Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Racial hygiene (often labeled a form of "scientific racism") is the selection, by a government, of the most physical, intellectual and moral persons to raise the next generation (selective breeding) and a close alignment of public health with eugenics. In the past, this has been done by using deportation, segregation, compulsory sterilization, and even genocide of persons or groups with various mental disabilities, ethnicities, handicaps, criminal backgrounds, religious affiliations, etc.
It was the German doctor Alfred Ploetz who introduced the term rassenhygiene in his "Racial hygiene basics" (Grundlinien einer Rassenhygiene) in 1895. In its earliest incarnation it was concerned more with the declining birthrate of the German state and the increasing number of mentally ill and disabled in state institutions (and their costs to the state) than with the "Jewish question" and "de-nordification" (Entnordung) which would come to dominate its philosophy in Germany from the 1920s through the second World War. One of the confusing aspects of "racial hygiene" is that "race" was often interchangeably used to mean "human race" as well as "German race" as well as "Aryan race" -- three quite different concepts with three quite different implications. In the 1930s it was this latter use of "racial hygiene" which was embraced by the followers of Nazi ideology. It often served as the theoretical backbone of Nazi policies of racial superiority and later genocide, leading its detractors to label it as "scientific racism."
A key part of Nazi ideology was the concept of racial hygiene and during their rule the field was elevated to the primary philosophy of the German medical community, first by activist physicians within the medical profession. This was later codified and institutionalized during the process of Gleichschaltung (literally, "coordination" or "unification") which streamlined the medical profession into a rigid hierarchy with Nazi-sanctioned leadership at the top.
Racial hygienists played key roles in the Holocaust, the Nazi effort to cleanse Europe of Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, political dissidents, the mentally retarded and insane. After World War II, such attempts have been widely reviled as cruel and brutal, and the racialist ideology behind them as un-scientific.
- Proctor, Robert. Racial Hygiene: Medicine Under the Nazis, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1988.
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