- Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring
Law for the Prevention of Genetically Diseased Offspring (Gr. "Gesetz zur Verhütung erbkranken Nachwuchses") or "Sterilization Law" was a statute in
Nazi Germanyenacted on July 14, 1933, which allowed the compulsory sterilizationof any citizen who in the opinion of a "Genetic Health Court" (Gr. "Erbgesundheitsgericht") suffered from a list of alleged genetic disorders. The elaborate interpretive commentary on the law was written by three dominant figures in the racial hygienemovement: Ernst Rüdin, Arthur Güttand the lawyer Falk Ruttke.
Operation of the law
The basic provisions of the 1933 law stated that::"(1) Any person suffering from a hereditary disease may be rendered incapable of procreation by means of a surgical operation (sterilization), if the experience of medical science shows that it is highly probable that his descendants would suffer from some serious physical or mental hereditary defect.":"(2) For the purposes of this law, any person will be considered as hereditarily diseased who is suffering from any one of the following diseases:–"
::"(1) Congenital Mental Deficiency,"::"(2)
Schizophrenia,"::"(3) Manic-Depressive Insanity,"::"(4) Hereditary Epilepsy,"::"(5) Hereditary Chorea (Huntington’s),"::"(6) Hereditary Blindness,"::"(7) Hereditary Deafness,"::"(8) Any severe hereditary deformity." :"(3) Any person suffering from severe alcoholismmay be also rendered incapable of procreation." ["The law for the prevention of hereditarily diseased offspring. (Approved translation of the "Gesetz zur Verhütung erbkranken Nachwuchses"). Enacted on July 14th, 1933. Published by Reichsausschuss für Volksgesundheitsdienst." (Berlin: Reichsdruckerei, 1935). (Official translation of the law into English)]
The law applied to anyone in the general population, making its scope significantly larger than the compulsory sterilization laws in the
United States, which generally were only applicable on people in psychiatric hospitals or prisons.
The 1933 law created a large number of "Genetic Health Courts", consisting of a judge, a medical officer, and medical practitioner, which "shall decide at its own discretion after considering the results of the whole proceedings and the evidence tendered”. If the court decided that the person in question was to be sterilized, the decision could be appealed to "Higher Genetic Health Court". If the appeal failed, the sterilization was to be carried out, with the law specifying that "the use of force is permissible". The law also required that people seeking voluntary sterilizations also go through the courts.
The original July 1933 statute was modified by six orders and three amendments by 1935, most making minor adjustments to how the statute operated or clarifying bureaucratic aspects (such as who paid for the operations). The most significant changes allowed the Higher Court to renounce a patient's right to appeal, and to fine physicians who did not report patients who they knew would qualify for sterilization under the law. The law also enforced sterilization on the so-called "
At the time of its enaction, the German government pointed to the success of sterilization laws elsewhere, especially the work in
Californiadocumented by the eugenicists E. S. Gosneyand Paul Popenoe, as evidence of the humaneness and efficacy of such laws. Eugenicists abroad admired the German law for its legal and ideological clarity. Popenoe himself wrote that "the German law is well drawn and, in form, may be considered better than the sterilization laws of most American states", and trusted in the German government's "conservative, sympathetic, and intelligent administration" of the law, praising the "scientific leadership" of the Nazis. [Paul Popenoe, “The German sterilization law,” Journal of Heredity 25:7 (1934), 257-260, on 259-260.]
In the first year of the law's operation, nearly 4,000 people appealed against the decisions of sterilization authorities; 3,559 of the appeals failed. By the end of the Nazi regime, over 200 "Genetic Health Courts" were created, and under their rulings over 400,000 people were sterilized against their will. [Robert Proctor, " [http://books.google.com/books?id=hogbxS2Gp1QC&dq=abortion+and+%22Gerhard+Wagner%22&lr=&num=100&source=gbs_summary_s&cad=0 Racial Hygiene: Medicine Under the Nazis] " (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1988): 108. Via Google Books.]
Along with the law,
Adolf Hitlerpersonally decriminalized abortion in case of fetuses having racial or hereditary defects for doctors, while the abortion of healthy "pure" German, "Aryan" unborn remained strictly forbidden. [Henry Friedlander, " [http://books.google.com/books?id=gqLDEKVk2nMC&pg=PR22&dq=Friedlander+and+abortion+nazi&ei=WOT3R4zxPIOOywSH6JW0DQ&sig=nt0z_vPg8PMvE2yKUYaoWHYTx_o#PPA30,M1 The Origins of Nazi Genocide: From Euthanasia to the Final Solution] " (Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of Northern Carolina Press, 1995): 30. Via Google Books.]
Life unworthy of life
* [http://www.facinghistorycampus.org/campus/rm.nsf/0/81C67A69F8081A5885257037005E9C6A "Eugenics in Germany : 'The Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring'"] article from "Facing History and Ourselves"
*United States Holocaust Memorial Museum - [http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/article.php?lang=en&ModuleId=10007057 The Biological State: Nazi Racial Hygiene, 1933-1939]
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