In WAR AGAINST THE WEAK, award-winning investigative journalist Edwin Black connects the crimes of the Nazis to a pseudoscientific American movement of the early twentieth century called eugenics. Based on selective breeding of human beings, eugenics began in laboratories on Long Island, but it ended in the concentration camps of Nazi Germany. Ultimately, over 60,000 "unfit" Americans were coercively sterilized, a third of them after Nuremberg declared such practices crimes against humanity.
It started in 1904, when a small group of U.S. scientists launched an ambitious new race-based movement that was championed by our nation's social, political, and academic elite. Funded by America's leading corporate philanthropies, such as the Carnegie Institution and the Rockefeller Foundation, and entrenched in classrooms across America, eugenicists sought to eliminate social "undesirables." Their methods: forced sterilization, human breeding programs, marriage prohibition, and even passive euthanasia. Perhaps more shocking—eugenics was sanctioned by the Supreme Court. Cruel and racist laws were enacted in twenty-seven U.S. states, and the supporters of eugenics included such progressive thinkers as Woodrow Wilson, Margaret Sanger, and Oliver Wendell Holmes.
The victims of eugenics were poor white people from New England to California, immigrants from across Europe, Blacks, Jews, Mexicans, Native Americans, epileptics, alcoholics, petty criminals, the mentally ill and anyone else who did not resemble the blond and blue-eyed Nordic ideal the eugenics movement glorified. Through international academic exchanges, American eugenicists exported the movement worldwide. It eventually caught the fascination of Adolf Hitler.
To write WAR AGAINST THE WEAK, Edwin Black led a team of fifty researchers in dozens of archives in four countries, generating some 50,000 documents. In this rigorous, comprehensive, brilliantly told story that spans a century, readers will discover the chilling truth of how the scientific rationales that drove Nazi doctors were first concocted by "scientists" at the Carnegie Institution in New York; how the Rockefeller Foundation's massive financial grants to German scientists culminated in Mengele's heinous experiments at Auschwitz; how, after World War II, eugenics was reborn as human genetics; and why confronting the history of eugenics is essential to understanding the implications of the Human Genome Project and twenty-first-century genetic engineering.
Sep 1, 2003
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