Prelude to the holocaust
by Randy Engel
October 5, 2005 09:00 AM
Eugenics then and now:
Prelude to the holocaust (Part 1,
While it is fashionable to think of eugenics as a remnant of Hitler's Third Reich, recent news articles on the contemporary practice of negative eugenics directed at the elimination of handicapped pre-born children demonstrate how deeply this anti-life ideology is embedded into the American psyche.
In The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Health and Science section for July 31, 1998, under the title "Bump on Fetus May Help Detect Down Syndrome," Associated Press writer Emma Ross states that London researchers have discovered an ultrasound test to detect Down syndrome in the first trimester of pregnancy. The scientists believe that by measuring the swelling under the skin at the back of the neck of a 10 to 14 week-old child in utero, they can detect affected children. Parents are then offered the "option" of early abortion. Although the new screening technique in extermination medicine offers nothing in terms of treatment for Down syndrome, it was hailed as "an important advance" by Dr. James Haddow of the Maine-based Foundation for Blood Research.
In recent years, the French government has been racked with eugenic scandals involving the illegal and immoral sterilization of intellectually disabled young women living in state-operated institutions. In Canada a national debate on so-called "mercy killing" has been rekindled from the legal fallout of the 1994 Robert Latimer Case - Latimer being twice convicted for gassing his disabled eleven-year old daughter Tracy to death. In Holland, Down syndrome newborns are murdered by injection - an act touted to be more "humane" than starving little Downy babies to death as is done here in the States.
Last April, the Manhattan Film Forum premiered the film "Healing by Killing" by Israeli filmmaker Nitzan Aviram in commemoration of Holocaust Remembrance Day. The documentary exams the "health-by-death" ethic that flourished in the Weimar Republic, before Hitler's rise to power. In an era where a premium was put on health and fitness - sickness, disease and deformity came to be despised. According to Aviram, while many German physicians thought they were helping both their patients and society by sterilizing or killing mentally and physically handicapped Germans of all ages, they were in fact laying the groundwork for genocide.
Dr. Leo Alexander, Chief U.S. Medical Consultant at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials confirmed that, "Whatever proportions these crimes finally assumed, it became evident to all who investigated them that they had started from small beginnings. The beginnings at first were merely a subtle shift in emphasis in the basic attitude of physicians. The infinitely small wedge-in lever from which this entire trend of mind received its impetus, was the attitude toward the non-rehabilitable sick." Once the physician or professor murdered his first innocent patient, Alexander declared, he entered the ranks of the criminal class and was bonded by blood cement to the ruling party.
Life not worth living
In pre-World War II Germany, the twin movements of eugenics (the science, or more accurately, the pseudo-science of improving the quality of human stock while weeding out unfit human stock) and euthanasia (the "painless" killing of disabled or unfit human stock) were heavily financed by powerful American-based foundations most especially the Rockefeller Foundation.
The philosophical basis for the twin evils of eugenics and euthanasia received a precipitous boost from two prominent men of their day - the psychiatrist Alfred Hoche and the jurist Karl Binding. In The Release of the Destruction of Life Devoid of Value, published in Leipsiz in 1920, Hoche and Binding argued that the killing of "worthless people" not be considered a criminal act.
A practical suggestion on how such killings might be carried out was provided by the Rockefeller Institute prot?g? and French-born medical scientist Dr. Alexis Carrel. This Nobel-prize winner proposed in his 1933 best seller Man the Unknown, that small euthanasia stations be equipped with suitable gases to "humanely and economically dispose of the mentally ill and criminal class, whom Carrel described as "useless and harmful beings."
Thus the concept of "useless eaters" was not a Nazis invention. And the first mass killers in Nazis Germany were not SS men. Rather the first mass killers in pre-war Germany were psychiatrists, physicians, pediatricians and nurses backed up by an incredibly vast and efficient government bureaucracy. Their first victims were ordinary German citizens, initially from economically disadvantaged families, who were "mentally deficient" including children with Down syndrome. According to Henry Friedlander, author of The Origins of Nazi Genocide, this group included handicapped Jewish patients who were killed (or sterilized under the compulsory sterilization law) because they were handicapped, without regard to ancestry. It was not until the spring of 1940 that the decision was made to systematically murder handicapped Jewish patients simply because they were Jews. As time went on, the category of other potential "beneficiaries" of the euthanasia program was expanded, and crippled and maimed World War I veterans, and patients with infantile paralysis (polio), Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, and brain tumors were added to the extermination list.
