Since 1945, international relations have played themselves out in the framework of a world order remade by the Soviet and US power elites, and then by the latter alone. So a grasp of contemporary geopolitics requires understanding the US power elite’s role in World War II, the most important geopolitical event of the 20th c.
But few understand that.
What caused World War II? Most historians answer: Hitler and the Nazis. Indeed. And what caused Hitler and the Nazis? The eugenics movement: German Nazism was an outgrowth of eugenics. And what caused eugenics? The US power elite.
You didn’t know that? You didn’t know that hundreds of thousands of innocent US citizens were either incarcerated or forcibly sterilized in the United States for lack of superior ‘Aryan’ blood long before the same was done in Germany? Well, it’s hardly surprising. The main works that teach WWII history to Westerners don’t mention it. And this admits of a short demonstration.
Two authors are mainly responsible for our Western historical consciousness of World War II: Winston Churchill and William Shirer.
“[Churchill’s] historical writings,” comments historian David Reynolds, “have been immensely influential.” None more so than The Gathering Storm, which sold its first 200,000 copies in just two weeks. “Between 1948 and 1954,” Churchill’s entire Nobel Prize-winning magnum opus, The Second World War (of which The Gathering Storm is the first part),
“was serialised in eighty magazines and newspapers worldwide, and went on to appear in hardback in fifty countries and eighteen languages. …[A]s Plumb observed, subsequent historians have moved down ‘the broad avenues which [Churchill] drove through war’s confusion and complexity,’ with the result that ‘Churchill the historian lies at the very heart of all historiography of the Second World War.’ ”
In 1960 came William Shirer, an obediently Churchillian “subsequent historian” who would become the next great influence. Historian Gavriel Rosenfeld comments:
“In the vast historiographical literature on the Nazi period... William L. Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich... has, over the years, acquired a status unparalleled by any prior or subsequent historical work on the subject. ...[I]t has sold millions of copies in the United States and millions more worldwide. Still in print today, Shirer’s work has been translated into numerous European and non-European languages and published in several special editions. It has even been made into a documentary film and recorded as a dramatic cantata. Undoubtedly the best known book ever published on the Nazi era, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich has become more than just another work of history. A singular literary institution, it has acquired a reputation as ‘the bestselling historical work ever written in modern times.’ ”
We see World War II through Churchill and Shirer, whether or not we have read them, for their ‘official’ narrative is reinforced in untold numbers of other articles, books, movies, and TV shows—and, indeed, in countless other historical works. This is the interpretive paradigm for World War II—the one we learn in school.
So it matters that the word ‘eugenics’ does not appear even once in either The Gathering Storm (Churchill’s explanation of the causes of the war) or in The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.
What is the downstream consequence for our education? In order to appreciate that, just leaf—to pick one representative example—through The Origins of the Second World War in Europe, a 1997 text by P.M.H. Bell, employed to teach university undergraduates. You will find not one mention of ‘eugenics.’
I’ve seen the effects. I used to ask my students at the University of Pennsylvania to raise their hand if the word ‘eugenics’ rang a bell, but nobody moved. These Ivy League students, at one of the most prestigious institutes of higher learning in the United States, have never heard of the most important social and political movement of the first half of the 20th c.—which, to boot, had its first great flowering in the United States.
If we wish to understand World War II, we must correct this educational deficiency. So what was eugenics?
It was a reaction to 1848.
In 1848 the Western working and middle-classes took violently to the streets to force power elites to accept universal suffrage, constitutions, parliaments, charters of rights, separation of Church and State, etc. Here was born the political grammar of the modern West (Part 2). The power elites didn’t like that, and the search began for modern ways to combat the new power of the people.
Enter the Briton Francis Galton, a founding father of ‘psychology.’
A few years after 1848, Galton began to argue that the exalted position of the Western ruling elites followed from good genes (initially called ‘germplasm’), which made them far superior to the working class ‘degenerates,’ as he called them. The State should use his newly invented ‘mental tests,’ Galton insisted, to identify the inferior. And so, in his words,
“ ‘…by means of isolation, or some other drastic yet adequate measure, a stop should be put to the production of families of children likely to include degenerates.’ ”
The general goal was to use fraudulent ‘intelligence tests’—later called ‘IQ tests’—to restrict the opportunities and rights (reproductive, medical, citizen, educational, political) of the masses. As it spread throughout the upper classes all over the Western world, the eugenics movement quickly became one with the goals of ‘Aryan,’ ‘Nordic,’ or ‘Germanic’ supremacists.
