By Dr. Walter Gross
Head of the Reich Bureau for Enlightenment on Population Policy and Racial Welfare
Of all the measures introduced in the new Germany those bearing on National Socialist racial policy caused the greatest stir internationally, for here was a State setting its feet upon paths hitherto almost untrodden and leading through untouched preserves, whose aims were in many respects liable to clash with established Liberal views. Relevant legislation served to corroborate and achieve these aims and it was no wonder, therefore, that – in the beginning at least – this particular phase of National Socialist reconstruction met with universal misunderstanding and prejudice.
We are happy meanwhile to be able to discern that other nations have come to realize that Germany is, indeed, taking to new paths, but they are right ones and are necessary and, more than that, Germany is in many respects blazing a trail for others; mention need only be made of our law for the prevention of the transmission of hereditary diseases (Sterilization Law) which has been followed in Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland by similar laws or draft proposals. However, no one will wholly understand or sympathize with our legislation who is not wholly familiar with the fundamental change in the philosophical. conception of life which has come with National Socialism in the light of history.
Whereas formerly, and more especially under the powerful influence of Marxist teachings, the development and decline of States and civilizations was attributed to economic or purely political causes, we see to-day the determining role played by the human being in sustaining and shaping economy, the State, culture, politics, art and intellectual thought.
We have come to feel that the protection and preservation of the people who, after all, are originally responsible for the achievements of the State and culture, is the chief factor in retaining these achievements; for good blood and the strength that comes from good blood is given a people only once and if allowed to degenerate cannot be regenerated as one would rebuild a city or restore devastated lands.
Thus, wise statesmanship will place the preservation of the biological, that is, racial energy of its people before its political and economic concerns. The endless series of past empires and civilizations which have flourished and declined forcefully remind us how inexorable are the consequences of ignoring this truth.
History and the study of the science of population show that there are three biological stages which inevitably lead to the destruction of the vitality of a people and with it the destruction of the foundations of the State and culture as such. These three stages are:
A decreasing population,
An increase of the hereditary unfit,
The promiscuous mingling of races.
In these respects, Germany’s position in 1933 was alarming. A declining birth-rate among the fitter inhabitants and unrestrained propagation among the hereditarily unfit, the mentally deficient, imbeciles and hereditary criminals, etc., had led, for instance, to a state of affairs in which the increase of the healthier section of the population in the past 70 years was only 50 per cent., while the unhealthy and, in fact, those only fit to live in asylums, had multiplied ninefold in the same time, or 450 per cent.
The care of the latter costs the working population of Germany the not inconsiderable sum of 1 billion reichsmarks yearly, while the entire administrative costs of the Reich, Provinces and Communes amount to 713 million reichsmarks. It was, therefore, an act of self-preservation which caused the National Socialist State to promulgate the Law to prevent the transmission of hereditary disease. It was a measure taken in self-defence and much more besides. For a large portion of the hereditary unfit had brought children into the world in ignorance of the consequences of their own afflictions, and many – those still possessed of a sense of responsibility – were horrified at seeing the “sins of the fathers” visited upon their children. To this unfortunate category the National Socialist State lends a helping hand in freeing them from possible mental torment. Sterilization relieves their conscience of the frightful burden of causing further pain and suffering to innocent beings.
It is frequently claimed abroad in circles hostile to Germany that the politically undesirable are hauled up for Sterilization. Anyone versed in German Law and the thoroughness and precautions attendant on the whole procedure knows full well the absurdity of such allegations and that no one can be sterilized simply on request or as a result of political pressure.
The law for the prevention of the transmission of hereditary disease is only applicable in acknowledged cases of physical and mental deficiency such as congenital idiocy, schizophrenia, manic-depressive insanity, hereditary epilepsy, chronic St. Vitus dance, hereditary blindness, deafness and serious bodily defects; in addition, it applies to chronic inebriates. The procedure in regard to the act of Sterilization can take place upon application being lodged with the special Court of Heredity by the person concerned, his relatives, a local physician or such official persons as are connected with matters of public health.
The competent Court, which is composed of an officiating judge, a medical officer and a doctor, decides whether Sterilization is called for or not. If the applicant or person under consideration does not agree with the decision of the Court, an appeal may be lodged with the Higher Court which has a similar composition as the Lower Court, although the individuals are never the same. The decision of the Court of Appeal is final. Even then the operation may be avoided by taking life-long sojourn – or at least for as long as the faculty of procreation exists – in a private home, provided such sojourn entails no costs for the Government. This clause was included in order that possible adherents of the Catholic faith who might have conscientious objections on the grounds of the Papal encyclical be given the opportunity of observing their religious tenets at all costs.
These measures of the National Socialist State, despite their broadmindedness, have been attacked mainly for political or dogmatic reasons. Such criticism is based on a number of objections which appear unfounded and extravagant. They may be summarised in three groups.
