Eugenics in Europe

Eugenics, the science of improving a countries human stock through specific breeding, had a significant impact on interwar Europe. Stone and Auslander both give their interpretations of how eugenics affected Europe. Stone discusses how, contrary to popular belief, eugenics in Britain was not exclusively targeted towards class, but how it was inadvertently also about race. Auslander explains how eugenics in interwar Europe manifests itself in the citizens aesthetic lifestyle choices, which reflects the sense of the countries nationalist philosophies.

The reality behind the eugenics movement and Britain was not that it primarily focused on class, but focused on race as well. Similar to Nazi Germany, there were also revered, racist British eugenicists. For example, Rentoul, a famous British eugenicist, saw blacks as sexual beasts that shouldn’t breed with whites. “The negro is seldom content with sexual intercourse with a white woman, but culminates his sexual furor by killing the woman, sometimes taking out her womb and eating it”. (Stone, 96) This popularized racist though process led to British sterilization laws. The main issue with claiming that the movement was solely about class, was that there was too much overlap between the lower class, which consisted of a lot of immigrants, and race.  Although many saw these eugenics views as extreme, they still had an impact on the eugenics movement. After World War II, and the newfound widespread disdain for the extreme German eugenics movement, Britain claimed that their eugenics was class oriented, and they did this to disassociate with Nazi Germany.

Auslander describes the lifestyle choices and aesthetic tastes that the French, German’s, and Jew’s had in the interwar era when the national sense of belonging came from different ideologies. For example, Auslander gives us the idea that “…in Germany…citizens are understood to be born rather than made…”. (Auslander, 110) The foundation for German citizenship came from genetics, while French citizens were “French” through cultural adaptation. This reflects the national ideology of eugenics in the time period. Germany was more exclusive in the national sense, even if you were born in Germany but had non-German parents, you were not considered German. In France, however, anyone could be considered “French” as long as you spoke French, and engaged in the proper French activities.

Eugenics had a considerable influence on nationalist ideologies, a sense of belonging, and racism during the inter-war era in Europe. When confronted with the topic of racial exclusion in Europe during this era, almost all will point directly towards Nazi Germany. While it is true that Nazi Germany was the most extreme with their execution of eugenics philosophies, they were widespread throughout Europe at the time.

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