures or without their knowledge and consent during medical interventions. The communicative isolation of the pigeons made the procedure easier for them compared to the blind.

Deportation May 1940 in Asperg , Sinti are led through the village by the police

“Asocial” or - synonymously - “alien to the community” were all people from the lower social classes who were assessed as inferior, who did not work or did not work adequately, or who lived inappropriately. For reasons of social hygiene, this included in particular beggars , vagrants, Yenish "gypsy wanderers", homosexuals , prostitutes , pimps , welfare recipients unwilling to work, alcoholics and declassed lower- class families , but also sexually permissive women and people who neglected maintenance obligations. Sinti and Roma were considered to be “born anti-social” because of their ethnic or racial affiliation. Like the so-called “idiots”, “anti-socials” were recorded in “drink lists” and “clan files”, homosexuals in “pink lists”. The so-called anti-socials were affected by marriage bans, sterilization, asylum and internment. "Asocial" men were subjected to forced labor in concentration camps , "antisocial colonies" or "labor education camps". An unknown number of inmates did not survive the camp conditions. Supposedly "anti-social" young people were interned in youth concentration camps for discipline purposes .

"Foreign races"
The Poland badges had to because of the Polish decrees every Polish forced laborers in Germany bear

In Mein Kampf , Hitler formulated two main goals: the extermination of the Jews and the creation of new " living space in the East ". Racial hygiene also plays a role here. "Foreign races" were portrayed as a threat to their own "master race", as inferior, even unworthy of life. However, the eugenics held here rather as an excuse for racist and anti-Semitic motivated extermination policies ago. Jews, according to Hitler, are incapable of forming a viable state and therefore attempted to connect with “racially higher peoples” in order to then “ enslave ” them. They would ignore the differences in values ​​between the races and the necessity of the struggle for life between the peoples, from which he deduced that the German people, as "racial", have the task of fighting the Jews and reactivating the struggle for life between the peoples. In the case of the Roma and Sinti classified as “foreign racial”, who were categorized as “born asocial”, the social and racist persecution cannot be separated (although an inconsistent racial ideological tendency saw a minority of them as “Aryan”). In addition to Jews and Roma - among them the German Sinti and Roma - from all territories and states ruled by the National Socialists or connected with the German Reich, Eastern Europeans , blacks and Arabs also belonged to the "foreign races". Although the latter minority was viewed as " Hamitic " and thus related to the Semitic Jews, the term anti-Semitism was and is nonetheless generally only related to the Jewish people. Marriages with "foreign races" were forbidden; children from such "mixed connections" could be forced to abort. The Sinti and Roma, classified as both "foreign racial" and collectively "antisocial", were affected by the sterilization law like all "antisocials" . In the course of the raids against "anti-socials" in April and June 1938, more than 10,000 Jews, Sinti, Roma and members of other groups persecuted as "Gypsies", but at the same time members of " German-blooded " groups of "anti-socials" who were the eugenically motivated " Racial care ”were considered to be“ pests in the German national body ”, as were prostitutes, welfare recipients, vagabonds or“ land drivers ”who were deported to several concentration camps , an unknown number of which did not survive.

Abortion, Ban on Marriage and "Racial Disgrace"

The “Law for the Prevention of Hereditary Offspring” in the Reich Law Gazette of July 25, 1933

While the National Socialists urged "racially valuable" women to give children to their fatherland , women who did not meet the racial, social and political demands of the Nazi racial hygienists were prevented from having children. Even before the “ Law for the Prevention of Hereditary Offspring ” came into force , abortion was approved for a eugenic indication. At first, the consent of the pregnant woman was necessary for abortions; later, as the war progressed, abortions were carried out against their will, especially among Polish and Russian female forced laborers.

Since 1935, those wishing to marry had to take a health examination. No registrar was allowed to enter into a marriage without the submission of an official marriage health certificate . In practice, however, the health authorities were not able to examine all the couples called up so that the examinations were limited to "suspected cases".

