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October 31, 2003 - Image 33

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-10-31

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111-11 A

r 1,

Eugenic Past, Genetic Future

New York

Edwin Black is the author of the newly
released "War Against the Weak: Eugenics
and America's Campaign to Create a
Master Race" (Four Walls Eight Windows)
and "IBM and the Holocaust" (Crown
Books 2001). He can be reached via

Nordic ideal would be eliminated,
It took me and some 50 researchers
two years, delving through dozens of
archives to retrieve- some 50,000 pages of
documentation to connect the dots for
my book WI?. Against the Weak: Eugenics
and America's Campaign to Create a
Master Race. The story is an ugly one.
In the first three decades of the 20th
century American corporate philanthro-
py combined with prestigious academic
fraud to create the pseudo-science
eugenics that institutionalized race poli-
tics enshrined as national policy with
enabling legislation in 27 states. These
laws were ruled constitutional and the
law of the land by the U.S. Supreme
The method? By identifying so-called
"defective" family trees and subjecting
them to legislated segregation and sterili-
zation programs. But eugenicists also
talked about public gas chambers and
medicalized euthanasia. Indeed, doctor-
organized euthanasia was sporadically
The victims: poor people, brown-
haired white people, African Americans,
immigrants, Indians, Eastern Europeans,
the infirm and really anyone classified
outside the superior genetic lines drawn
up by American raceologists.
The main culprits were the Carnegie
Institution, the Rockefeller Foundation
and the Harriman railroad fortune, in
league with America's most respected sci-
entists hailing from such prestigious uni-
versities as Harvard, Yale and Princeton,
operating out of a complex at Cold

Spring Harbor on Long Island.
insurance companies, employ-
Ultimately, 60,000 Americans
ers and others want to exclude
were coercively sterilized --
those deemed to be insurance
legally and extra-legally. Many
risks and even socially unac-
never discovered the truth until
ceptable. Legislators complain
decades later. Those who active-
this will create a new "genetic
ly supported eugenics include
Legislation now in the
America's most progressive fig-
begin to address this
ures: Woodrow Wilson,
Spe cial
Margaret Sanger, Oliver
But for legislators and policy
Comm entary
Wendell Holmes and Franklin
makers to defend our future,
Delano Roosevelt.
they need to take a harder look
American eugenic crusades proliferat-
at our own past. To do that, state
ed into a worldwide campaign, and in
records must be opened, archives must
the 1920s came to the attention of Adolf remove artificial doctor-patient classifica-
Hitler. Under the Nazis, American
tions and an army of investigative
eugenic principles were applied without
reporters needs to expose the state-by-
restraint, careening out of control into
state injustices-whether or not that
the Reich's infamous genocide.
unveils official ethnic cleansing in this
During the pre-War years, American
country. Five governors — Virginia,
eugenicists openly supported Germany's
North Carolina, South Carolina,
program. The Rockefeller Foundation
Oregon and California — have already
financed the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute
apologized. That is only a beginning.
and the work of its central racial scien-
Moreover, Wall Street-backed genetic
tists, including the program that ulti-
research corporation must be stripped of
mately sent Mengele into Auschwitz.
its ability to engineer human life in
As the world recoiled from Nazi atroc- commercial secrecy. If it is human life
ities, the American eugenics movement
— why is a secret? Why should it be
— its institutions and leading scientists
— renamed and regrouped under the
So while the House ponders the anti-
banner of the science called "human
genetic discrimination bill to guard our
future, America must also explore its
After a few generations, human genet-
own biological crimes. Society must
ics evolved into the enlightened genetic
ensure that the much-needed, long-over-
science we know, dedicated to fighting
due genie of human genetics will never
terrible disease and enhancing human
return to the black days of eugenics —
life. But now "newgenics" has risen to
from whence it came. 7
once again persecute and discriminate
on the basis of blood ancestry. Some

one's Jewishness, you might want to
experience second thoughts before using
a phrase like "worship money" As the
New Republic, a famously unshakeable
supporter of Israel, put it in its much
more satisfying apology "The phrase
was right out of the classical vocabulary
of modern anti-Semitisni."
If, however, Easterbrook's point was
that Jewish moguls should not be
immune from charges of money wor-
ship — well, maybe, but who brought
up their Jewishness in the first place?
My father, who was once called a
"lying Jew" by a playmate when he
claimed to be safe at second, puts it this
way: "You can call me a liar, but what
does my being Jewish have to do with
Perhaps a Jewish writer could have
gotten away with an essay like
Easterbrook's; I can imagine a rabbi
writing that Jewish moguls have a par-

titular responsibility to limit the glorifi-
cation of violence in the media. But
even that would be at the very least pre-
sumptuous. Eisner and Weinstein have
never presented themselves as anything
other than executives charged with
making money for their corporations;
it's not their fault that folks like
Easterbrook can't see past their last
Between Easterbrook and Mahathir,
the latter's remarks were infinitely more
dangerous, considering his audience, his
reputation as a "moderate" Muslim
leader, and his heretofore close relation-
ship with the White House. (It took the
president four days to protest the
remarks, and he did so only in a private
conversation with the prime minister at
the Asian summit in Bangkok.)
The Muslim world has become fertile
ground for classic anti-Semitic conspira-
cy theories, and Islamic extremists have

displaced neo-Nazis as the number one
threat to the physical safety of the
world's Jews.
As for the Muslim people, blaming
the Jews is what their leaders do instead
of undertaking the very reforms
Mahathir proposed in the bulk of his
speech: rooting out corruption, embrac-
ing technological and industrial
advances, and resisting the pull of
theocracy. In that regard, the
Malaysian's cynical remarks were a
felony, while Easterbrook's Web mus-
ings were closer to a misdemeanor.
Mahathir has a history of Jew-baiting,
once blaming the 1997 Asian market
crisis on the Jews, while Easterbrook,
based on his previous writings and the
testimony of his many Jewish friends, is
no anti-Semite.
But there is a connection between the
casual remarks of a liberal pundit and
the calculated spewings of a world


n Oct. 14, the Senate unani-
mously passed America's first
serious anti-genetic discrimi-
nation bill, which now goes
to the House for consideration.
The measure would forbid discrimina-
tion by insurers, employers and others
based on genetic background or identity,
just as current protections cover work-
place or financial bias because of race,
religion and national origin.
All eyes are now on the House. If the
bill does pass the House, it is expected
to receive an enthusiastic signature from
President George Bu4. If anti-gene-lin-
ing legislation succeeds, it would mark
the first time America has preemptively
checked an entire category of discrimi-
nation before society accumulates thou-
sands of victims. As such, we are con-
fronting our future before a dismal new
legacy is created.
In so doing, our nation must also
confront the dismal legacy of American
eugenics, where genetic information was
twisted and distorted into an official
crusade to create a white, master blond-
haired and blue-eyed Nordic race. In the
process, the reproductive ability of all
other peoples who did not resemble this

leader, which is why it was important
that both men's statements were
denounced swiftly and mercilessly.
The Web is not only too fast for the
world's own good, it is too widespread.
Rumors fly around the globe at the
speed of light, and the stuff formerly
reserved for poorly printed leaflets now
regularly gets clipped and pasted into
articles in the mainstream.
In the non-digital past, Easterbrook
might have shared his remarks with
friends, been shouted down by a few of
them, and left his thoughts on Jewish
movie execs in the discard pile where
they belong. In the Internet age, his
unfortunate scribblings may be excoriat-
ed, yet they move quickly into a Web of
approving links and citations, where the
words of an American magazine writer
are included as "proof" that a Malaysian
prime minister's anti-Jewish speech was
on the money. E




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