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War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America's Campaign to Create a Master Race, Expanded Edition Paperback – April 30, 2012

4.6 out of 5 stars 88 customer reviews

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The plans of Adolf Hitler and the German Nazis to create a Nordic "master race" are often looked upon as a horrific but fairly isolated effort. Less notice has historically been given to the American eugenics movement of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Although their methods were less violent, the methodology and rationale which the American eugenicists employed, as catalogued in Edwin Black's Against the Weak, were chilling nonetheless and, in fact, influential in the mindset of Hitler himself. Funded and supported by several well-known wealthy donors, including the Rockefeller and Carnegie families and Alexander Graham Bell, the eugenicists believed that the physically impaired and "feeble-minded" should be subject to forced sterilization in order to create a stronger species and incur less social spending. These "defective" humans generally ended up being poorer folks who were sometimes categorized as such after shockingly arbitrary or capricious means ! such as failing a quiz related to pop culture by not knowing where the Pierce Arrow was manufactured. The list of groups and agencies conducting eugenics research was long, from the U.S. Army and the Departments of Labor and Agriculture to organizations with names like the "American Breeders Association." Black's detailed research into the history of the American eugenics movement is admirably extensive, but it is in the association between the beliefs of some members of the American aristocracy and Hitler that the book becomes most chilling. Black goes on to trace the evolution of eugenic thinking as it evolves into what is now called genetics. And while modern thinkers have thankfully discarded the pseudo-science of eugenics, such controversial modern issues as human cloning make one wonder how our own era will be remembered a hundred years hence. --John Moe

From Publishers Weekly

In the first half of the 20th century, more than 60,000 Americans-poor, uneducated, members of minorities-were forcibly sterilized to prevent them from passing on supposedly defective genes. This policy, called eugenics, was the brainchild of such influential people as Rockefellers, Andrew Carnegie and Margaret Sanger. Black, author of the bestselling IBM and the Holocaust, set out to show "the sad truth of how the scientific rationales that drove killer doctors at Auschwitz were first concocted on Long Island" at the Carnegie Institution's Cold Spring Harbor complex. Along the way, he offers a detailed and heavily footnoted history that traces eugenics from its inception to America's eventual, post-WWII retreat from it, complete with stories of the people behind it, their legal battles, their detractors and the tragic stories of their victims. Black's team of 50 researchers have done an impressive job, and the resulting story is at once shocking and gripping. But the publisher's claim that Black has uncovered the truth behind America's "dirty little secret" is a bit overstated. There is a growing library of books on eugenics, including Daniel Kevles's In the Name of Eugenics and Ellen Chesler's biography of Margaret Sanger, Woman of Valor. Black's writing tends to fluctuate from scholarly to melodramatic and apocalyptic (and sometimes arrogant), but the end result is an important book that will add to the public's understanding of this critical chapter of American history.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Dialog Press; Expanded edition (April 30, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0914153293
  • ISBN-13: 978-0914153290
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (88 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #149,396 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
_War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America's Campaign to Create a Master Race_ (2003) by Edwin Black is a fascinating history of the rise and role of eugenics in American history and Nazi Germany. The book demonstrates some of the faulty fundamental premises behind the eugenics movement as well as showing some of the horrors that resulted from the implementation of the eugenics in both the United States and Nazi Germany. The book also shows the relationship between eugenicists and social Darwinists in the United States and Adolf Hitler who later adopted many of their ideas to implement in Germany. The book also shows how following World War II eugenics became discredited but was slowly morphed into the new field of genetics which achieved many positive scientific and medical results for humanity. However, with the new field of genetics came the baggage of eugenics and the possibility that eugenics could be implemented again. The book shows how the weak, poor, and "feeble-minded" were particularly targeted by the eugenics movement and many were sterilized in America or euthanized in Germany. The book also shows how ideas of racial supremacy entered into the thinking of eugenicists in their goal of creating a master Nordic race. Many of the individuals targeted by eugenicists had little wrong with them and thus the role of sterilization was completely unnecessary.

The book includes the following chapters-

Introduction - explains the role of eugenics in America and the need to give voice to those never born because of its implementation.
Read more ›
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This book is a fascinating account of the eugenics movement that flourished in the United States during the first third of the twentieth century. With the help of an international team of researchers the author details the movement's history: creation of the Eugenics Record Office in Cold Spring Harbor on Long Island; the leadership of poultry researcher Charles Davenport; extensive Harriman, Rockefeller, and Carnegie funding; state laws legalizing compulsory sterilization; widespread acceptance by college presidents, clergymen, mental health workers, school principals, and leading progressive thinkers such as Theodore Roosevelt, Margaret Sanger, and Woodrow Wilson; its validation by the United States Supreme Court in 1927 when it voted 8 to 1 to uphold the constitutionality of Virginia's eugenic sterilization law; and much, much more.
The book's most dramatic and controversial conclusion is that the American eugenics movement fueled the triumph of Nazism in Germany and thereby helped bring on the Holocaust. As Black writes in his Introduction, "the scientific rationales that drove killer doctors at Auschwitz were first concocted on Long Island at the Carnegie Institution's eugenic enterprise at Cold Spring Harbor." To his credit he provides a great deal of evidence to make his contention plausible, if not totally convincing.
The extremes to which the Nazis took their eugenics--euthansia killings of "unfit" Germans and the extermination of Jews, Gypsies, and others--gave eugenics a bad name from which it never recovered. This important book sheds much needed light on one of the darkest and most bizarre chapters of American history.
Charles Patterson, Ph.D., author of ETERNAL TREBLINKA: Our Treatment of Animals and the Holocaust
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Format: Paperback
This book lays out a case, in plain language, that diseased ideas can propogate like wildfire, particularly when powerful people get behind them. Adolf Hitler did not just wake up one day and decide that Jews, homosexuals and the mentally disabled should be killed. That idea had been alive, spreading and in fact exported to Europe by US. This may explain why ships of Jewish refugees were turned back from entrance to this country during the war, eventhough everyone knew they would likely face death. This explains why so many Nazi scientists were welcomed into this country to continue biological research after the war.
But mostly what this well-researched work shows is the importance for standing up for all people and not assuming that any one of us has the right to determine who is fit or unfit to exist.
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You learn something new everyday, here in an important book: the history of the American eugenics movement and its influence on the perpetrators of the Nazi version leading to the Holocaust. Sanitized or amnesiac history has forgotten the details here, and they are grisly, the more so being American data of record, deep in the many archives the author and his team researched. The details include the involvement of many of the foundations, Carnegie, Rockerfeller, et. al. The eugenics era is routinely denounced, but the facts are diffused from discussion and this book is eminently worth reading carefully to see how it actually happened. The account has eye-popping details on every second page,viz. the actual episodes of tracking down hill billies for enforced sterilization. That's right, in the US of A.
The cheerleading of the Eugenics movement for the Nazis continued right up through the beginning of World War II in certain scientific journals. After that eugenics became genetics, and the author explores at the end the implications of all this as we enter the age of the genome under the banner of genetic fundamentalism.
I would get this book under your belt asap, and it is also an indirect contribution to the legacy of historical Mendelism/Darwinism/Social Darwinism as these generated the milieu for this phase of Americana Goes Haywire. It can happen here. So watch it.
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