On September 15, 1935, the Nuremberg Laws “for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor” were enacted, which prohibited marriages between Jews and “citizens of German or related blood”. Marriage of “good Germans” with colored people or “ gypsies ” was also forbidden . Violations of these prohibitions were punished with imprisonment. The demand made before 1933 to make “ racial disgrace ” a criminal offense led to pogroms against Jewish “racial abusers” , especially in 1934/35 . The Blood Protection Act and a Gestapo decree of September 18, 1935 enabled judicial proceedings and state control. Section 5 (2) of the Blood Protection Act, which precluded the conviction of women, was circumvented by the courts and the Gestapo by accusing women of perjury or favoritism and, above all, of Jewish women being sent to concentration camps by the Gestapo.

Racial hygiene through sterilization

Memorial stone in the Weilmünster Clinic to Nazi forced sterilization

The " Law for the Prevention of Hereditary Offspring " of July 14, 1933 affected prison inmates, sick, handicapped people and people who had been declared "feeble-minded", especially from poor backgrounds (and above all from districts that the Communists had elected in the Weimar Republic , according to Michael Burleigh in The Time of National Socialism ), "anti-social" and people in whose family mental illnesses occurred, and could mean sterilization for them. A notification requirement for doctors was introduced, i.e. possible hereditary defects had to be reported to the health authorities . The family doctor should be a “guardian of the German hereditary current”. The decision as to whether a person should be sterilized rests with the 225 newly established Hereditary Health Courts, over which 18 Higher Hereditary Health Courts were superordinate as appeal bodies and which could only order sterilization on the basis of an application even without questioning witnesses and in the absence of the person concerned.

By 1939, an estimated 200,000 to 350,000 people had been sterilized within the “ Old Reich ”; Overall, more than half a million victims of this measure are believed. This means that just under one percent of Germans have been made sterile. Around 5,000 people - mostly women - died as a result of complications during the operation, many - including women in particular - committed suicide or suffered permanent trauma .

Racial hygiene through isolation

"Work makes you free", Dachau concentration camp

In addition to sterilization, the National Socialists pursued the policy of isolation and thus again took up a demand from the racial hygienists. In addition to Jews and political prisoners, homeless people, beggars and the so-called “work-shy” were also deported to concentration camps. As a homeless person , you had to carry a “hiking book” with you as a compulsory identification document, in which hiking streets and accommodations were recorded - if you didn't have such a book, you could be arrested. During the first “beggar raid” from September 18 to 25, 1933, the police and the SA attacked tens of thousands of homeless people. Because there were insufficient prisons, many were released, and others were sent to regional labor camps. After this raid, the action against “anti-socials” remained largely in the hands of local and regional bodies until 1938.

In 1938 there were again nationwide raids. Those who carried it out were instructed to arrest men who were fit for work. Between April 21 and April 30, the Gestapo arrested around 2,000 "work-shy" people. In the summer of 1938, Reinhard Heydrich commissioned the criminal police to arrest at least 200 "anti-social" people in each police control center district, on the grounds that "anti-social crime has its roots" and on the basis of the decree on the "preventive fight against crime by the police" of December 14, 1937. On June 13, the " Arbeitsschaf Reich " campaign started; the minimum number of 200 was mostly far exceeded and ten thousand “anti-social” were taken to concentration camps for forced labor .

The “Arbeitsscheu Reich” campaign shows that the racial hygiene approach took a back seat in favor of economic considerations. Manpower was needed to prepare for war, and racial hygiene provided the perfect excuse to enslave thousands of able-bodied men.

Racial hygiene through extermination

A deportation train of Hungarian Jews reached Auschwitz in May 1944; on the right edge of the picture the southern end of the "gypsy camp".

The so-called “foreign races” were particularly affected by the extermination policy, but here “racial hygiene” is mixed with racism and anti-Semitism. Under the name “ Final Solution of the Jewish Question ”, around six million Jews were murdered in concentration camps, through massacres and systematic executions , in the Holocaust by the end of the war . The same happened in the Porajmos for a difficult to quantify number of Sinti, Roma and members of other groups persecuted as “Gypsies”.

The murder of the mentally ill inmates of the institution goes back to the racial hygienic ideas, coupled with economic considerations. The drastic reduction in expenses in the welfare sector meant severe restrictions, especially for the sanatoriums and nursing homes. In Hesse, for example, the daily meal rate fell to less than 40 pfennigs, a sum that could not be used to feed an adult. Many sick people died of starvation before the actual euthanasia began. The sick housed in institutions were systematically neglected and killed by deprivation of food, medical experiments or euthanasia.