The geranium in the window
In his 1966 classic study of the roots of human violence, A Sign for Cain, Fredric Wertham, M.D. devotes a lengthy chapter to pre-war Germany's euthanasia murders titled "The Geranium in the Window."
Wertham takes us to Eglfling-Haar, a prominent psychiatric institution outside of Munich renown for its children's division called the Kinderhaus with a capacity for about one hundred and fifty children. Within the Kinderhaus a "special department" was established with twenty-five beds and cribs and a small room - bare except for a small white tiled table and a geranium in the window. Unlike the plant that was carefully watered and nurtured, four or five times a month, handicapped children from ages six months to sixteen years were taken to this room by a psychiatrist and nurse and murdered by injection. The victims' brains were extracted, placed in carefully labeled jars and sent to a psychiatric research institution for microscopic studies via the "Charitable Transport Company." Their bodies left through the chimney.
By the time the war ended, there were only twenty children left at the Kinderhaus and a small number of the original two thousand mentally handicapped adult patients who had also been methodically and systematically murdered by deliberate starvation or lethal injection.
According to Wertham, it was characteristic of both the sterilization and killing programs that they were not carried out in secret but at bustling university-based centers by prominent members of the medical profession. Everyone there knew what was going on.
The euthanasia murders were fully organized and planned down to the last detail including who was to be killed, how the patient would be killed and the manner in which the bodies of the victims were to be disposed of. Crematory furnaces manned by university professors and medical bureaucrats were installed at numerous mental hospitals and pediatric wards. Relatives were informed that the patient had died of "pneumonia." It all went like clockwork.
Needless to say, the ability of these individuals to kill their patients depended heavily on the use of euphemistic jargon. The whole undertaking went by different designations: "help for the dying," "mercy killings," "mercy action" or merely the "action." Eventually the terms were fused together into the misleading term - "euthanasia" which the dictionary defines as "the putting of a person to death painlessly." However, as Wertham points out - this is homicide! If you put an innocent person to death, that is, deliberately kill him, you are committing murder. If it is done painlessly, it is still murder!
While the euthanasia murders were being carried out, public opinion was carefully being molded to accept these killings. Adults were propagandized by films like "I Accuse" in which a physician murders his wife who has multiple sclerosis to the accompaniment of soft piano music rendered by a sympathetic friend in the next room. School children were taught to compute the cost/benefit ratio of eliminating state care for "the crippled, the criminal and the insane." It is a sobering thought that like many Americans today, it appeared that people were more willing to tolerate the killing of the disabled for so-called humanitarian or economic reasons than for political reasons.
It was Hitler's opinion (which proved right) that resistance to the euthanasia killings on the part of the churches would, under the circumstances, not play a great role. According to Wertham, efforts were sporadic, isolated and fragmentary. It appeared that the religious leadership in Germany was willing to tolerate such killing (at that time) under certain circumstances, much the way certain churches today are willing to tolerate pre-natal killing for so-called "hard cases" which always include the elimination of mentally or physically disabled pre-born children.
There was a handful of clergy who did denounce "the action" including Bishop Von Galen of Munster in Westphalia. In March of 1941, his public sermons helped inform the people, but had no lasting effect because the condemnation was not followed up by more definitive actions.
Examining specific institutions within the killing network reveals the lack of "mercy" in the "mercy killings". In 1941, for example, the psychiatric institution of Hadamar celebrated the cremation of its 10,000th mental patient in a special ceremony in which psychiatrists, nurses, attendants and secretaries all participated. Everyone received a bottle of beer for the occasion.
As a rule, the doctors who participated in the euthanasia murders did not act under duress - they participated of their own volition. Those who refused were excused.
As Wertham states, Hitler gave permission for doctors to kill the severely disabled, but he never gave these psychiatrists or physicians the order to kill. The record is clear. The psychiatrists were not carrying out an order pronounced by someone else. They were the legislators who laid down the rules for deciding who would live and who would die. Not a few watched their patients' slow death. They played God and gloried in their power over life and death.
One of the most heartrending scenes Wertham paints in A Sign for Cain is that of a group of mental patients openly resisting being herded on to buses destined for the crematoriums. The violence with which they were forced onto the buses attracted sympathetic reactions from passersby including members of the Nazi party who openly wept at the scene. There is no mention however, that any of the attending physicians had tears in their eyes!
