Among us there are no children with Down syndrome, in fact if there was a gene responsible for a psychic illness, after some time psychiatric hospitals and care houses for disabled people would be depopulated. Eugenics, reigning in the inter-war period and gathering a terrible harvest during the Second World War, in the majesty of law, took on a new form: euthanasia and abortion.

When Darwin’s concepts of ideal society turned out to be impossible to realize, a new science entered the arena, promoting better born babies at the cost of less adapted, ill, less intelligent babies – eugenics. Thanks to new inventions, the 20th century world was entering into the era of progress. Many allegedly intelligent people would believe that this progress in the society can be ‘accelerated’. In this way the eugenic movement appeared which led to selection of people, their evaluation as less and more valuable. In the United States, the pioneers of this social engineering were scientific workers of renowned universities, representatives of law and financiers. In their opinion the society should be consciously ‘freed’ from disabled people: the deaf, the blind, the mentally disabled, the mentally ill, people suffering from tuberculosis or criminals. They suggested ways of this freeing: separation, the ban of marriage or finally, sterilization. The first act enforcing sterilization of criminals, rapists and mentally ill people was introduced in the state of Indiana in 1901. Thirty years later the compulsory sterilization was introduced by 30 states. Law-makers in the United States also made a selection in national groups. Considering people coming from the central, eastern and southern Europe as ‘biologically inferior’, the emigration law of the USA in 1924 banned their settling in the States. In the 20s of the last century, a judge of the Supreme Court of the United States Olivier Wendell Homes stated that people who had been ‘idiots’ for many generations should be sterilized. Under this paragraph about 65 thousand Americans were sterilized in 25 states. Also in Europe the eugenic movement was developing, mainly in Great Britain and Germany where acts allowing or banning sterilization of genetically disabled people were introduced. In Poland the eugenic movement is created by prominent scientists, people of culture and science. The act of sterilization, however, was not passed. The psychiatric environment expressed a negative opinion about it. People brought up in Catholicism considered it as a mass murder.

From science to an ideology

Eugenics found its diligent student. American scientists were coming to give lectures in Europe, in order to develop the movement of eugenics, they were also visiting German universities. Adolf Hitler studied eugenic ideas during his stay in a prison where he wrote ‘Mein Kampf’. He allowed for eugenic abortion in 1933, just after his taking over the authority. A year later in Germany the act of sterilization was implemented (in Soviet Russia Lenin legalized abortion already in 1922). However, only racial eugenics and marriage legalization gave the base to mass annihilation of nations, families, social groups, religious groups, political opponents, ill and disabled people. Nuns and monks, thought as ‘genetically burdened’ were closed in psychiatric hospitals, and the permission depended on voluntary subjecting to sterilization. It should be noted that similarly as in the USA, the eugenic ideas got much support from media in the form of press articles, films, lectures and readings at schools, which caused a social evolution of attitudes towards eugenics. Media spoke loudly about the number of costs in the country in order to keep people ‘genetically burdened’. In the years 1934-37 about 200 thousand Germans were sterilized and till the end of the years 1944 – 400 thousand.

Racial cleansing

The act about German blood and German honor brought other victims of eugenics in Germany. The Germans originating from mixed German-Jewish marriages were subjected to sterilization. German eugenics scientists also promoted selective reproduction of racially matched marriages and prevention of fertility of genetically mentally and physically disabled babies. Racial hygiene became a subject of teaching in medical studies. In order to promote and care about realization of the program of racial purity, a special institution Lebensborn was established, which was supposed to ‘breed’ racially pure German children. After beginning of the racial war, also children of conquered nations were subjected to sterilization, compulsorily taken away from parents, like for example children from Zamojszczyzna. Disabled children born in Lebensborn were killed. It is estimated that during the war 250 thousand children were taken away from parents.

Slavs – according to the German racial ideology – were inferior race, so their fertility was undesirable for lords of race. German legislation introduced abortion on the wish of women of occupied countries. At that time, German women were facing death penalty for killing their unborn babies. In German concentration camps German executioners were using abortion massively under duress, also sterilization was being done massively to prisoners subjected to medical experiments of chirurgical and radiological character.

The German racial ideology deprived whole nations of the right for life. The Holocaust of the Jews and Roma from conquered European countries led to annihilation of millions of people. The abnormal eugenic idea was gathering its harvest.

Despite the experiences of the Second World War and mass murders done on ill and racially stigmatized people, eugenic ideas survived and are realized today in the form of abortion, euthanasia and in vitro. Today many countries in their legislations allow for a possibility of killing an unborn baby because of his illness or disability. In this action medicine is supported by prenatal diagnosis, uncovering defects of an unborn baby. Societies of democratic European countries introduce also a possibility of killing ill and old people into their legislation (among the others, Sweden, Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg, Switzerland). And eugenics and euthanasia include the formant ‘eu’ in their names –good; eugenics – means a well born baby, euthanasia – is a good death. The perverse science and scientists call the phenomenon a good, which is the evil in the Christian tradition. Killing a man is contradictory with law and killing an ill, disabled, old person, unable to defend – is a murder. Modern medicine enabling to have a baby by in vitro method, introduces eugenic ideas in life already at the phase of selection of sperms and freezing fertilized eggs. In this phase of human development genetic studies eliminate many embryos burdened with defects, and frozen embryos are killed after a few years (Great Britain) or kept in fridges for many years (in USA 500 thousand fetuses).

Euthanasia, abortion and in vitro are building new, extremely dangerous spaces of exclusion. It is not only a social or economic exclusion, but exclusion from life – writes Tomasz Terlikowski (‘Rzeczpospolita’, 14 January 2013). Death civilization is gathering its harvest at the beginning of 21st century. For the sake of freedom slogans: right for a decision about ending life or right for one’s own belly, every year millions of existences are killed which cannot decide about themselves. So, do we differ from eugenic generations brought up on ideologies not respecting human life at all?

The author used such the documentary film as "Death of a psychiatrist. Eugenics and totalitarianism ", dir. Amelia Łukasiak and Slawomir Małoicki, "Eugenics in the name of progress", dir. Gregory Braun, also of publication: Arthur George Katolo, "Eugenics and euthanasia. Nazi experience ", the Foundation Globalization Institute, Warsaw 2012.


"Niedziela" 6/2013

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: