14 July 1933: Nazi eugenics programme begins with the proclamation of the Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring requiring the compulsory sterilization of any citizen who suffers from alleged genetic disorders. (Source)

Eugenics poster at the exhibition Wonders of Life in Berlin in 1935 showing demographic projections under the assumption of higher fertility of the “inferior” (Minderwertige) relative to the “superior” (Höherwertige). – This image was provided to Wikimedia Commons by the German Federal Archive (Deutsches Bundesarchiv) as part of a cooperation project. The German Federal Archive guarantees an authentic representation only using the originals (negative and/or positive), resp. the digitalization of the originals as provided by the Digital Image Archive. (Source)

Nazi eugenics (German: Nationalsozialistische Rassenhygiene, “National Socialist racial hygiene”), refers to the social policies of eugenics in Nazi Germany. The racial ideology of Nazism placed the biological improvement of the German people by selective breeding of “Nordic” or “Aryan” traits at its center.[1]

Eugenics research in Germany before and during the Nazi period was similar to that in the United States (particularly California), by which it had been heavily inspired. However, its prominence rose sharply under Adolf Hitler‘s leadership when wealthy Nazi supporters started heavily investing in it. The programs were subsequently shaped to complement Nazi racial policies.[2]

Those targeted for destruction under Nazi eugenics policies were largely living in private and state-operated institutions, identified as “life unworthy of life” (German: Lebensunwertes Leben), including prisoners, degenerates, dissidents, people with congenital cognitive and physical disabilities (German: erbkranken) including people who were feeble-minded, epileptic, schizophrenic, manic-depressive, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, deaf, blind, homosexual, idle, insane, and the weak, for elimination from the chain of heredity. More than 400,000 people were sterilized against their will, while up to 300,000 were killed under the Aktion T4, euthanasia program.[3][4][5][6] In June 1935, Hitler and his cabinet made a list of seven new decrees, number 5 was to speed up the investigations of sterilization.[7]

The concept of “eugenics” was mostly known under the term of Rassenhygiene or “racial hygiene”. The loanword Eugenik was in occasional use, as was its closer loan-translation of Erbpflege. An alternative term was Volksaufartung (approximately “racial improvement”).[8] (Source)

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