But sick people who were cared for by their families should also be destroyed. The responsible doctors and carers were instructed to arrange admissions. Often enough it was the long-standing family doctor who made sure that the family had to say goodbye to their sick relatives who had previously lived and cared for at home. She had no action against the doctor's decision and was left in the dark about the further fate of the patient, as there were psychiatric institutions (e.g. Jerichow in Saxony-Anhalt) that were only used as "intermediate institutions" to trace blur.

Some time later, the family received the death notification (e.g. TB for a relatives who had previously been organically completely healthy) and the notification that they could have the urn of the deceased sent to them on request. Often enough, the urn was not requested because the families suspected or knew that it would not be the ashes of their loved ones, but those of someone else who had been murdered.

Child euthanasia

On August 18, 1939, two weeks before the start of the Second World War , midwives, obstetricians and doctors were ordered to register disabled newborns - this also applied retrospectively to children up to three years of age. After the war began, euthanasia began with the murder of these children. The medical reports that decided the life and death of the children were drawn up by doctors, some of whom the children did not even see. An overdose of the epilepsy drug phenobarbital , known under the trade name “Luminal”, was administered to kill the person , and the death was caused by systematic malnutrition. The consent of the parents, which was an official requirement for the killing of the children, was obtained in a very dubious manner, and the parents often did not know what to expect of their children. The designation “ children's department ” was intended to cover up the real purpose of the facilities. The death certificates attested a natural cause of death. The number of children murdered between 1939 and 1945 is estimated to be at least 5,000.

The use of the word “euthanasia” for these killings is an abuse of language. Euthanasia means euthanasia in order to save those affected from severe suffering, and the word should only be used in this sense (and otherwise at least put in quotation marks). This is how Ernst Klee , for example, deals with these crimes in his books.

Action T4
Gas chamber in Hadamar Killing Center

Soon after the introduction of child euthanasia, “euthanasia” began on adults. Hitler's letter of authorization, presumably written in October 1939, was dated back to September 1, 1939 in order to assert the practical constraints of the war. It decreed that "according to human judgment, the incurably sick can be granted death by grace if their condition is critically assessed". Action T4, after the address Tiergartenstr. 4 in Berlin, became the code name for the subsequent mass murder of over 100,000 mentally ill and disabled people.

The patients selected for "euthanasia" were moved away from the respective sanatorium and killed in special facilities by means of air injections or medication. Mass murder in gas chambers followed from early 1940 . In 1941, the T4 campaign, possibly also because of ecclesiastical resistance, e.g. B. the sermons of Bishop Clemens Graf Galen , canceled. In addition, the target number of around 90,000 fatalities had been reached by that time. In fact, the killing of the disabled and the mentally ill as so-called “wild euthanasia” was continued in many institutions until the end of the war. Many nursing home residents were killed, for example, through systematic food deprivation or the administration of sedating medication.

Murder of Jewish inmates

While there were still rudimentary examinations for “Aryan” prison inmates before they were designated for euthanasia, the doctors did not “bother” with Jewish patients. The concentration camp doctor Friedrich Mennecke wrote to his wife from the Hotel Elephant in Weimar on November 25, 1941 about a selection in the Buchenwald concentration camp : “After that, we examined 105 patients until 4 p.m. The second portion was [n] now a total of 1200 Jews, none of whom were first 'examined' […] At 5 pm on the dot, 'we threw the ladle away' and went to dinner. ”All Jewish inmates of the institution fell victim to the murder.

There are numerous points of connection between the “final solution to the Jewish question” and the murders of the sick; The National Socialists used the same "killing technology" and the same staff as gas chambers instead of the original lethal drugs. The historians Martin Broszat , Hans Mommsen and above all Henry Friedlander even assume that without the perfection of the machinery of murder through euthanasia, the Holocaust would not have taken place to the extent that it ultimately did.