Schools for killing
As the killing centers perfected their operations, they soon became "schools for killing." Many of their "graduates" later manned the gas chambers at Treblinka, Auschwitz and other concentration centers in the East. The method of extracting gold fillings and teeth was tried, perfected and routinely used on mentally and physically handicapped patients destined for the gas chambers.
Courts acquit murderers
What was the fate of those members of the medical profession who willingly, and in some cases joyfully, directed and participated in the euthanasia murders? Ironically, after the war, only a small number were tried and sentenced to life imprisonment or death. Many were pardoned or acquitted or given short jail terms. Most, however remained entirely unmolested by the law and continued their professional or academic careers as if the killings had never occurred.
The rationale of the judges and juries in the euthanasia cases is equally instructive. For example, a court in Munich decided that the extermination of mental patients was not murder, but manslaughter. "Thus," says Wertham, "killing one person may be murder, but killing many is just manslaughter."
In Cologne, a court, which acquitted a physician who had conducted one of the euthanasia programs, rationalized that the patients he killed were just "burned-out human husks." Another court opinion claimed the patients were "poor miserable creatures." It was as if the question was merely a metaphysical one - to kill or not to kill.
Eugenic spirit lives on
Perhaps it would be somewhat of a consolation if these euthanasia murders had ended with the end of World War II or shortly thereafter. Sadly, this is not the case. In our next issue of the Friends of the Michael Fund Newsletter, we will examine the history of the Eugenic Movement in the United States and those organizations and foundations which continue to fuel the eugenic-euthanasia engines in our country.
[Sources: Fredric Wertham, M.D., A Sign for Cain, Warner Books, N.Y., 1969; Bernhard Schreiber, The Men Behind Hitler, La Haye-Mureaux, France, undated; Henry Friedlander, The Origins of Nazi Genocide-From Euthanasia to the Final Solution, University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill,1995]
The March of Dimes brings the eugenic spirit home:
Prelude to the Holocaust (Part 2
In 1978, following the Pro-Life Movement's decade-long battle with the March of Dimes, the International Foundation for Genetic Research, popularly known as The Michael Fund, was founded as the pro-life alternative to the MOD. Why such a need existed then and continues to exist today is the subject of this concluding segment on eugenics, appropriately titled "Prelude to the New Holocaust."
Early eugenic connections
By 1937, the year that the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (later renamed the National Foundation/March of Dimes) was established to eradicate polio, the Eugenic Establishment was already an important but not as yet permanent or popular feature of the American scene.
In the United States as in Europe, eugenics had become fused with the tenets of Social Darwinism and Racial Hygiene. The nation's key eugenic organizations funded by the Rockefeller, Harriman and Carnegie families included the American Eugenics Society (AES), and its sister organization, the American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) established in 1947, the Cold Springs Harbor Experimental Station for the Study of Evolution, the Eugenic Record Office, and the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research. They promoted eugenic counseling, selective mating and artificial insemination as "positive" means of breeding superior human stock and compulsory sterilization and euthanasia as forms of "negative" eugenics to weed out "inferior" or "unfit" human stock.
The emergence of the March of Dimes as a major player within the Eugenics Establishment in the 1960s can be traced back to the organization's earliest association with the Rockefeller Institute from whence it drew many of its key advisors and grantees in the field of virology and polio research. The presence of well-known proponents of eugenics on the MOD's original Board of Directors and Medical and Research Committees including Jeremiah Milbank, and AES members Professors Anton Julius Carlson and Clair E. Turner, would also contribute to the MOD's decent into the eugenic maelstrom two decades later.
The great transition
On July 22, 1958, the MOD formally announced its decision to phase out its polio programs and mount an unprecedented national crusade against "birth defects." To be more precise, the powerful foundation was about to launch an unprecedented campaign of eugenic cleansing designed to eliminate pre-born children suspected of having birth defects.
New technological developments in human genetics including cytogenics, cell culture, and prenatal diagnosis, combined with changes in state abortion laws to accommodate eugenic killing now made such a campaign both possible and practical.
In 1959, the MOD made its first direct connection to the Eugenic Establishment by agreeing to finance a series of mini-courses in medical genetics (the new code-word for negative eugenics) at the Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine in cooperation with Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. The strategy to bring eugenics into the nation's medical schools was based on the assumption, that later proved correct, that women were more likely to take eugenics advice from her doctor than from a representative of a eugenic society like the AES.
