Human heredity and politics: A comparative institutional study of the Eugenics Record Office at Cold Spring Harbor (United States), the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Anthropology, Human Heredity, and Eugenics (Germany), and the Maxim Gorky Medical Genetics Institute (USSR).Osiris 2005; 20:232-62O
Despite the fact that much has been written in recent years about the science of heredity under the Third Reich, there is as yet no satisfying analysis of two central questions: What, if anything, was peculiarly "Nazi" about human genetics under National Socialism? How, under whatever set of causes, did at least some of Germany's most well-known and leading biomedical practioners become engaged in entgrenzte Wissenschaft (science without moral boundaries)? This paper attempts to provide some answers to these two questions comparing three institutes that studied eugenics and human heredity in the 1920s and 1930s: the Eugenics Record Office at Cold Spring Harbor, New York, directed by Charles B. Davenport; the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Anthropology, Human Heredity and Eugenics, in Berlin, directed by Eugen Fischer; and the Maxim Gorky Medical Genetics Institute in Moscow, directed by Solomon G. Levit. The institutes are compared on the basis of the kind and quality of their research in eugenics and medical genetics, organizational structure, leadership, patronage (private or state), and the economic-social-political context in which they functioned.