From Darwin to Hitler

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1 From Darwin to Hitler

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3 From Darwin to Hitler ~ Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics, and Racism in Germany Richard Weikart palgrave macmillan

4 * FROM DARWIN TO HITLER Richard Weikart Softcover reprint of the hardcover 15t edition All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. First published 2004 by PALGRAVE MACMILLANTM 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y and Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire, England RG21 6XS Companies and representatives throughout the world PALGRAVE MACMILLAN is the global academic imprint of the Palgrave Macmillan division of St. Martin's Press, LLC and of Palgrave Macmillan Ltd. Macmillan is a registered trademark in the United States, United Kingdom and other countries. Palgrave is a registered trademark in the European Union and other countries. ISBN ISBN (ebook) DOI / Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Wei kart, Richard, From Darwin to Hitler: evolutionary ethics, eugenics, and racism in Germany / by Richard Weikart. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. 1. Eugenics-Germany-History. 2. Ethics, Evolutionary. 3. Racism-Germany. 4. Germany-Race relations. I. Title. HQ755.5.G3W '00943-dc A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. Design by Newgen Imaging Systems (P) Ltd, Chennai, India. First edition: May Transferred to digital printing in 2008.

5 Contents ~ Illustrations Preface Vll IX Introduction 1. Laying New Foundations for Ethics 1. The Origin of Ethics and the Rise of Moral Relativism 2. Evolutionary Progress as the Highest Good 3. Organizing Evolutionary Ethics 2. Devaluing Human Life 4. The Value of Life and the Value of Death 5. The Specter ofinferiority: Devaluing the Disabled and "Unproductive" 6. The Science of Racial Inequality 3. Eliminating the "Inferior Ones" 7. Controlling Reproduction: Overturning Traditional Sexual Morality 8. Killing the "Unfit" 9. War and Peace 10. Racial Struggle and Extermination 4. Impacts 11. Hitler's Ethic Conclusion Notes Bibliography Index

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7 Illustrations ~ 1.1 "Ape-like" Italian criminal Frontispiece of Haeckel's Natiirliche Schopfongsgeschichte Pithecanthropus alalus Cover of Der Brummer magazine Spaniards' dogs mauling Indians 190

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9 Preface &:::8 I became fascinated with the topic of evolutionary ethics while doing research for my dissertation, Socialist Darwinism: Evolution in German Socialist Thought from Marx to Bernstein (published in 1999). Little did I suspect the course my study would take. While examining Darwinian discourse in Germany, I found that many Darwinists believed that Darwinism had revolutionary implications for ethics and morality, providing a new foundation for ethics and overturning traditional moral codes. Intrigued by these ideas, I intended at first merely to describe and analyze the development of evolutionary ethics in Germany and elsewhere. However, as I began to read the writings of Ernst Haeckel and other early Darwinists, my focus shifted to a specific field of ethics-what is today called biomedical ethics. One cause for this shift was my study of Ernst Haeckel's works, in which-to my surprise-he advocated infanticide for babies having certain kinds of disabilities. Second, I discovered that many German eugenicists wrote essays and passages in their books on how to apply Darwinism to ethics. I had not initially intended eugenics to play an important part in this study, but I could not avoid it-leaders of the eugenics movement were some of the most prominent promoters of evolutionary ethics. Last, but certainly not least, James Rachel's book, Created from Animals: The Moral Implications of Darwinism (Oxford, 1990), stimulated my thinking. Rachel's argument that Darwinism undermines the sanctity of human life and his support for euthanasia seemed remarkably similar to some of the ideas I encountered in late nineteenth and early twentieth-century Germany. Rachel's book-together with what I already knew about the views of Haeckel, some social Darwinists, and eugenicists-suggested to me a new question to explore: Did German Darwinists use Darwinian theory to undermine the traditionally held doctrine of the sanctity of human life? To pose the question a different way, what did Darwinism-or at least influential proponents of Darwinism-have to say about the value of human life? As I framed the question in this way, other issues relating to life and death emerged naturally, especially war and racial conflict.

