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.

Holocaust Museum Unveils New Eugenics Exhibit
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
April 22, 2004

WASHINGTON, DC--Years before Nazi Germany began its program of systematically exterminating European Jews, it practiced on hundreds of thousands of children and adults -- mostly of "Aryan" descent -- with disabilities or other "defects".

In an exhibit that opened Thursday and will run through October 16, 2005, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum presents artifacts, images, footage, and audio clips which show the stages leading up to the forced sterilizations of 400,000 men and women and the murder, or so-called "mercy death", of 5,000 children considered "life not worthy of living".

"Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race" details how social engineers in Germany took extreme ideas on racial "purity" and turned them into laws and practices to rid the Third Reich of all of those considered "feebleminded, schizophrenics, manic-depressives, the deaf, blind and epileptic, the severely deformed and chronic alcoholics".

Government-sanctioned doctors used such patients to try to develop efficient, inexpensive methods of mass sterilization. Thousands of "useless eaters", those who were not productive in the eyes of the state, were taken into newly built gas chambers to be murdered. When the gas chambers became unpopular with the public, thousands of people with disabilities were "euthanized" through secret programs in mental institutions and children's hospitals throughout Nazi-controlled Europe. Many were simply starved to death or given lethal doses of medication.

From 1939 to 1945, an estimated 200,000 people were killed through the various euthanasia programs.

The exhibit also examines the role that nations outside the Third Reich played in eugenics -- the false science of improving society through selective breeding. In North America alone, more than 60,000 men, women and children are documented to have been sterilized under laws passed in 30 states and 2 Canadian provinces. Most of those sterilized were housed in state-run institutions. The legalized sterilizations continued up through the 1970s in many states.

The exhibit also cautions visitors that, while eugenics may be in the past, the science of genetics may make possible what eugenicists only dreamed about.

"The history of using science as a vehicle for expressing hatred has not expired," said Paul A. Lombardo of the University of Virginia, a legal historian and expert on eugenics.

A 1927 U.S. Supreme Court decision, which allowed Carrie Buck to be sterilized because, as Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes put it, "three generations of imbeciles is enough", has never been overturned.

The museum's website has a section devoted to the new exhibit. Some parts of the website are still under construction.

Online Exhibit "Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race" (U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum)
The science of evil (Baltimore Sun)
"The Eugenics Apologies" by Dave Reynolds (Ragged Edge Magazine)


©2018 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:   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.