The concept of eugenics has to do with the belief or practice of improving the genetic quality of the human race (“Eugenics” 2010). The concept was first introduced by Francis Galton, a researcher who wished to apply Darwin’s theory of evolution to the human race. Much like many endeavors that start off with good intentions, the results of applying this concept in real life were gross crimes against humanity. The eugenics movement in the early 20th century perverted the original concept by employing morally objectionable techniques including forced sterilization, marriage restrictions, segregation, internment camps, and genocide (Black 2012). In War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America’s Campaign to Create a Master Race, Edwin Black discusses the root of the eugenics movement in the United States of America and how this ultimately influenced the horrifying actions taken by the Nazis in pursuit of the pure Aryan race.
The first seed of perversion that led to these heinous undertakings is the misunderstanding of genes following their discovery in the late 19th century. The wealthy upper class took this discovery as justification for their racist sentiments; the poor are poor because of their bad genes. This misconstrued idea of bad genes in the gene pool created a fictitious problem that needed to be solved. If the poor and weak lower class exist as they do because of their insufficient genes, then weeding these genes out of society in general would surely further society as a whole. The man who encompassed this bigoted sentiment was Charles Davenport. This man was able to establish many institutions dedicated to the research of “eugenics” of this sort by being funded by the likes of Rockefeller, Carnegie, and other notorious robber barons of the time, essentially the birth of the American eugenics movement (Black 2012).
According to Black, the first goal of the eugenicists was to seek out defective bloodlines among American citizens, and upon doing so, eradicate them through whatever means necessary. With the backing the eugenicists had from the upper crust of society, they began to rally states to pass laws against inter-racial marriage and allowing for sterilization among prisons and mental asylums. Forced sterilization gained frightening momentum after a verdict passed by Supreme Court justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr to sterilize a young woman so that the nation would not have to deal with her degenerate offspring in the future. After this incident, thousands of sterilizations were forced upon prisoners, mentally handicapped citizens, and the poor. Perhaps the worst outcome of this movement though, as Black pointed out, was the influence it had on other countries.
Many other countries began to pass sterilization laws, including Belgium, Canada, Norway, Finland, and Germany. Germany, for obvious reasons, was the most significant county to follow the American lead in eugenics. Black asserts that the same robber barons who...