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Eugenics was a dark time in the history of the United States and imitated by other countries including Nazi Germany (Schultz & Schultz, 2016). Following the Civil War eugenics began to gain attention (Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, 2019). The growth in American industry, the rise in mechanization, and the influx of immigration caused alarm to the upper class (Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, 2019). The working class began to procreate at a quicker pace than the upper class and fear rose that the working class would soon take over. This fear caused special attention to Darwin’s belief that only the fittest would survive and they began to plan on how they could aid those not in the fittest category to extinction (Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, 2019). Special attention was pointed at those who were considered feebleminded, criminal, prostitutes, Eastern European, Italian, and Jews believing their problems were in their genetics (Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, 2019).
Leaders of the land began to establish laws to control what they feared would be the end to the fittest white race. They did this by making mixed marriages illegal. Immigration laws were put into place to block anyone from entering the country who could not fully support themselves. Sterilization of people who they felt had a greater chance of producing what they believed was unfit became an acceptable practice. The actions of the United States were noticed by Nazi Germany and they began to follow their lead against the Jews. (Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, 2019)
One contributing factor from the field of psychology was the belief a single gene could drive how a human behaves, and that the gene was present in 75% of the Russian and Polish immigrants. Another contributing factor from the field of psychology was the evaluation and categorization of human behavior, such as criminal acts, prostitution, etc. and its impact on society. Psychology also played a role in evaluating intelligence and then married that evaluation with the scientific belief that intelligence is hereditary. (Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, 2019).
The psychiatrists of Nazi Germany during the eugenics movement were controlled by the state (Dudley & Gale, 2002). Their job was to clean out those they felt had mental illness and psychological issues (Dudley & Gale, 2002). Whether this was done by sterilization or euthanasia, these victims were not viewed as people, but rather as objects (Dudley & Gale, 2002). Many supporters within the industry turned a blind eye to the massacre that was taking place before them (Dudley & Gale, 2002). The psychiatrists believed they were doing good by conducting these acts for the greater good (Dudley & Gale, 2002). In order to ensure this history does not repeat itself, attention must be given to establishing accountability within the profession. Partnerships between the patients and their providers must be strong. Additionally, the most powerful act is the conviction to not turn a blind eye but to speak out against such wrongdoings.
The readings for this assignment were intriguing, yet frightening. I have a daughter with cerebral palsy. She may have been selected as one that was feebleminded by the standards of that day. Additionally, my husband and his children are biracial, and we may not have been allowed to marry. I am not sure my worldview has changed. I have been around long enough to know there are many sins of man that are so very ugly and hard to understand. Yet, I must be careful, as I too am sinful. My convictions to love others as much as I love myself (Mark 12:31) become even more alive within me when I read these types of injustices.
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories. (2019). Image Archive on the American Eugenics Movement. Retrieved from http://www.eugenicsarchive.org/eugenics/
Dudley, M., & Gale, F. (2002). Psychiatrists as a Moral Community? Psychiatry Under the Nazis and its Contemporary Relevance. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 36(5), 585-594. doi:10.1046/j.1440-1614.2002.01072.x
Schultz, D. P., & Schultz, S. E. (2016). A History of Modern Psychology (11th ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.
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