10 x Prefoce As I reformulated my study on evolutionary ethics to include discussions on the value of human life, another topic became inescapable: the influence of this discourse on Hitler. Hitler was not even on my radar screen when I began my research, and Daniel Gasman's one-sided attempt to link Haeckel and Hitler made me wary. However, the more books, articles, and documents I read by Darwinists and eugenicists in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and the more I read by and about Hitler, the more I became convinced that there were significant historical connections between Darwinism and Hitler's ideology. I will leave it to the reader to decide how straight or twisted the path is from Darwinism to Hitler after reading my account. It is my task now to trace this path from Darwin's time to approximately World War I (in the case of Hitler, I extend the discussion a little later chronologically, since all of Hitler's speeches and writings came after World War I). Some of the material presented in this book has appeared previously in journal articles: "The Origins of Social Darwinism in Germany, ," Journal of the History of Ideas 54 (1993): ; "Darwinism and Death: Devaluing Human Life in Germany, ," Journal of the History of Ideas 63 (2002): ; and "Progress through Racial Extermination: Social Darwinism, Eugenics, and Pacifism in Germany, ," German Studies Review 26 (2003): Thanks to the anonymous readers and to Diethelm Prowe, editor of German Studies Review, for their helpful comments on these essays. I would also like to thank the many other people who made this book possible. First and foremost, California State University, Stanislaus, provided many resources, including a sabbatical and research grants. Crucial for this project was the CSU, Stanislaus, Inter-Library Loan department (thanks, Julie Reuben), without which this study would have been extremely difficult or impossible. My colleagues in the History Department have given constant encouragement and inspiration. Many thanks also to the Center for Science and Culture (especially Jay Richards and Steve Meyer), which provided crucial funding and much encouragement, without which this project would have taken much longer to complete. I also want to thank the Templeton Foundation for their funding of a Faculty Summer Seminar in 2001 on "Biology and Purpose: Altruism, Morality, and Human Nature in Evolutionary Theory," which helped stimulate my thinking. I also thank the many libraries and archives who allowed me to gain access to the information I needed for my research: University of California, Berkeley Library, Stanford University Library and Archives, Hoover Institution, Staatsbibliothek Preussischer Kulturbesitz (Berlin),

11 Prefoce XI Akademie der Klinste Archives (Berlin), Humboldt University Archives (Berlin), Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaft Archives (Berlin), Bundesarchiv Koblenz, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (Munich), Ernst-Haeckel-Haus Archives (Jena), University of Freiburg Archives, University of Zurich Archives, Wiener Land- und Stadtarchiv (Vienna), Osterreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna), Forschungsstelle und Dokumentationszentrum flir osterreichische Philosophie (Graz), League of Nations Archives (Geneva), University of Geneva Archives, and the University of Wroclaw Archives. Special thanks to Wilfried Ploetz, who allowed me to examine the papers of his father, Alfred Ploetz, and who was wonderfully hospitable. I have also benefited from my interaction with many colleagues, who have contributed immensely to my intellectual development and without whom this project would have been impossible. I would especially like to thank Mitch Ash and Allan Megill for grounding me in German intellectual history and the history of science. I'm especially grateful to Edward Ross Dickinson for reading part of the manuscript and making suggestions for improvement, as well as his input at conferences and via exchanges. Many others-too numerous to name-provided input at conferences, through , or especially through their books and articles. Whatever faults remain are mine alone, but any merit in this work owes much to these and other scholars, most of whose names may be found in my bibliography. My editor, Brendan O'Malley, did a terrific job. He kept me wellinformed at each stage of the review process and answered all my concerns in a timely fashion. Many thanks to him for all this. Finally, I would like to thank my parents, Ray and Lois, for their support and encouragement in ways far too numerous to list. I dedicate this book to my wife, Lisa, and my six precious children: Joy, John, Joseph, Miriam, Christine, and Hannah. They brought me great joy while I was working on this project and were a constant reminder of the immense value of human life.

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