The first arises purely from the individualist standpoint which resents any intrusion into the life of the individual. According to its advocates, the individual has the right to be without children if he prefers or, despite obvious hereditary afflictions, procreate at will, or indeed, by transcending all frontiers and racial barriers, to contract marriage to his own taste. Fundamentally, that is, any restriction on the life of the individual demanded by the collective interests of the community is categorically rejected. Obviously, such an attitude must be deplored in every State since, if applied in all spheres, it would render communal and State institutions, both economic and cultural, impossible.
Civilisation is only possible through the individual becoming part of the whole and just as collective authority in the interests of all limits the egoism of the individual by, say, taxation laws or measures to combat epidemics, etc., it similarly has the right to implement such measures for the benefit of the community as are scientifically proved expedient in the way of population policy or eugenics. The need for such action prevailed in Germany.
The second set of objections is mainly based on humanitarian grounds. It is argued, for instance, that the act of sterilisation represents such a weighty sacrifice for the person concerned that society should only accept it if made voluntarily. But it is not humane that among civilised peoples the standard of living of that section of the population which is fit and able to work is lowered by burdening it with the excessive levies necessary for the maintenance of and keeping within its midst the hereditarily diseased who, despite these heavy costs, can never be healed of their ailments. After all, the healthy members of the race are also entitled to a share of compassion and humane considerations.
Nor is it justifiable to argue that sterilisation will not do away with the possible recurrence of similar cases. In arguing thus one might just as well refrain from putting out a fire because another might happen to break out elsewhere at some other time. Incidentally, sterilisation is and remains a humane duty to the individual. How great is the mental agony of a person suffering from some hereditary disease in the pitiful knowledge that not only he himself is incurable but that his children frequently begotten in ignorance of the complications of his own trouble, are doomed to a similar or worse fate. Timely sterilisation rids the hereditarily unfit of such mental torment.
Other objectors insist that the operation should only be performed with the consent of the individual. It is foolish, however, to want acquiescence from a human being who has no command over his morbid instincts or of one who is to be prevented from procreation for the very reason that he is suffering from some mental debility.
Everywhere in organised society, justice and morals are bound to interfere with personal liberty to a greater or lesser extent, even with that of the healthy individual. If an epidemic breaks out endangering the welfare of the community everyone, whether he wants to or not, must be vaccinated; similarly, just as the doctor takes preventive measures on this score, the specialist in the sphere of hereditary transmission, both medical and legal, backed by the knowledge of biological necessities must, if called upon, take upon his shoulders the responsibility which the individual patient is unable to bear.
A third and last group fears lest the suggestion of a biological stratification of society or the racial classification of humanity should lead to serious conflicts. As to this, it may be said that racial peculiarities are natural and any social or human system of differentiation will last only so long as it is in harmony with natural phenomena. Why, the very knowledge and acknowledgment of the social claims of the race, of racial hygiene, and its practical application, is calculated to limit, even prevent wars.
For war, even if successful, signifies biologically an irretrievable loss of the best hereditary tendencies. Since National Socialist Germany frankly thinks along biological lines she wants nothing but peace. The National Socialist idea of State is the most peaceful conceivable, for it of all others sees its duty in the preservation of the pure racial continuity of its people. Nothing but sheer want of sense could accuse the new Germany of hankering after war. For we are only too well aware what irreparable damage has been done and how heavy has been the toll taken of our people in the way of hereditary values through centuries of retrogressive selection, declining birth-rate and, finally, through the frightful decimation of the flower of our manhood in the War.
If we need peace and quiet for the political and economic regeneration of our people tried almost beyond endurance, we need it doubly so to effect the reconstruction and vital racial aspirations of our population policy directed along biological lines, for nothing could be more disastrous than war with its ruthless destruction of the best and consequent indirect preferential selection of the less valuable.
Even a victorious war is biologically a loss. The true statesman is aware of this and will never take to the sword except as a last necessity. Here it becomes manifest that the national-racial principle – contrary to the aims maliciously attributed to it – is in itself the surest guarantee for a policy fundamentally peaceful.
Most open to misinterpretation are National Socialist views on the relations between the various races of the world. It has been questioned whether the fundamental racial principles of the new world theory must not breed condescension, even contempt of people of different race. Quite the contrary; these very principles offer the very best guarantee for mutual tolerance and for the peaceful co-operation of all.
We appreciate the fact that those of another race are different from us. This scientific truth is the basis, the justification and, at the same time, the obligation of every racial policy without which a restoration of Europe in our day is no longer practicable. Whether that other race is “better” or “worse” is not possible for us to judge.
For this would demand that we transcend our own racial limitations for the duration of the verdict and take on a superhuman, even divine, attitude from which alone an “impersonal” verdict could be formed on the value or lack of such of the many living forms of inexhaustible Nature. But we of all people are too conscious of the inseparable ties of the blood and our own race to attempt to aspire to such an ultra-racial standpoint, even in the abstract.
History, science and life itself tell us in a thousand ways that the human beings inhabiting the earth are anything but alike; that, moreover, the greater races are not only physically but especially spiritually and intellectually different from each other. Yesterday one passed this fact by, and in attempting to unify political, economic, cultural and religious standards for all nations of the earth, one was sinning against Nature, violating the natural attributes of various racial and national groups for the sake of a false principle. To-day we bow to the racial differences existing in the world. We want every type of being to find that form of self-expression most fitted to its own particular requirements.
