Within the structure of the party, bureaux offices and institutions were established which closely paralleled the actual organs of the existing government. Party officers were appointed for a wide range of offices including legal policy, health and racial matters, education etc., and Nazi organisations for the professions, members of the press, teachers, doctors etc. also came into being.
In 1933 with so much preparation behind it the Nazi Party was in an excellent position to rapidly consolidate its control of power. Other groups saw the chance to extend their control and influence as well, and they too were prepared and ready. The blueprint was to hand, all that was needed was to move the programme into top gear to achieve the desired result. The magazine of the Eugenic and Racial Hygiene Society welcomed Hitler's accession to power as a major gain for them, as he was so much in accord with their own thinking.
In June of that year, at a scientific gathering dealing with eugenic problems, Wilhelm Frick (Minister of the Interior) described the number of feeble-minded and defective children born to German parents as being huge. According to him some authorities regarded one in five of the German population as biologically unsound. These should be prevented from reproducing because their offspring were no longer desirable.
A signal victory was scored by the eugenic and mental hygiene movement on July 14, 1933, only four months after the March elections which brought the Nazis to power. Before this date it had, according to the interpretation of a majority of judges, been illegal to perform sterilisation for eugenic reasons. This was now totally reversed by the passage of the "Law for the Prevention of Hereditary Disease in Posterity" or as it was better known the Sterilisation Law. The chief architect of this was Professor Ernst Rüdin, Professor of Psychiatry at the Munich University, Director of the Kaiser-Wilhelm Institute for Genealogy and Demography, and of the Research Institute for Psychiatry. Rüdin was also among the German delegates to the First International Congress for Mental Hygiene which was held in Washington in 1930 and at which he urged and intensified integration of eugenics and mental hygiene.
A short time after the passing of the Sterilisation Law, he published a commentary about the meaning and purpose of the Law together with the lawyer Dr. Falk Ruttke, director of the Reich's Commission for the Public Health Service of the Interior and Arthur Gütt, the Nazi population expert and head of a government department in the Reich s Ministry of the interior.
The law itself was to take effect from 5th January 1934. Very comprehensive in scope its main purpose was to cleanse the nation of impure and undesirable elements toward the realisation of the Germanic ideal.
The categories of people covered by Law were:
(1) Anyone suffering from a hereditary disease could be sterilised by means of a surgical operation if it could be expected with some certainty, according to the experiences of medical science, that his posterity would suffer from serious physical or mental hereditary disease.The law provided for an application from the person seeking to be sterilised and if he were unfit to act or declared incapable of managing his affairs on account of mental deficiency or not yet completed his 18th year, the legal representative was entitled to apply.
(2) Persons would be considered as hereditarily diseased in the sense of this law if they suffered from any one of the following diseases:
(i) Innate mental deficiency(3) Further persons could be sterilised who suffered from severe alcoholism.
(iii) Manic-depressive insanity
(iv) Hereditary epilepsy
(v) Hereditary (Huntington's) chorea
(vi) Hereditary blindness
(vii) Hereditary deafness
(viii) Severe hereditary physical abnormality.
Sterilisation could also be applied for by the official doctor or, in the case of an inmate of a hospital sanatorium nursing home, or prison, by the head of the Institution.
A whole legal system was set up. Courts for the prevention of hereditary illnesses were instituted called "Erbgesundheitsgerichte" (Hereditary Health Courts) and attached to the existing district courts as well as the Higher Courts. Sitting on these were always one judge and two doctors (usually psychiatrists) present in court hearings of this nature. Witnesses and specialists could be called upon and the rules for civil procedure were to be normally applied.
The Act went on to order that if the Court finally decided on sterilisation it should be carried out even against the person's will, provided that the application had not originated from him alone. The official doctor had to request the police to take the necessary measures. If other methods proved of no avail the application of force was permissible.
