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Genetics, Eugenics, and the Holocaust

Genetics, Eugenics, and the Holocaust

Chapter:
(p.192) Chapter Eight Genetics, Eugenics, and the Holocaust
Source:
Biology and Ideology from Descartes to Dawkins
Author(s):
Paul Weindling
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226608426.003.0009

Biology played a leading role in Germany's efforts to place one of the world's great scientific cultures on a new basis of race, an endeavor that triggered a dynamic of aggressive war and genocide. There have been numerous attempts to assess the cultural, ethical, and spiritual fallout from the Holocaust, not least for human genetics and evolution. Nazi medical atrocities can still be detected in those who survived, including the twins experimented on by Josef Mengele. In the twenty-first century, questions surrounding Nazi ideology in evolution and eugenics have taken on a general significance. Historians have realized the central role played by Darwinism and eugenics in the structuring of Nazi society and its racial policies. That Adolf Hitler is linked to Charles Darwin is based on the assumption that Nazi ideologues used the latter's natural selection as an exterminatory ideology for the Holocaust. German Darwinism, or Darwinismus, is distinctive from a cultural and scientific perspective. However, Nazi values of race purity and psychological types are inconsistent with Darwinism, in part because race was not a fixed value with Darwin.

Keywords:   biology, eugenics, genetics, Germany, Charles Darwin, Holocaust, evolution, Josef Mengele, race, Darwinismus

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