“We do not stand alone.” Other governments had adopted forced sterilization before Germany’s Law for the Prevention of Congenitally Ill Progeny was passed in July 1933, the American state of Indiana having been the first in 1907.
The following, apart from added images, captions, and footnotes, represents a chapter from a booklet originally published, with the approval of the NSDAP, in 1935. Translation by Hadding Scott, 2014.
Who is Congenitally Ill?
Just as the healthy tendencies of humans are inherited, so too are unhealthy tendencies, which can produce mental illnesses, bodily deformities, or signs of devolution, passed on from generation to generation. We then have to deal with hereditary suffering that we cannot through any power in the world eliminate in the current bearers. The congenitally ill person is ill in his inmost composition, and this surfaces sooner or later in him or his descendants. Thus whether it be a matter of a bodily affliction, deaf-muteness, deformity, or of mental illness and feeble-mindedness, the individual cannot escape this destiny, and also those that come after him are afflicted with these sufferings, whether they want it or not. Here is fulfilled the word of the Bible about the sin that propagates itself into the third and fourth generation.
Not congenitally ill by contrast are all those that have acquired their illness through any external cause, for example infection or also accident. These influences can gradually change the person in his appearance, but his inner hereditary tendencies remain in every case unaffected by it. The great army of those maimed in war is perhaps outwardly crippled but nobody will on that account inherit his disability, but on the contrary, his healthy hereditary tendencies; he is congenitally healthy.
Law of Selection
|The mentally inferior reproduce faster.|
For the competence and capability of the coming generations it is crucial in what number and in what proportion the congenitally ill and the congenitally healthy in a population reproduce. Through the climbing of birth-figures on one side, and through decline on the other side, the face of a people can be entirely changed in a few generations. Through the unlimited reproduction of congenitally incompetent elements their number in recent years has increased enormously, and has led to an unbearable burden for the community. This situation was furthermore promoted through the public accommodations that paid higher rates of support to the antisocial elements that were unable to support a family, than to those healthy families that had become jobless through no fault of their own.
|One congenital invalid costs as much as a healthy family.|
For congenitally healthy families on the other hand the founding of families was hindered more and more by anti-child tax-legislation, the prolonged period of apprenticeship, and the excessive mania for education. On top of this there is the ideological aversion toward children and toward the people’s stream of heredity, an aversion that exists precisely in the higher social classes and was founded in materialism and in the crassest egoism of the individual wanting to acknowledge no community beyond himself. Much suffering and misfortune could have been avoided already in this area if in childhood the importance of these questions had been indicated and the conscience had been strengthened in this regard. An old Nordic proverb says: “Marry rather an ugly girl from good stock than a pretty girl from bad stock.” The bygone age believed that it could disregard all these things and treat hereditary differences as having no bearing on the individual. It was supposed to be the environment that determined differences and therefore was responsible for whether someone was good or bad, for whether the one became a criminal or the other became productive. It was the delusion of an entire epoch that believed that by efforts in public assistance, by the construction of palaces for congenital incompetents, it was raising the essential health of the people as a whole. We have today perceived that this was a futile labor of love, and that all these efforts have occurred at the expense of healthy and congenitally competent folk-comrades. “It was we who at this point, with excessive humanity and erring compassion, violated the great law, and artificially kept alive what by the laws of God would have been long ago dead and gone.” (Dr. Walter Gross.)
It stands as a crude deception if now perhaps it is said that we wanted to treat all those elements inhumanely. Our principle here is that the poorest and neediest folk-comrade who through the strength of his hands makes a productive contribution to the people as a whole especially has the right to support himself and his family in comfort. A state that does everything for idiots and mental incompetents, but lets its healthy folk-comrades perish, has given up and lost the moral justification for its existence. So that there may be no misunderstanding, let it be emphasized that a destruction of life which lacks the value of life (eine Vernichtung von lebensunwertem Leben), as was previously discussed in other circles, is not under consideration here, but it is being insinuated about us today by the opposing side to create bias against the populist racial policy. In order to liberate the nation’s stream of heredity from unhealthy hereditary traits, there is only one sure method, namely to prevent any further propagation by means of a small operation.