Legal processing

The 23 defendants in the Nuremberg medical trial, 1946/47

In view of the atrocities, Jewish associations, national resistance, and underground organizations such as the Polish Underground State began securing evidence and documenting crimes at an early stage . The United Nations War Crimes Commission (UNWCC) was set up on the initiative of nine London governments in exile in 1943 . The task consisted of preserving evidence, compiling lists of perpetrators, reports to the governments and preparing criminal proceedings for war crimes . The threat of punishment was intended to deter potential perpetrators from further acts. In the London Statute of August 8, 1945, the crimes for the Nuremberg Trial of the Major War Criminals were grouped into main categories:

  • Crimes against peace (Art. 6a) by planning and conducting a war of aggression (contrary to the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1929)
  • War crimes (Art. 6b): murder, mistreatment, deportations for slave labor of civilians and prisoners of war as well as looting and destruction without military necessity
  • Crimes against humanity Art. 6c: murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation or other inhumane acts for political, racist or religious reasons

In addition to the main Nuremberg trial, the following four allied follow-up trials in Nuremberg mainly dealt with racial hygiene crimes:


In place of racial hygiene, several human sciences later developed : human genetics became human genetics . The population science as well as certain forms of medical statistics have historical here and the history of ideas roots. Because of this mixture, it is not easy for individual representatives of racial hygiene to draw the line between ideology, pseudoscience and science; the boundaries are fluid. Numerous German founding fathers of these disciplines were involved in inhumane politics as desk criminals.

Since fundamental knowledge formations of eugenics such as heredity, selection and conservation of species promoted the establishment of racial hygiene through their scientific acceptance and also flowed into the "new" eugenics and human genetics after 1945 and retained their validity and circulated there in the media and everyday discourse to this day , also dealing bioethical discussion with reproductive medicine , prenatal diagnostics , human genome projects or human genetic counseling . This reveals continuities, breaks and transformations of eugenic concepts as well as their origins.

