Monday, January 12, 2004


One of those "dirty secrets" that few schools mention, but that ought to be mentioned by all.

People refer to "the" Holocaust as if it were a unique historical event inspired by a solitary madman named Adolf Hitler (may his name forever be disgraced). Of course, this preoccupation with Hitler means that far bloodier tyrants of the 20th Century--Joseph Stalin and Mao Zadong being only the two most infamous--are readily ignored. (It is always unfashionable to offer any forms of apologetics for Nazi Germany; it is rarely unfashionable to forge "explanations" and apologies for Mao and Stalin.)

I am distressed by the historical myopia that would cause us to focus so uniquely on the one man and the one country or culture, that we would ignore other people and other cultures, and, most especially, our own people and our own culture.

You see, Americans and Britons seem to have completely forgotten our own nations' roles in the "scientific" theories that led directly to the events that we know of as "the" Holocaust. Yes, “Christian” America—the United States—set the legal precedents and standards by which Hitler carried out his deadly policies.

In 1916 Scribners published Madison Grant’s The Passing of the Great Race, a defense of the idea that “the Nordic race” is superior to all others. That was followed by, and continued to be published alongside, Lothrop Stoddard’s The Rising Tide of Color Against White World Supremacy. Stoddard’s The Revolt Against Civilization: The Menace of the Underman followed in 1922.1

You should know: these were widely-read “scientific” books of the day. They advocated the application of Darwinian evolutionary “science” in public policy. And so, rather than serving as a Christian “light to the nations,”
The United States became the model for pre-Nazi German racial hygienists after World War I. The Nazis merely applied on a massive scale a program that their liberal predecessors had recommended.2
Does that sound far-fetched—laying Nazi policies at the doorstep of America? Possibly. But consider.

In 1904—only 45 years after Darwin published his famous The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life—a “Station for the Experimental Study of Evolution” was established in the United States with a grant from the Carnegie Institution. In 1910, the Harriman and Rockefeller families contributed a “Eugenics Record Office” to the Station.3

Grant, Stoddard, Henry Fairfield Osborn, the Rockefellers, the Harrimans, and countless other leaders of American opinion, policy and culture, advocated and advanced a public policy of eugenics.

How did this work out in practice?

In 1907, Indiana passed the first compulsory sterilization law in America. States passed laws against marriages between people who were “eugenically unfit.” By the late 1920’s, 28 states had passed compulsory sterilization laws; some 15,000 Americans had been sterilized before 1930. This figure rose by another 15,000 over the next decade. . . . This was also the era of laws against interracial marriage; 30 states passed such laws between 1915 and 1930. . . .

The U.S. Supreme Court, in Buck v. Bell (1927), upheld Virginia’s model sterilization law, which was carried out on 19-year-old Carrie Buck. By a vote of 8 to 1, the Court upheld this before the girl was sterilized; her guardian had opposed the action. . . . The Court’s opinion, written by justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, announced: “We have seen more than once that the public welfare may call upon the best citizens for their lives. It would be strange if it could not call upon those who already sap the strength of the state for these lesser sacrifices. . . . Three generations of imbeciles are enough.”4

Notice that every one of these historical events occurred before Hitler came to power and before the German laws against sterilization were stricken from the books.5

Wrote Grant in 1916:
Mistaken regard for what are believed to be divine laws and a sentimental belief in the sanctity of human life tend to prevent both the elimination of defective infants and the sterilization of such adults as are themselves of no value to the community. The laws of nature require the obliteration of the unfit and human life is valuable only when it is of use to the community or race.6
And Osborn, president of the Museum of Natural History in New York and professor of zoology at Columbia University, announced at the Second International Congress of Eugenics, held at the Museum of Natural History:

The right of the state to safeguard the character and integrity of the race or races on which its future depends is, to my mind, as incontestable as the right of the state to safeguard the health and morals of its people. As science has enlightened government in the prevention and spread of disease, it must also enlighten government in the prevention of the spread and multiplication of worthless members of society, the spread of feeble-mindedness, of idiocy, and of all moral and intellectual as well as physical diseases.7
Few Christians, and even fewer churches, were willing to speak out against these ideas and governmental policies.

“Buck v. Bell generally stimulated either favorable, cautious, or—most commonly—no comment. Few if any newspapers took notice of the impact of the decision on civil liberties in the United States.”8

1 Both Grant’s work and Stoddard’s Revolt Against Civilization were translated and published in Germany in 1925. Back to article.

2 Gary North, Crossed Fingers: How the Liberals Captured the Presbyterian Church (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1996), 447. Back to article.

3 Walter Truett Anderson, To Govern Evolution: Further Adventures of the Political Animal (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1987), 153, cited in North, op. cit., 445. Back to article.

4 North, op. cit., 446. Back to article.

5 The influence of the eugenics movement in Germany accelerated after Hitler came to power in 1933. Sterilization had been illegal in Germany prior to Hitler; he changed the law in July, 1933. Two million people were ordered sterilized by the Nazis’ Eugenics Courts as eugenically unfit, 1933 to 1945.

In 1939, the year of the “Duty to be Healthy,” the Nazi program of sterilization went to the next phase: “mercy killings” of mentally and physically handicapped people who were incarcerated in hospitals and mental asylums. One estimate is that some 200,000 people were killed in this way during World War II. Physicians superintended the massacre. . . . The Nazis understood in 1939 what the humanist media in the United States had understood in 1922: churches could have become a major threat to their genetic ideal and program of forced sterilization for genetic purposes. As it turned out in both countries, however, churches remained mute on the issue.

—North, op. cit., 447-448.
Back to article.

6 Madison Grant, The Passing of the Great Race, 4th ed., revised (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1921), 49, quoted in North, op. cit., 444. Back to article.

7 Allan Chase, The Legacy of Malthus: The Social Costs of the New Scientific Racism (New York: Knopf, 1977), 278, quoted in North, op. cit., 448-449. Back to article.

8 Daniel V. Kevles, In the Name of Eugenics: Genetics and the Uses of Human Heredity (New York: Knopf, 1985), 112, quoted in North, op. cit., 447.
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