Gene Wars: The United States and Germany’s Fight for Racial Purity, National Strength, and for the Salvation of Western Civilization

In the first half of the twentieth century the eugenics movement spread internationally.  For Western European countries and the United States, eugenics was the method that would ensure biological fitness and purity.  The eugenics movement was seen as a way to rehabilitate declining western culture, in addition to abating the growing threat to western society and political dominance posed by races deemed inferior.  In 1926 Ferdinand Canning and Scott Schiller wrote that ignoring this threat would result in “a degradation of the European race” and “may mean the collapse of civilization.”  Ellsworth Huntington of the American Eugenics Society believed the potential to control evolution through eugenics was one of the “five most momentous human discoveries.”  Racial hygiene was preserved in a variety of ways.  Two of these methods were immigration control in an effort to control race amalgamation, and sterilization or euthanasia of those deemed mentally or physically inferior.  The United States and Germany represented the vanguard of the racial hygiene movement.  The primary thesis of this paper is to illustrate how the eugenics movements in the United States and Germany were used to preserve racial purity, western culture, and western political power in both nations using these two methods.  The significance of this study in the context of world history illustrates the proliferation of eugenics internationally, and how the tactics used by the United States and Germany in deploying eugenics for the betterment of their own culture represented a global movement that saw eugenics being used for the protection of power, race, and culture by nations around the globe.