See also


  • Götz Aly : The burdened. "Euthanasia" 1939–1945. A history of society. S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 2013 ISBN 978-3-10-000429-1 .
  • Wolfgang Ayaß : "Asocial" in National Socialism. Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 1995, ISBN 3-608-91704-7 .
  • Udo Benzenhöfer : On the genesis of the law to prevent hereditary offspring. Klemm & Oelschläger, Münster 2006, ISBN 3-932577-95-7 .
  • Bock, Gisela (Ed.): Racial policy and gender policy in National Socialism (= history and society . Vol. 19, No. 3). Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1993.
  • Wolfgang Uwe Eckart : Medicine in the Nazi dictatorship. Ideology, practice, consequences. Böhlau, Vienna et al. 2012, ISBN 978-3-412-20847-9 .
  • Gisela Bock : Forced Sterilization under National Socialism. Studies on race politics and gender politics. Monsenstein & Vannerdat, 2010, ISBN 978-3-86991-090-1 (reprint of the first edition, Westdeutscher Verlag, Opladen 1986).
  • Boris Böhm, Werner Rellecke: National Socialist euthanasia crimes in Saxony. Contributions to their processing. 4th edition. Board of Trustees for the Sonnenstein Memorial, Pirna 2002.
  • Jan Nikolas Dicke: Eugenics and racial hygiene in Münster (= Berlin contributions to contemporary history. 3). Weißensee-Verlag, Berlin 2004, ISBN 3-89998-035-2 (At the same time: Münster, University, thesis, 2001: Eugenics and racial hygiene in the scientific discourse of the university and the health system of the city of Münster 1918–1939. ).
  • Klaus-Peter Drechsel: Judged, measured, murdered. Practice of euthanasia until the end of German fascism (= DISS texts. 27). DISS, Duisburg 1993, ISBN 3-927388-37-8 .
  • Oliver Fink: On the language used in the moral-philosophical discussion of early euthanasia. An information didactic study (= forum for technical language research. 61). Narr, Tübingen 2003, ISBN 3-8233-5366-7 .
  • Henry Friedlander : The Road to Nazi Genocide. From euthanasia to the final solution. Berlin Verlag, Berlin 1997, ISBN 3-8270-0265-6 .
  • Hans-Christian Harten, Uwe Neirich, Matthias Schwerendt: Racial hygiene as an educational ideology of the Third Reich. Bio-bibliographical manual (= Education and Science Edition. 10). Academy, Berlin 2006, ISBN 3-05-004094-7 .
  • Corinna Horban: Gynecology and National Socialism. Forced sterilized former patients of the I. University Women's Clinic today. A late apology. Herbert Utz, Munich 1999, ISBN 3-89675-507-2 (also: Munich, University, Dissertation, 1999).
  • Jochen-Christoph Kaiser , Kurt Nowak , Michael Schwartz : Eugenics. Sterilization. "Euthanasia". Political Biology in Germany 1895–1945. A documentation. Union, Berlin 1992, ISBN 3-372-00020-X .
  • Ernst Klee : "Euthanasia" in the Nazi state. The "destruction of life unworthy of life" (= Fischer. 4326). Licensed edition, unabridged edition. Fischer-Taschenbuch-Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1985, ISBN 3-596-24326-2 .
  • Ernst Klee (Ed.): Documents on "Euthanasia" (= Fischer. 4327). 13-14 Thousand. Fischer-Taschenbuch-Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1997, ISBN 3-596-24327-0 .
  • Stefan Kühl : The International of Racists. The rise and fall of the international eugenics and racial hygiene movement in the 20th century. Campus, Frankfurt am Main et al. 1997, ISBN 3-593-35755-0 .
  • Michael Ley : "To protect German blood ...". "Rassenschandegesetze" under National Socialism. Philo, Bodenheim 1997 ISBN 3-8257-0056-9 .
  • Gunther Link: Forced eugenic sterilizations and forced abortions at the Freiburg University Women's Clinic during National Socialism. In: Bernd Grün, Hans-Georg Hofer, Karl-Heinz Leven (eds.): Medicine and National Socialism. The Freiburg Medical Faculty and the Clinic in the Weimar Republic and the "Third Reich" (= medical history in context. 10). Lang, Frankfurt am Main et al. 2002, ISBN 3-631-38819-5 , pp. 301-330.
  • Dorothee Obermann-Jeschke: Eugenics in Transition. Continuities, breaks and transformations. An analysis of the history of discourse (= Edition DISS. 19). Unrast, Münster 2008, ISBN 978-3-89771-748-0 (also: Duisburg, Essen, University, dissertation, 2007; content and foreword online (PDF; 9 kB) ).
  • Thomas Oelschläger: "... that my daughter will be freed from this Jewish brat as quickly as possible ...". The pregnancy interruptions of the "Reich Committee for the Scientific Recording of Hereditary and Constitutional Serious Ailments". In: Christoph Kopke (Ed.): Medicine and crime. Festschrift for the 60th birthday of Walter Wuttke. Klemm & Oelschläger, Ulm 2001, ISBN 3-932577-32-9 , pp. 97-130.
  • Jürgen Peter : The breach of racial hygiene in medicine. Effects of racial hygiene on thought collectives and medical fields from 1918 to 1934 (= Mabuse-Verlag Wissenschaft. 70). Mabuse, Frankfurt am Main 2004, ISBN 3-935964-33-1 .
  • Gereon Schäfer, Carola Döbber, Dominik Groß : Martin Staemmler - pathologist and university professor in the service of the National Socialist “racial policy”. In: Richard Kühl, Tim Ohnhäuser, Gereon Schäfer (Ed.): Persecutors and Persecuted. "Images" of medical action under National Socialism (= Medicine and National Socialism. 2). Lit, Münster 2010, ISBN 978-3-643-10536-3 , pp. 211-237.
  • Klaus Scherer : “Asocial” in the Third Reich. The forgotten persecuted. Votum, Münster 1990, ISBN 3-926549-25-4 .
  • Hans-Werner Scheuing: "... when human life was weighed against material assets." The history of the educational and nursing home for the mentally weak Mosbach / Schwarzacher Hof and its residents 1933–1945 (= publications by the Association for Church History in the Evangelical Church of Baden. 54). 2nd, revised and expanded edition. Winter, Heidelberg 2004, ISBN 3-8253-1607-6 (At the same time: Heidelberg, University, dissertation, 1996: The history of the educational and nursing home for the mentally weak Mosbach, Schwarzacher Hof and its residents 1933-1945. ).
  • Gerhard Schmidt: Selection in the sanatorium 1939–1945. New edition with additional texts, edited by Frank Schneider. Springer, Berlin et al. 2012, ISBN 978-3-642-25469-7 .
  • Hans-Walter Schmuhl : Racial hygiene, National Socialism, euthanasia. From prevention to the destruction of "life unworthy of life", 1890–1945 (= critical studies on historical science. 75). Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1987, ISBN 3-525-35737-0 (At the same time: Bielefeld, University, dissertation, 1986: The synthesis of doctor and executioner. ).
  • Hans-Walter Schmuhl: Crossing borders. The Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Anthropology, Human Heredity and Eugenics 1927–1945 (= History of the Kaiser Wilhelm Society under National Socialism. 9). Wallstein, Göttingen 2005, ISBN 3-89244-799-3 .
  • Richard Weikart: From Darwin to Hitler. Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics, and Racism in Germany. Palgrave Macmillan, New York NY et al. 2004, ISBN 1-4039-6502-1 .
  • Peter Weingart , Jürgen Kroll, Kurt Bayertz : Race, Blood and Genes. History of eugenics and racial hygiene in Germany (= Suhrkamp-Taschenbuch Wissenschaft. 1022). 3. Edition. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 2001, ISBN 3-518-28622-6 .
  • Sheila Faith Weiss: The Nazi Symbiosis. Human Genetics and Politics in the Third Reich. University of Chicago Press, Chicago IL et al. 2010, ISBN 978-0-226-89176-7 .
  • Stefanie Westermann, Richard Kühl, Dominik Groß (eds.): Medicine in the service of "hereditary health". Contributions to the history of eugenics and "racial hygiene" (= medicine and National Socialism. 1). Lit, Münster et al. 2009, ISBN 978-3-643-10478-6 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Racial hygiene  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Scientific publications

