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Pierre-Alexandre Fortin

1455 De Maisonneuve Ouest


Concordia University
November 9th, 2010

Dear Professor Novakovich,

Subject: Proposal for my final essay on eugenics and the origin of WWII.

War has followed man everywhere he went since the dawn of civilisation. The

motivations behind war might be different from time to time, but the consequences

essentially remain the same. One of the most violent war of the modern era is certainly

the second world war. Not only did it leave devastation and death in its wake, but the

motivations behind this war were the source of international disgust and concern. Now a

thing of the past, intellectuals and leaders worldwide try to understand what led to this

conflict. Nazi ideology takes its roots in eugenics, the science which strives to enhance

the genetic composition of a population through different means. However, eugenics was

not created by the Nazis, as it existed in America and other countries before the rise of the

National socialism. Hitler and his government pushed the concept to a whole new level,

which led to the beginning of the gigantic body count of the second world war. Today,

eugenics is mostly considered a pseudo-science, but genetic engineering threatens to

follow the same formula as its predecessor. In order to prevent past mistakes from

resurfacing, the world has to look back on where it came from.


This topic relates to the main theme that transpires in my blog, which is human

rights. I have covered different issues in the three last essays, both positive and negative.

This last topic touches on my theme through the victims of Hitler’s policies. Eugenics in

Germany targeted the weak individuals of society such as the mentally and physically ill,

the elders and the ethnic minorities. In the process, a lot of fundamental rights have been

denied, which is why I am interested in the subject.

The very first step I took in order to choose a topic was to look for a list of

research topic related to my blog theme. I remembered that Sarah-Danielle talked about a

very interesting website with a list of topics that covered many different subjects. The

Santa Monica College Library was where I first stumbled upon the topic of bioethics. It

sparked some interest but I had no idea of how I would link it to human rights. After

some research on the internet for related ideas and topics, I found works on genetic

engineering and eugenics. Wikipedia gave me an overview of both subject, and from

there I narrowed it down to eugenics in Nazi Germany. Searching through the library

catalogue I found numerous entry on the subject, both general and specific. Most notable

are an encyclopaedia of eugenics and a book on the origins and practices of eugenics in

Germany. After the library orientation, I found most of my remaining sources on EBSCO,

which I had been looking for on the library website for quite some time. The information

contained in the articles I picked either confirmed or added to my already existing

information. To study the origins of the eugenic movement in Germany, I chose articles

that detailed the presence of eugenics in other country, such as the United States. I also

focused my research on the origin of the science, which came from Great Britain. Sadly,

two books that seemed relevant were already taken out of the library. With those two
books added to my bibliography (if they are as relevant as they seem), I will have a

decent amount of information from various academic sources.

There is an old saying that goes like this: “History repeats itself”. Seeing has wars

are still present in this modern day, chances are they will appear in the future.

Nonetheless, this does not mean that we have to stop looking for an alternative and a

solution to armed conflicts all over the world. Moreover, wars are not always the only

case in which human rights are denied and disregarded. Eugenics was in place in some

countries before the second world war had even begun. Today, genetic engineering tells

us that we will soon be able to selection the genetic composition of our children (hair and

eyes colour, physical built, intelligence). To me, this sounds a lot like eugenics version

2.0, and the consequences related to that kind of power are similar in my mind. A good

comprehension of eugenics and how it was used in the past is inherent in order to avoid

making the same mistakes in the present context. For those reasons, I think that my topic

is valuable and I seek your approbation to continue researching on the matter.

Sincerely,

Pierre-Alexandre
Outline

I. Introduction

a. A quick recapitulation of WWII and the events that led to it.

a. Explanation of the concepts and basic notions of eugenics.

a. Thesis : Eugenics is at the heart of Nazi ideology and, consequently, was used

as the basis for legislation that brought about the death of millions in the beginning

of the second world war and that could take the issue of genetic engineering down

the same path.

II. Body

a. The origins of eugenics and how it rose to popularity.

Charles Darwin and Francis Galton are credited for the birth of eugenics.

b. The influence of America on Germany regarding eugenics and other praticses.

American legislation of eugenics prior to WWII.

Groups that were targeted by those laws in the US.

Concepts borrowed from the Americans by the German government.

c. The introduction of eugenics in Nazi Germany and its settling in the country.

Explanation of the socio-economical context of the time.

Introduction of the legislation linked to eugenics in Germany.

Beginning of the explication and execution of those laws.

III. Conclusion

a. Reaffirmation of thesis.

a. The general opinion of specialists and scientists on eugenics post-WWII

a. The rise of genetic engineering and how it could become the new eugenics.
Annotated Bibliography

̈ Peter Chroust, and Christian Pross. Cleansing the Fatherland: Nazi Medicine
Aly, Gotz,
and Racial Hygiene. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1994. Print.

Collection of translated articles published in German journals of the time. Interesting


insights on the ideology and the perception of eugenics from inside sources. High quality
of the articles that gives another angle and more perspective to the conflict.

Crook, Paul. "American Eugenics and the Nazis: Recent Historiography." The European
Legacy 7.3 (2002): 363-81. Academic Search Complete. Web. 21 Oct. 2010.

Develops mostly the relation between America and Germany on the topic of eugenics.
Adds diversity by explaining how eugenics developed in other powerful countries such as
France, England, Japan and others. Quick recapitulation of the origins is also important to
cross reference with other sources. Lengthy and high quality.

Engs, Ruth C. The Eugenics Movement: an Encyclopedia. Westport, CT: Greenwood,


2005. Print.

Encyclopaedia encompassing many different elements, all related to eugenics. Very


effective to get an overall view of the subject and to make connections between the
elements that make up the main topic. Information is concise, of high quality and covers
a lot of aspects.

Kessler, Karl. "Physicians and the Nazi Euthanasia Program." International Journal of
Mental Health 36.1 (2007): 4-16. Academic Search Complete. Web. 21 Oct. 2010.

High quality source that explains the reasoning behind Nazi eugenics. Information mostly
based on a medical point of view and briefly traces back to the origins of eugenics.
Explains the relation between the medical and the political nature of eugenics for Hitler's
party.

Nicosia, Francis R., and Jonathan Huener. Medicine and Medical Ethics in Nazi
Germany: Origins, Practices, Legacies. New York: Berghahn, 2002. Print.

Noack, Thorsten, and Heiner Fangerau. "Eugenics, Euthanasia, and Aftermath."


International Journal of Mental Health 36.1 (2007): 112-24. Academic Search
Complete. Web. 21 Oct. 2010.

Source of high quality explaining the context preceding the entry of eugenics in Nazi
Germany as well as the development of the ideology. Focus on the means employed to
enact the sterilization and killings. Helpful for retracing the chronology of the events that
lead to WWII.

Proctor, Robert. Racial Hygiene: Medicine under the Nazis. Cambridge, MA: Harvard
UP, 1988. Print.

Examines the medical field during the third Reich and the political aspect related to it.
Further analysis of the links between political ideals and medical practises associated
with eugenics. Credible source that emphasizes those links, making the process of
sterilization and legislation easier to understand.

Sofair, André N., and Lauris C. Kaldjian. "Eugenic Sterilization and a Qualified Nazi
Analogy: The United States and Germany, 1930-1945." Annals of Internal
Medicine 123.4 (2000): 312-19. Academic Search Complete. Web. 21 Oct. 2010.

Demonstrates the similarities between United States and Germany policies on


sterilization. Comparison of historical data as well as medical journals helps to create a
link between the two countries and reveal motivations and strategies behind the eugenics
campaign. Sources are credible and highly relevant.

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