This may seem surprising: Why should the idea of Germanic supremacy appeal to elites all over the West? But it is easily explained: the Western elites so enthralled with eugenics can all reasonably lay a claim to ‘Germanic’ ancestry.
After the ‘Western’ Roman Empire came to a close towards the end of the 5th c., it was German military aristocrats who became overlords of the non-Roman, non-German populations formerly under the Roman boot. The new German lords were Visigoths in Spain; Ostrogoths and Lombards in northern Italy; Franks in what is now France, most of Germany, and the Low Countries; Anglo-Saxons and then also Normans in Britain. The Scandinavians in the north, never ruled by Romans, were also German. When Charlemagne, the Frank who conquered most of Europe, was crowned ‘Holy Roman Emperor’ by Pope Leo III in the year 800, the Empire was reborn as a Germanic affair, and the European nobility was founded on the basis of land grants to Charlemagne’s Germanic military allies all over Europe.
In the second half of the 19th c., this proud memory of Germanic ancestry became the solidary glue for Western power elites finding common cause against the (to them) horrifying ascendance of popular power. The US ruling-elite—whose ‘Anglo-Saxon’ heritage, according to many eugenicists, hailed from the ‘purest’ Germanic stock, whatever that meant—took leadership of the movement. The goal was to roll back the gains of the Enlightenment.
But there was a major difficulty. The Enlightenment, and the revolutions it inspired, had established the cultural dominance of liberal democracy and scientific inquiry—this was the new political grammar. In this more compassionate or ‘progressive’ era, with the concerns of the lower classes now politically important, the problem of poverty had become an official priority, and science had been recruited to find solutions.
It was obligatory for the power elite to pay lip service to this newly dominant grammar—they had to speak its language (see Part 2). So they created a pseudoscience to deal with the problems of poverty: eugenics. This new field, which soon taught high-school and university courses all over the United States, argued that poverty was a genetic disease, a consequence of ‘mental retardation.’ The uncontrolled breeding of the poor, said the eugenicists, threatened to overwhelm Society and cripple it fatally.
Bedecked in shiny ‘progressive’ clothing, eugenicists urged philanthropic emergency measures to save Society! These measures amounted to draconian State powers to abolish the rights and freedoms of the (‘non-Aryan’) poor to stop them from spreading their genes overmuch. Many in the middle classes were beguiled with assurances of their superior ‘intelligence,’ and, in thrall of ‘science,’ bought the snake oil of ‘IQ tests.’
To get a sense for the scandal of these ‘intelligence diagnoses,’ consider that Henry Goddard, the most prominent American intelligence-testing ‘psychologist’ involved with the eugenics movement, considered that a quick glance was enough to identify the ‘mentally retarded.’ By such ‘methods,’ when the US government sent Goddard and his team to evaluate immigrants at Ellis Island (New York), he diagnosed 83% of arriving Jews as ‘mentally retarded.’ These ‘retards’ and their descendants—though they are no more than 2% of the US population—would go on to win 40% of all US Nobel prizes.
Precisely because the assessment of ‘intelligence’ was wholly fraudulent, eugenicists had great latitude to arbitrarily diagnose and imprison any troublemakers in special ‘colonies’ until their reproductive periods lapsed. In this manner, a regime of ‘sloppy totalitarianism’ took hold (Appendix A).
As historian Edwin Black documents in detail in War against the weak: Eugenics and America's campaign to create a master race, the ‘Anglo-Saxon’ US power elite quickly became the international leader of the eugenics movement. From Black’s introduction:
[Excerpt from Black begins here]
“Throughout the first six decades of the twentieth century, hundreds of thousands of Americans and untold numbers of others were not permitted to continue their families by reproducing. Selected because of their ancestry, national origin, race or religion, they were forcibly sterilized, wrongly committed to mental institutions where they died in great numbers, prohibited from marrying, and sometimes even unmarried by state bureaucrats. ...[T]his pernicious white-gloved war was prosecuted by esteemed professors, elite universities, wealthy industrialists and government officials colluding in a racist, pseudoscientific movement called eugenics. The purpose: create a superior Nordic race.
To perpetuate the campaign, widespread academic fraud combined with almost unlimited corporate philanthropy to establish the biological rationales for persecution. ...[T]he eugenics movement slowly constructed a national bureaucratic and juridical infrastructure to cleanse America of its ‘unfit.’ Specious intelligence tests, colloquially known as IQ tests, were invented to justify incarceration of a group labeled “feebleminded.” ...Collusive litigation was taken to the U.S. Supreme Court, which sanctified eugenics and its tactics.