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Ernst Klee : German Medicine in the Third Reich. Careers before and after 1945. S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 2001, ISBN 3-10-039310-4 , p. 21.
  2. Benoit Massin, Anthropology and Human Genetics in National Socialism , in: Wissenschaftlicher Rassismus , Heidrun Kaupen-Haas, Christian Saller, Campus Verlag March 1999, ISBN 3-593-36228-7 , p. 37.
  3. Susan Currell, Christina Cogdell: Popular Eugenics: National Efficiency and American Mass Culture in The 1930s. Ohio University Press, Athens 2006, p. 203.
  4. ^ Arnd Krüger : A Horse Breeder's Perspective: Scientific Racism in Germany. 1870-1933. In: N. Finzsch, D. Schirmer (Ed.): Identity and Intolerance. Nationalism, Racism, and Xenophobia in Germany and the United States. University Press, Cambridge 1998, pp. 371-396.
  5. Karl Binding, Alfred Hoche: The release of the destruction of unworthy life . Felix Meiner, Leipzig 1920 (2nd edition 1922).
  6. ^ U. Bermbach: Houston Stewart Chamberlain: Wagner's son-in-law - Hitler's thought leader . P. 172
  7. Peter Weingart, Jürgen Kroll, Kurt Bayertz, “Race, Blood and Genes. History of eugenics and racial hygiene in Germany ” , Suhrkamp 1988, p. 363.
  8. ^ Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf , 1924, p. 446.
  9. ^ Fritz Lenz, The Position of National Socialism on Rassenhygiene in ARGB Vol. 25, 1931, pp. 300–308.
  10. Fritz Lenz, Menschliche Auslese and Rassenhygiene (Eugenik) , in: Menschliche Erblichkeitslehre und Rassenhygiene , Volume II, Munich 1932, p. 416 f.
  11. The numbers vary between 100,000 and 800,000. See Porajmos .
  13. ^ Statute for the International Military Tribunal of August 8, 1945 (PDF)
  14. See also Stefan Kühl: Die Internationale der Rassisten. The rise and fall of the international movement for eugenics and racial hygiene in the 20th century , Frankfurt a. M./New York 1997 (standard work on the subject).
  15. D. Obermann-Jeschke: Eugenics in change. Continuities, breaks and transformations. An analysis of the history of discourse. Münster 2008.