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Human genetics and politics as mutually beneficial resources: The case of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Anthropology, Human Heredity and Eugenics during the Third Reich.
J Hist Biol 2006; 39(1):41-88JH

Abstract

This essay analyzes one of Germany's former premier research institutions for biomedical research, the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Anthropology, Human Heredity and Eugenics (KWIA) as a test case for the way in which politics and human heredity served as resources for each other during the Third Reich. Examining the KWIA from this perspective brings us a step closer to answering the questions at the heart of most recent scholarship concerning the biomedical community under the swastika: (1) How do we explain why the vast majority of German human geneticists and eugenicists were willing to work for the National Socialist state and, at the very least, legitimized its exterminationist racial policy; and (2) what accounts for at least some of Germany's most renowned medically trained professionals' involvement in forms of morally compromised science that wholly transcend the bounds of normal scientific practice? Although a complete answer to this question must await an examination of other German biological research centers, the present study suggests that during the Nazi period the symbiotic relationship between human genetics and politics served to radicalize both. The dynamic between the science of human heredity and Nazi politics changed the research practice of some of the biomedical sciences housed at the KWIA. It also simultaneously made it easier for the Nazi state to carry out its barbaric racial program leading, finally, to the extermination of millions of so-called racial undesirables.

Authors+Show Affiliations

School of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Clarkson University, Potsdam, NY 13699-5750, USA. sheilafw@clarkson.edu

Pub Type(s)

Historical Article
Journal Article
Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

Language

eng

PubMed ID

17212034

Citation

Weiss, Sheila Faith. "Human Genetics and Politics as Mutually Beneficial Resources: the Case of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Anthropology, Human Heredity and Eugenics During the Third Reich." Journal of the History of Biology, vol. 39, no. 1, 2006, pp. 41-88.
Weiss SF. Human genetics and politics as mutually beneficial resources: The case of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Anthropology, Human Heredity and Eugenics during the Third Reich. J Hist Biol. 2006;39(1):41-88.
Weiss, S. F. (2006). Human genetics and politics as mutually beneficial resources: The case of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Anthropology, Human Heredity and Eugenics during the Third Reich. Journal of the History of Biology, 39(1), pp. 41-88.
Weiss SF. Human Genetics and Politics as Mutually Beneficial Resources: the Case of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Anthropology, Human Heredity and Eugenics During the Third Reich. J Hist Biol. 2006;39(1):41-88. PubMed PMID: 17212034.
* Article titles in AMA citation format should be in sentence-case
TY - JOUR T1 - Human genetics and politics as mutually beneficial resources: The case of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Anthropology, Human Heredity and Eugenics during the Third Reich. A1 - Weiss,Sheila Faith, PY - 2007/1/11/pubmed PY - 2007/3/10/medline PY - 2007/1/11/entrez SP - 41 EP - 88 JF - Journal of the history of biology JO - J Hist Biol VL - 39 IS - 1 N2 - This essay analyzes one of Germany's former premier research institutions for biomedical research, the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Anthropology, Human Heredity and Eugenics (KWIA) as a test case for the way in which politics and human heredity served as resources for each other during the Third Reich. Examining the KWIA from this perspective brings us a step closer to answering the questions at the heart of most recent scholarship concerning the biomedical community under the swastika: (1) How do we explain why the vast majority of German human geneticists and eugenicists were willing to work for the National Socialist state and, at the very least, legitimized its exterminationist racial policy; and (2) what accounts for at least some of Germany's most renowned medically trained professionals' involvement in forms of morally compromised science that wholly transcend the bounds of normal scientific practice? Although a complete answer to this question must await an examination of other German biological research centers, the present study suggests that during the Nazi period the symbiotic relationship between human genetics and politics served to radicalize both. The dynamic between the science of human heredity and Nazi politics changed the research practice of some of the biomedical sciences housed at the KWIA. It also simultaneously made it easier for the Nazi state to carry out its barbaric racial program leading, finally, to the extermination of millions of so-called racial undesirables. SN - 0022-5010 UR - https://www.unboundmedicine.com/medline/citation/17212034/Human_genetics_and_politics_as_mutually_beneficial_resources:_The_case_of_the_Kaiser_Wilhelm_Institute_for_Anthropology_Human_Heredity_and_Eugenics_during_the_Third_Reich_ L2 - http://ovidsp.ovid.com/ovidweb.cgi?T=JS&PAGE=linkout&SEARCH=17212034.ui DB - PRIME DP - Unbound Medicine ER -