Thursday, 14 July 2011

Lessons from Auschwitz: Sterilisation Law

Following my Involvement in the ‘Lessons from Auschwitz’ programme (that included a one day visit to the site of Auschwitz-Birkenau in April) I have been inspired to follow, and more importantly to, remember and respect those effected by, a number of key dates in the ‘calendar’ of significant events that mark the of years of the Holocaust.

Today marks the 78th anniversary of the Enactment in Germany of ‘The Law for the Prevention of Genetically Diseased Offspring’. Commonly known as the Sterilization Law, the Law for the Prevention of Genetically Diseased Offspring, was a statute in Nazi Germany enacted on July 14, 1933, which allowed the compulsory sterilization of any citizen who suffered from a list of alleged genetic disorders. The poster above was published in 1936 as propaganda in support of the law.

The list of ‘diseases’ that resulted in the sterilization due to this law included:

Congenital Mental Deficiency
Manic-Depressive Insanity,
Hereditary Epilepsy
Hereditary Chorea (Huntington’s)
Hereditary Blindness
Hereditary Deafness
Any severe hereditary deformity.
Any person suffering from severe alcoholism

Nazi leaders believed that only a genetically pure “racial” body would prosper. Thus, state intervention should ensure that only “valuable” and “Aryan” Germans married and reproduced, while others should be prevented from reproducing. Under the Nazi rule, millions of people were subjected to involuntary sterilization in the name of racial hygiene, an effort to purify the German bloodline and establish internationally their superiority as a nation.

This calculated scheme to simply eradicate the reproduction of ‘non-perfect’ people encapsulates the strategic nature and inhumanity of the holocaust. The law, and the lack of opposition towards it, reveals the ever-present human capability to accept discrimination and injustice. Shockingly, Sterilization was never classified as a war crime because so many other Western countries, including the U.S., had similar laws. Thankfully since the darks days of the holocaust we have seen huge global progressions in attitudes to the treatment and acceptance of all kinds of people regardless of disability, sexuality or race. That said, discrimination and injustice is still very much alive all around the world and it is vital that such inhumane legislation as this Sterilisation Law is never forgotten.

For further information, click here for more about Nazi sterilisation and eugenics.
This is an interesting document with useful historical Sources about The Sterilization Law.
This is not specifically about the Holocaust but is a good history of the treatment of People with Disabilities.

Many thanks to ER for this post.

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