In his book "Into the Darkness - Nazi Germany Today", Lothrop Stoddard, an American Social Darwinist, Racist and pro-Nazi had the following comments to make after a visit to Germany where he had looked into socialised health and the eugenic courts. He states that in a conversation with an earnest young man who was officially in charge of the tuberculosis section of the public health service headquarters, he was told that:
The treatment given a tuberculosis patient is partly determined by his social worth. If he is a valuable citizen and his case is curable no expense is spared. If he is adjudged incurable he is kept comfortable of course but no special effort is made to prolong slightly an existence which will benefit neither the community nor himself. Germany can nourish only a certain amount of human life at a given time. We National Socialists are in duty bound to foster individuals of social and biological value".Stoddard was apparently impressed by the health measures taken by the Nazis and later in the book recounts his visit to the Upper Court for Hereditary Health in Berlin-Charlottenburg. Having long been interested in the practical applications of biology and eugenics he had studied much along these lines. He made first-hand investigations whilst in Germany which included discussions with outstanding authorities on the subject. These included official spokesmen such as Frick and Darré and leading scientists Eugen Fischer, Fritz Lenz, Hans Günther and others. It was through their recommendations that he was able to sit beside the judges during a session of the Eugenic High Court of Appeals. He also quoted Professor Günther who wrote:
"The Nordic ideal becomes for us an ideal of unity. That which is common to all divisions of the German people is the Nordic strain. The question is not so much whether we men now living are more or less Nordic; the question put to us is whether we have the courage to make ready for future generations a world cleansing itself racially and eugenically."Stoddard went on to say-
"Without attempting to appraise this highly controversial racial doctrine (regarding the Jews), it is fair to say that Nazi Germany's eugenic programme is the most ambitious and far-reaching experiment in eugenics ever attempted by any nation."Stoddard went on to describe various aspects of Nazi eugenic population policies but before closing his survey noted the psychological aspects of these. He had found that the rulers of the Third Reich did not stop at legal and economic measures. They were aware that ideology had to be mobilised in order to completely reach their goal. So the German people were systematically propagandised for the upbuilding of what may be described as racial and eugenic consciousness.
As if the eight categories of the sterilisation law, by which one had the privilege of being sterilised, had not been enough, it was decided on the 24th of November 1933 that "habitual offenders against public morals" were to be castrated. The Nazi definition of offences against public morals also included "racial pollution".
The occurrences of the following years make it evident, that the national socialist experts had far more thorough measures in mind than simple sterilisation and castration as the final solution to social problems.
The Nuremberg Laws
Germany in 1933 was a unique example of the type of political climate in which a eugenic-mental hygiene movement could thrive. Economic conditions were not so markedly different from various other countries in the world but nowhere else was the political situation so conducive to the rapid and unfettered realisation of a eugenic paradise. Although the Sterilisation Law marked a major victory in the establishment of a mentally pure community, action was still needed in order to ensure racial purity. This came in 1935 with the so-called "Nuremberg Laws".
Prior to 1933 anti-Jewish acts by the Nazis had no legal basis under the Constitution. After the seizure of power a stream of anti-Jewish legislation commenced. Initially these were concerned with compulsory retirement of "non-Aryan" government employees, attempts to define "non-Aryan", and questionnaires to civil servants for details of their racial background. Also during this period "spontaneous" harassment of the Jews continued but this was largely disapproved of by the Party leaders who preferred to solve the question legally. Even Julius Streicher, the notorious and obscene Jew-baiter publicly condemned the use of non-legal methods going so far as to accuse the perpetrators of being Jews themselves !
The climax of the initial steps was reached in the Nuremberg Party Day celebrations on September 15th 1935 when Goering, to the acclaim of the assembled Nazi officials, read out what have become known as the "Nuremberg Laws". Already preceded by an assortment of citizenship laws beginning in 1933, the two new laws were sharply to the point. The first, the Reich Law of Citizenship, divided the German nation into classes of citizens, those who were merely subjects of the State and those who possessed full citizenship including political rights. Based on racial and ideological grounds this law, with one stroke, placed all Jews into the category of second-class citizens.
The law "For the Protection of German Blood and German Honour" [the second of the Nuremberg laws and called the "Blood Protection Law" for short] was intended to ensure the racial purity of the nation for all time. Fundamentally it made criminal any sexual intercourse between both these new groups the "Reich Citizens" and the "Subjects" but it was aimed specifically at the Jews. Apart from that, this law also served as a basis for further isolation of the socially undesirable in the following years.
It goes without saying that Ernst Rüdin unblushingly claimed for the German Racial Hygiene and Eugenic Movement a measure of responsibility for the inspiration of these Laws. The aim of racial hygiene was to create a fictitious Aryan race. In accordance with this all "non-Aryan" elements had to be rooted out. Apart from having a wrong combination of chromosomes, it also seems to have been a "non-Aryan" trait to have or to be of a different opinion. Consequently, all minorities fell into this category, and liquidation, with the exception of the Jews who were declared scapegoats, started with the smallest groups and worked up from there. Because of this, the larger minorities were left with the belief that it never would be their turn. If the Nazis had started from the other end, everyone would have known that it was to be everyone's neck and they could have united themselves against this procedure when the Nazis were not yet firmly established.
Amongst the minorities that were considered "non-Aryan" were included the Gypsies, Free-masons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Jews and Christians. A common denominator of these religions and ideological minorities is that they all strongly believed in something spiritual and mental and oriented their lives according to this belief. They were unlikely to respond to a psychiatric dreamworld and therefore found no place in the psychiatric view of life.
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