Christianity and Sterilization
Ever since 1 January 1934 when Germany took action through the Law for the Prevention of Congenitally Ill Progeny to approach this goal, from many sides the question has been raised of whether the planned measures are reconcilable with Christian religious doctrine. Not a few have protested that Christianity is a religion precisely of all who endure suffering and need assistance. Point conceded! But nonetheless this can never, ever mean that we should wearily bring up all that is weak and congenitally ill, and bring it to the point of producing many offspring, and that suffering should increase ever more in this way, and finally become a danger to the healthy life of the people and of the race! “If we have defended ourselves against it, if, fully recognizing our duties as humans and our duty of compassion, we have indeed made the decision no longer to allow such an unfortunate suffering and such unfortunate misery to survive among us, perhaps doubling or tripling in the next generations, then with that we have done a great deed for which our children and grandchildren someday will thank us.” (Dr. Walter Gross)
Nature is crueler than our civilized life; the congenitally incompetent and unready for life perish without pity. It does not correspond to the conception of our age to imitate such methods of nature and thus, without compassion, to destroy everything weak. Precisely from the moral and ethical orientation of our conscience we are filled with satisfaction over the fact that it is today possible to preserve the life of the individual, but to protect the chain of generations against ever recurring illness.
The National-Socialist state is founded upon the actualized community of the people.It builds its work upon the great voluntary deed of the suppression of all private interests for the well-being of the collectivity. Woman has taken up this idea of the selfless community; she is prompted by Nature to allay distress and to help. Thus she has always advocated every beneficence and neighborly love, without regard for whether it happened within the great work of Christian caritas or in the realm of the state’s social services to the people.
The new state has redirected the idea of loving thy neighbor from the individual to the collectivity and the subsequent generations of the people, and wants to avoid much suffering and grief for families through a small, harmless operation. This deed of loving thy neighbor, which seems to assist the current generation only slightly, but helps the children and grandchildren all the more in turn and prevents a perpetuation of all the great misery, will for this reason encounter understanding everywhere. Those engaged in this work see their finest reward when a sick man comes and says, “Yes, I do not want my suffering to continue in my children and children’s children and spread even more suffering.” With this decision, voluntarily to bring his unhealthy hereditary line to an end, he has made a sacrifice that the community of the people can recognize and appreciate utterly and entirely. With that the sick man has proven that he wants, within the realm of possibility, to play an orderly part in the state, and in no way does he retain the stigma of an inferior person. The state gladly continues to afford him protection and assistance to ease his difficult destiny.
. In Exodus 34:7 it says: “… yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.” (New American Standard Bible.) Essentially the same statement is repeated in Numbers 14:18.
. With the Second World War that “bygone age,” meaning the modern age of superficial Enlightenment-thinking that denied the biological nature of man, has been reestablished. This was a giant step backward in thinking, accomplished through force of arms.
. In 1928 a 76-page booklet by Franz Louis Leopold Tascanus published by Akropolis-Verlag (Hannover), titled Die grosse Not der Deutschen: ihre Ursachen und Wege zu wirklichem Wiederaufstieg (The Great Distress of the Germans: its Sources and Ways to Real Recovery), ended with a section called, “Vom lebensunwerten Leben.” It does not seem that Tascanus or Akropolis-Verlag had any connection to the NSDAP.
. Someone might reproach Frercks’ statements about the willingness of the National-Socialist state to support congenitally ill persons by bringing up Hitler’s euthanasia-decree of 1939. That secret decree partially contradicts the position stated here by Frercks in 1935, but it occurred under changed circumstances, and it does not reflect a general change in the government’s position on congenitally ill persons. Hitler’s euthanasia-decree was issued at the time of the outbreak of the war for the purpose of increasing the availability of hospital beds and medical personnel to deal with war-wounded. The euthanasia-decree was in no way a eugenic measure and was not comparable or related to eugenic sterilization. Eugenic sterilization in National-Socialist Germany was a much larger concern than euthanasia. Hundreds of thousands were sterilized in Germany beginning in 1934. By contrast, in the period 1939-1941 only about 71,000 were euthanized before the decree was withdrawn. Euthanasia was not a eugenic measure, because the individuals euthanized were — at least in many cases — in no position to reproduce anyway, and assuming that they had been, the goal of racial hygiene would have been served just as well, with less danger of causing dissension, by simply sterilizing them instead.