The racial principles of National Socialism are, therefore, the surest guarantee for respecting the integrity of other nations. It is incompatible with our ideas to think of incorporating other nationalities in a Germany built up as a result of conquests, as they would always remain – because of their alien blood and spirit – a foreign body within the German State. Such foolhardy thoughts may be indulged in by a world which has as its goal economic power or purely territorial expansion of its frontiers, but never by a statesman thinking along organic, racial lines whose main care is the preservation of the greatness and along with it the essential unity of his people held together by the ties of blood relationship.
For this reason, we have nothing in common with chauvinism and imperialism because we would extend to other races peopling the earth the same privileges we claim for ourselves: the right to fashion our lives and our own particular world according to the requirements of our own nature.
And if National Socialism would wish to see the unrestricted mixing of blood avoided for the individual, there is nothing in this to suggest contempt. After all, we Germans ourselves, viewed ethnologically, are a mixture. The National Socialist demand is only that the claims of the blood and the laws of biology should be more closely observed in future.
Here again our standpoint is not so very far removed from that of other people with a sound mental outlook. The American Immigration Laws, for instance, are based on definite racial discrimination. The Europeans and the inhabitants of India, the Pacific Islands, etc., have instinctively held aloof from a mingling of the blood, and both sides genuinely regard any transgression as very bad form. Nevertheless, this natural attitude in no way detracts from the possibility of close co-operation and friendly intercourse. And, speaking on behalf of the new Germany, let me once more emphasise:
We do not wish our people to intermarry with those of alien race since through such mingling of the blood the best and characteristic qualities of both races are lost. But we will always have a ready welcome for any guests who wish to visit us whether of kindred or foreign civilisation, and our racial views only lead us to a fuller appreciation of their essential peculiarities in the same way as we would want our own peculiarities respected.
On the basis of this reasoning, the National Socialist State was bound to object to the imperialistic designs of the Jewish people on German soil. Thus it is purely an internal concern of the German people who could no longer tolerate the domination – a result of political errors in the past – of an alien race having neither sympathy nor understanding for them. During the political regimes of the past the Jews had managed to obtain an increasing hold on politics, art, culture and commerce. Since 1910, as many as 13 of them had immigrated every day into Germany from the East. Thus Berlin had –
32.2 per cent. Jewish chemists
47.9 ” “ doctors (60 per cent, panel doctors)
50.2 ” “ lawyers
8.5 ” “ newspaper editors
14.2 ” “ producers and stage managers
37.5 ” “ dentists
No people on earth with a vestige of pride in itself and its national honour will be willing to put up with such domination of the key professions by members of a completely alien race. At the same time, the Jews were a determining factor in those political parties which were against any reconstruction on national lines. As to the so-called State Party, for instance, 28.6 per cent. of its parliamentary members were Jews, and in the Social Democratic Party the figure was 11.9 per cent. It is of some political significance that the founders of the German Communist Party, a branch of the Moscow Comintern, that destructive force, were Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, both Jews.
This predominance of alien influence foreign to the German nature in politics, science and things cultural, provided the objective for the law for the restoration of professionalism in the Civil Service and what has since come to be known as the Nuremberg Laws.
The Jews in Germany constitute a group of aliens who can expect to enjoy the hospitality of the country just like the members of other races. But no Frenchman would wish to have his leading offices of State occupied by Englishmen, and no Englishman would want to see the key positions in the politics, art and culture of his country occupied by, say, Japanese. Who then can reasonably object to the Germans removing the Jews from the prominent positions in their country?
As to the higher percentage of crime which is an additional factor of importance in judging the Jewish question in Germany, it may be mentioned that the majority are immigrants from Eastern Europe, whose cultural and moral ideas could never be in harmony with those of the German people. The Nuremberg Laws, therefore, exclude members of the Jewish race from obtaining Reich citizenship.
Persons of mixed parentage – some 300,000 in all – can become citizens of the Reich, but are excluded from holding office in the Civil Service, the Army and the medical and legal professions. Exemptions are possible as provided for in the Laws. The regulation forbidding marriage between a Jew and a German and making illicit intercourse liable to punishment was designed primarily with a view to preventing the birth of further individuals of mixed blood whose fate is a sorry one everywhere in the world, because they are neither one thing nor the other. For those already in existence a distinction is made between those having two Jewish grandparents and those with only one.
The former require the approval of the authorities for contracting marriage with someone of German or allied blood. The latter may not marry a Jew or a member of the former category. They may only marry people of German blood and their children are exempt from the restrictive regulations (Army Laws and the Law for the restoration of professionalism in the Civil Service, etc.). In short, their children become full members of the German community.
These measures were necessary because we realized that a nation or a people can only preserve its culture and its intellectual individuality by keeping the blood pure. It has been said that “every race is a divine inspiration” – a shaft incidentally aimed at the racial policy. We would re-join, however, “just because every race is a divine inspiration, the foremost task of civilization is to keep that inspiration pure and reject the least contribution towards detracting from its purity.”