The Roots of the Concentration Camp Were American and British Eugenicists, Not Nazis

For what its worth, the very idea of the ‘concentration camp’ was as much American and British, if not more, as it was Nazi Germany.  These ‘segregation’ camps were seen as humane and hygienic ways to prevent the breeding of ‘defective stock.’  Quotes from Eugenicists discussing such camps are provided below.  No attempt is made to organize them or analyze them.

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Francis Galton, 1865.  “Hereditary Talent and Character” in Macmillan Magazine, Part 2, pg 311.

I think that stern compulsion ought to be exerted to prevent the free propagation of the stock of those who are seriously afflicted by lunacy, feeble-mindedness, habitual criminality, and pauperism, but that is quite different from compulsory marriage.  How to restrain ill-omened marriages is a question by itself, whether it should be effected by seclusion, or in other ways yet to be devised that are consistent with a humane and well-informed public opinion.  I cannot doubt that our democracy will ultimately refuse consent to that liberty of propagating children which is now allowed to the undesirable classes, but the populace has yet to be taught the true state of these things.  A democracy cannot endure unless it be composed of able citizens;  therefore it must in self-defense withstand the free introduction of generate stock.

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Margaret Sanger, 1922.  The Pivot of Civilization pages 38-39.

pivot of civilization front coverThe problem of the dependent, delinquent and defective elements in modern society, we must repeat, cannot be minimized because of their alleged small numerical proportion to the rest of the population. The proportion seems small only because we accustom ourselves to the habit of looking upon feeble-mindedness as a separate and distinct calamity to the race, as a chance phenomenon unrelated to the sexual and biological customs not only condoned but even encouraged by our so-called civilization. The actual dangers can only be fully realized when we have acquired definite information concerning the financial and cultural cost of these classes to the community, when we become fully cognizant of the burden of the imbecile upon the whole human race; when we see the funds that should be available for human development, for scientific, artistic and philosophic research, being diverted annually, by hundreds of millions of dollars, to the care and segregation of men, women, and children who never should have been born. The advocate of Birth Control realizes as well as all intelligent thinkers the dangers of interfering with personal liberty. Our whole philosophy is, in fact, based upon the fundamental assumption that man is a self-conscious, self-governing creature, that he should not be treated as a domestic animal; that he must be left free, at least within certain wide limits, to follow his own wishes in the matter of mating and in the procreation of children. Nor do we believe that the community could or should send to the lethal chamber the defective progeny resulting from irresponsible and unintelligent breeding.

            But modern society, which has respected the personal liberty of the individual only in regard to the unrestricted and irresponsible bringing into the world of filth and poverty an overcrowding procession of infants foredoomed to death or hereditable disease, is now confronted with the problem of protecting itself and its future generations against the inevitable consequences of this long-practised policy of laisser-faire.

            The emergency problem of segregation and sterilization must be faced immediately. Every feeble-minded girl or woman of the hereditary type, especially of the moron class, should be segregated during the reproductive period. Otherwise, she is almost certain to bear imbecile children, who in turn are just as certain to breed other defectives. The male defectives are no less dangerous. Segregation carried out for one or two generations would give us only partial control of the problem. Moreover, when we realize that each feeble-minded person is a potential source of an endless progeny of defect, we prefer the policy of immediate sterilization, of making sure that parenthood is absolutely prohibited to the feeble-minded.

            This, I say, is an emergency measure. But how are we to prevent the repetition in the future of a new harvest of imbecility, the recurrence of new generations of morons and defectives, as the logical and inevitable consequence of the universal application of the traditional and widely approved command to increase and multiply?

            At the present moment, we are offered three distinct and more or less mutually exclusive policies by which civilization may hope to protect itself and the generations of the future from the allied dangers of imbecility, defect and delinquency. No one can understand the necessity for Birth Control education without a complete comprehension of the dangers, the inadequacies, or the limitations of the present attempts at control, or the proposed programs for social reconstruction and racial regeneration. It is, therefore, necessary to interpret and criticize the three programs offered to meet our emergency. These may be briefly summarized as follows:

            (1) Philanthropy and Charity: This is the present and traditional method of meeting the problems of human defect and dependence, of poverty and delinquency. It is emotional, altruistic, at best ameliorative, aiming to meet the individual situation as it arises and presents itself. Its effect in practise is seldom, if ever, truly preventive. Concerned with symptoms, with the allaying of acute and catastrophic miseries, it cannot, if it would, strike at the radical causes of social misery. At its worst, it is sentimental and paternalistic.

            (2) Marxian Socialism: This may be considered typical of many widely varying schemes of more or less revolutionary social reconstruction, emphasizing the primary importance of environment, education, equal opportunity, and health, in the elimination of the conditions (i. e. capitalistic control of industry) which have resulted in biological chaos and human waste. I shall attempt to show that the Marxian doctrine is both too limited, too superficial and too fragmentary in its basic analysis of human nature and in its program of revolutionary reconstruction.

            (3) Eugenics: Eugenics seems to me to be valuable in its critical and diagnostic aspects, in emphasizing the danger of irresponsible and uncontrolled fertility of the “unfit” and the feeble-minded establishing a progressive unbalance in human society and lowering the birth-rate among the “fit.” But in its so-called “constructive” aspect, in seeking to reestablish the dominance of healthy strain over the unhealthy, by urging an increased birth-rate among the fit, the Eugenists really offer nothing more farsighted than a “cradle competition” between the fit and the unfit. They suggest in very truth, that all intelligent and respectable parents should take as their example in this grave matter of child-bearing the most irresponsible elements in the community.

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Margaret Sanger – A Plan for Peace  – 1932

The first step would thus be to control the intake and output of morons, mental defectives, epileptics.

The second step would be to take an inventory of the secondary group such as illiterates, paupers, unemployables, criminals, prostitutes, dope-fiends; classify them in special departments under government medical protection, and segregate them on farms and open spaces as long as necessary for the strengthening and development of moral conduct.

Having corralled this enormous part of our population and placed it on a basis of health instead of punishment, it is safe to say that fifteen or twenty millions of our population would then be organized into soldiers of defense—defending the unborn against their own disabilities.

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Herbert E Walter in an essay called “Human Conservation” found on page 478-479 of Readings in Evolution, compiled by Horatio Hackett Newman.  First published in 1921.

d) Segregation of Defectives

Persons with hereditary defects, such as epileptics, idiots, and certain criminals, who become wards of the state, should be segregated so that their germplasm may not escape to furnish additional burdens to society.  “We have become so used to crime, disease and degeneracy that we take them for necessary evils.  That they were in the world’s ignorance, is granted.  That they must remain so, is denied” (Davenport).

“The great horde of defectives once in the world have the right to live and enjoy as best they may whatever freedom is compatible with the lives and freedom of other members of society,” says Kellicott, but society has a right to protect itself against repetitions of hereditary blunders.

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