The Jackson Laboratory that today bills itself as "a world leader in the genetics revolution" was founded in 1929 by Dr. Clarence Cook Little, a Rockefeller protégé with prominent connections to the American Eugenics Society, the Euthanasia Society and the American Birth Control League.
Screening to kill
During the 1960s, the MOD initiated and financed a string of "Birth Defects Prevention Centers" at major medical institutions throughout the United States. Unlike the antiquated and little-used information-only hereditary counseling centers operated by the AES and the Eugenic Record Office in the 1920s and 30s, these new "genetic" (read eugenic) centers offered "at-risk" couples the opportunity of giving birth to only unaffected children - providing they were willing to utilize prenatal testing via amniocentesis and abort all affected children.
Interestingly enough, until challenged by the Pro-Life Movement, the MOD made no attempt to disguise its eugenic policies and programs.
For example, in its Annual Report of 1970, the MOD featured one of its prototype eugenics programs at Johns Hopkins that went into full scale operation in June, 1969. The report matter-of-factly quoted program director Dr. Richard Heller who explained that the purpose of the Birth Defects Center is "to encourage parents to have children... parents who otherwise might not have children for fear of [their] being afflicted with birth defects. His associate, Dr. Robert Cook then explained the amniocentesis process by which a hallow needle is inserted into the uterus of the pregnant woman and amniotic fluid containing cells shed by the developing baby is removed for culturing and examination. "If evidence shows the fetus to be abnormal, the parents may consider termination of pregnancy," explained Cook. During the first year of the Johns Hopkins Birth Defects Program two patients had chosen to abort their babies who were "definitely defective," he concluded.
In April, 1971, the MOD published without disclaimer, as part of its Original Articles Series, the proceedings of the American Society of Human Genetics Symposium on Intrauterine Diagnosis and Selective Abortion held in Indianapolis on October 13-14, 1970 which openly promoted eugenic abortion. All but one of the pro-abortion symposium speakers were either MOD grantees or National MOD advisory board members. And all speakers confirmed the link between first and second trimester prenatal diagnosis and abortion of affected children.
One symposium speaker suggested that aborting a child with Down syndrome was simply giving Mother Nature a helping hand. Another foresaw the time when all pregnancies would be monitored by amniocentesis in order to fulfill the two-child norm associated with population stabilization on the premise that most parents prefer to abort an affected fetus than care for a sick child who requires only the most trivial treatment.
Schools for killing
In Part I of this series on eugenics, it was noted that as the euthanasia centers in Nazi Germany perfected their killing techniques on mentally and physically handicapped men, women, and children, they became "schools for killing." Various techniques such as the extraction of gold fillings were tried, perfected and routinely used on patients marked for extermination. "Graduates" of these killing schools later went on to man the gas chambers in the East.
A similar pattern emerged in connection with the expansion of the MOD Birth Prevention Centers. Since women are generally eager to carry unaffected babies to term, the attending geneticist/physician has to acquire his prenatal diagnostic skills for amniocentesis and the more dangerous fetoscopy and chorion villus sampling (CVS) by first practicing on women scheduled for abortions, that is, what MOD grantees refer to as TBAs (To-Be-Aborted women). In the latter case, frequently it is the attempted prenatal diagnostic procedure that maims or kills the baby rather than the scheduled abortion.
A number of MOD grantees have used aborted babies as a source of spare parts or fetal blood:
During the 1970s and early 1980s it was MOD's private foundation monies that permitted these researchers and many others including Drs. Blanch Alter, David Nathan, Haig Kazazian, Yuet Wai Kan, and Mitchell Golbus to bypass the government ban prohibiting the use of federal funds for such non-therapeutic, lethal experimentation on live human fetuses. A virtual international "medical underground" was created to supply fresh human fetal tissues, blood or organs to "needy" researchers both in the U.S. and abroad.
The cost-effectiveness of eugenic abortion
Among the arguments adduced for the euthanasia murders of mentally and physically handicapped Germans and Austrians in the Third Reich, the economic factor was the most prominently stressed, namely, the cost of keeping these patients alive and caring for them. Four decades later the players and scenery has changed but the eugenic script remains the same.
While MOD executives have denied charges that the foundation favors eugenic abortion as a means of reducing society's cost for the care of the handicapped, facts prove otherwise.
In the Fall of 1978 the MOD heavily lobbied Congress to expand state-wide and federal genetic screening and prenatal diagnostic services and laboratory facilities - a move to further integrate eugenics into standard medical practice.
