Skip to Full Menu

Providing information, education, and training to build knowledge, develop skills, and change attitudes that will lead to increased independence, productivity, self determination, integration and inclusion (IPSII) for people with developmental disabilities and their families.

Connecticut Figured Prominently In American Eugenics Schemes;
Sterilization & Institutions Were To Be Just The Beginning, Book Reveals

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
September 16, 2003

HARTFORD, CONNECTICUT--"I have studied with great interest the laws of several American states concerning prevention of reproduction by people whose progeny would, in all probability, be of no value or be injurious to the racial stock."

That quote was taken from a letter Adolph Hitler wrote to a Nazi friend several years before he started systematically sterilizing Europeans with mental disabilities in the 1930s.

"The Germans are beating us at our own game."

That quote came from Joseph DeJarnette, superintendent of Virginia's Western State Hospital, just a few years later, after he learned that Germany had developed laws and systems to sterilize 5,000 "undesirables" each month. Eventually, an estimated 300,000 to 400,000 Germans with disabilities were surgically sterilized --with the intention of "cleansing the Aryan race" -- most of them before the Nazis targeted Jewish, Gypsy and other populations.

These exchanges are documented in investigative reporter Edwin Black's newly-released "War Against The Weak". The cover story in the September 11, 2003 Hartford Advocate is adapted from Black's book.

Eugenics was a racist, false science based on the idea that society could be improved if people considered physically, socially and mentally "weak" were not allowed to pass their "defects" on to the next generation. During the early and mid-20th century, sterilization laws forced more than 60,000 people in the U.S. to be operated upon so they could not have children. Most, but not all, had mental illnesses or mental retardation, and most lived in state-operated institutions.

While the reader may not be surprised to learn that "selective breeding" was a popular notion in the U.S. decades before Nazi Germany made a science of surgical sterilization, one may be stunned to realize how far mainstream American institutions, charities and governments were willing to go to exterminate persons considered "inferior". Black reveals that such prestigious groups as the Carnegie Institution and the Rockefeller Foundation funded eugenics research in the U.S. and helped start such programs in Germany.

One Carnegie plan called for doctors to sterilize 175,000 "unfit" Connecticut residents -- about 10 percent of the state's population.

Plans not only called for mandatory sterilizations on people with any form of disability -- even the slightest vision problem -- but also on their family members. In fact, Black points out, national ophthalmologist organizations pushed for legislation to identify everyone related to people with vision problems, then register them, prohibit or annul their marriages, place them in U.S. concentration camps, and seize their properties. "Ultimately those related to anyone with a vision problem would be forcibly sterilized," Black writes.

One 1911 Carnegie-supported report called for euthanasia -- outright killing of people considered "unfit". It was rejected by the American Breeder's Association which believed it was "too early" to implement such a plan in the states.

Black suggests that the eugenics movement has not disappeared but has simply gone underground with a new name: human genetics.

Related resources:
"Ethnic Cleansing in Connecticut Our state's role in the Nazi eugenics movement" (Hartford Advocate)

http://hartfordadvocate.com/gbase/News/content?oid=oid:32556
"War Against The Weak" By Edwin Black
http://www.waragainsttheweak.com/
"Image Archive of the American Eugenics Movement" (Dolan DNA Learning Center, Cold Springs Harbor Laboratory)
http://www.eugenicsarchive.org/eugenics/
"The Mentally and Physically Handicapped: Victims of the Nazi Era"(United States Holocaust Memorial Museum)
http://www.holocaust-trc.org/hndcp.htm

---

©2016 The Minnesota Governor's Council on Developmental Disabilities
 370 Centennial Office Building  658 Cedar Street   St. Paul, Minnesota 55155 
Phone: 651.296.4018   Toll-free number: 877.348.0505   MN Relay Service: 800.627.3529 OR 711   Fax: 651.297.7200 
Email: admin.dd@state.mn.us   View Privacy Policy   An Equal Opportunity Employer 

The GCDD is funded under the provisions of P.L. 106-402. The federal law also provides funding to the Minnesota Disability Law Center,the state Protection and Advocacy System, and to the Institute on Community Integration, the state University Center for Excellence. The Minnesota network of programs works to increase the IPSII of people with developmental disabilities and families into community life.