On September 21, 1978 all members of the House of Representatives received a letter from NF/MOD president Charles Massey claiming that "the financial cost of treating and institutionalizing our severely affected survivors (of genetic disorders) is staggering" and "we cannot begin to measure the cost to survivors themselves and their families." While acknowledging the MOD's "innovation and leadership" in pioneering genetics (read eugenics) in the U.S., Massey said that it was time for federal and state governments to take over the war to "prevent birth defects." He stated that the expansion of genetic service including prenatal diagnosis could help reduce the incidence of such disorders as Down syndrome and Tay Sachs. Left unsaid was the fact that since no cure exists for these disorders, this "reduction" could only be achieved eugenic abortion.
Similarly, in 1982, MOD Vice President Dr. Arthur Salisbury claimed that expanding health insurance coverage for genetic services would save the government billions of dollars in "custodial care" of "genetically handicapped children" born in the United States each year.
In the Final Report of a joint MOD-financed study (1982-1983) by the Health Services Foundation on genetic health insurance, the HSF determined that screening and prenatal diagnosis were cost-effective when compared to the high cost of caring for "blighted" children. The report stated that a model Tay Sachs genetics services begun in 1970 had reduced the number of affected children born annually with the metabolic disorder in North America from between 50 to 1,009 to only 13 in 1980.
Who decides and why?
Mid-trimester prenatal diagnosis for non-treatable disorders is not a "neutral" procedure as some MOD proponents claim. As Professor Arthur Dyck of Harvard writes, "The assumption that the use and application of amniocentesis is a neutral sphere for physicians and society presupposes that for physicians and society, abortion is not a moral issue, and that existing laws do or will insure that abortions are decided solely by families and physicians. To go this way is not morally neutral, and is not life affirming.... If both physician and society should be impartial regarding the use of amniocentesis to prevent diseases by eliminating the diseased, what advocate is left for defenseless life?"
In a similar manner, Professor Leon Kass of the University of Chicago, a critic of the cost-benefit arguments of eugenic "breeding and weeding" reminds fellow physicians and scientists that, "...it is we who are responsible for choosing to develop the technology of prenatal diagnosis, for informing and promoting the technology among the public, and for the actual counseling of patients." And he notes that, regardless of what most physicians and counselors in the genetics field say or do about letting the parents choose, "in their heart of hearts" they believe that the retarded and the handicapped have no right to exist or "why else would they have developed genetic counseling and amniocentesis?"
Who will protect me?
Not only has the NF/MOD eugenics programs led to the death of thousands of pre-born children but these programs have also profoundly and adversely altered the way people think about mentally and physically handicapped people.
Today, as Dr. Marie Peeters-Ney, former colleague of Dr. Jerome Lejeune in Paris and the new Director for Medical Research of the Michael Fund has observed: "The birth of a child with a chromosomal anomaly is now widely considered as a medical error and in certain countries lawsuits are done against doctors are filed because they failed to diagnosis the 'condition' in utero. In an insidious manner, mentalities are changing and people now regard persons with a handicap as someone who should not be there."
Speaking from first-hand experience, Dr. Peeters-Ney states that, "The handicapped themselves know that, had their condition been diagnosed in utero, they would not have been allowed to be born. Like all abortion survivors, they suffer from the psychpathology associated with being a survivor - existential guilt, fear, anxious attachments."
"Fortunately, however, there are still parents who love all their children with an unconditional love and who see in their mentally or physically handicapped child someone who will do great things for God," she said.
When Dr. Lejeune died in Paris in April of 1994, Dr. Peeters-Ney took over the care of some of his patients. She recalls one incident involving a young man with Down syndrome. When she had completed her clinical exam, he looked at her and asked a very serious question: "Now that Dr. Lejeune is dead, who will protect me?"
Certainly, it will not be the March of Dimes! This is why, until the March of Dimes adopts a totally pro-life philosophy and publicly renounces its eugenic past and attachments, defunds its genetic killing centers and commits itself to a 100% life-affirming birth defects program, the Michael Fund will remain - The Pro-Life Alternative to the March of Dimes.
Notes and bibliography for prelude to the holocaust series
Part I - Friends of The Michael Fund Newsletter, Fall 1998, Prelude to the Holocaust
Part II - Friends of The Michael Fund Newsletter, Fall 1999, Prelude to the NEW Holocaust