…Eugenics targeted all mankind, so of course its scope was global. American eugenic evangelists spawned similar movements and practices throughout Europe, Latin America and Asia. Forced sterilization laws and regimens took root on every continent. Each local American eugenic ordinance or statute—from Virginia to Oregon—was promoted internationally as yet another precedent to be emulated by the international movement. A tightly-knit network of mainstream medical and eugenical journals, international meetings and conferences kept the generals and soldiers of eugenics up to date and armed for their nation’s next legislative opportunity.
Eventually, America’s eugenic movement spread to Germany as well, where it caught the fascination of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi movement.”
[Excerpt from Black ends here]
Who were these “wealthy industrialists,” so busy institutionalizing eugenics in the United States and then exporting it to the entire world, and especially to Germany, “where it caught the fascination of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi movement”?
The main players were the Carnegie and Rockefeller networks.
“the [pseudo-]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. ...[D]uring the prewar Hitler regime, the Carnegie Institution, through its Cold Spring Harbor complex, enthusiastically propagandized for the Nazi regime and even distributed anti-Semitic Nazi Party films to American high schools. ...[T]he Rockefeller Foundation’s massive financial grants [to] the German scientific establishment... began the eugenic programs that were finished by Mengele at Auschwitz.”
Henry Ford, for his part, became the most important distributor of Nazi antisemitic propaganda worldwide. Hitler called him his “inspiration” and awarded him the highest German medal to foreigners in 1938.
The same Carnegie, Ford, and Rockefeller networks that pushed the eugenics movement and nurtured the German Nazis led, after World War II, a second attempt at ‘sloppy totalitarianism’ with the creation of the US psychological warfare regime (Part 1).
What for? To manage US ‘democracy’ (and the world) with propaganda messages crafted to steer mass acquiescence to their domestic and foreign policies, leaving “selective violence” for last resort when “persuasive communication” failed to get people compliantly on the path of directed history (Part 1 and Part 2).
But in which direction were the US power elite hoping to direct history after 1945? Given their past activities, one might hazard a guess. It is better, however, to infer it from postwar US policy toward Nazi war criminals.
We consider that next.
 Rosenfeld, G. D. (1994). The Reception of William L. Shirer's The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich in the United States and West Germany, 1960-62. Journal of Contemporary History, 29(1), 95-128. (p.95)
 Black, E. (2003). War against the weak: Eugenics and
America's campaign to create a master race. New York: Four Walls Eight
 Sometimes Goddard used Binet tests, important to him because Alfred Binet, the father of what we now call ‘IQ tests,’ was a true scientist, and Goddard meant to claim scientific status based on the prestige of Binet’s work. But “Goddard’s original translation of the Binet scale,” explains Stephen J. Gould, “scored people harshly and made morons out of subjects usually regarded as normal” (Gould 1981:166).
As Raymond Fancher, another historian of the intelligence movement, explains, Goddard “did not say exactly how all of his diagnoses of feeblemindedness were made, but apparently only a few were based on actual Binet tests, while the majority came from possibly unreliable personal impressions” (Fancher 1985:114).
Indeed, according to Goddard himself, he could sniff them out in a second. Edwin Black, historian of the eugenics movement, writes that Goddard “believed in the ‘unmistakable look of the feebleminded,’ bragging that to spot the feebleminded, just ‘a glance sufficed’ ” (Black 2003:78). This could be done at some distance. In Goddard’s own words: “ ‘After a person has had considerable experience in this work, he almost gets a sense of what a feeble-minded person is so that he can tell one afar off.’ ” At Ellis Island, a team of Goddard assistants, all females, “were instructed to pick out the feeble-minded by sight” (Gould 1981:165).
By such ‘methods’ Goddard found, in that population of immigrants, that “83 percent of the Jews, 80 percent of the Hungarians, 79 percent of the Italians, and 87 percent of the Russians were feeble-minded” (Gould 1981:166).
SOURCES IN THIS FOOTNOTE:
Black, E. (2003). War against the weak: Eugenics and America's campaign to create a master race. New York: Four Walls Eight Windows.
Fancher, R. (1985). The intelligence men: Makers of the IQ controversy. New York: Norton.
Gould, S. J. (1981). The Mismeasure of Man. New York: Norton.
 Edwin Black’s introduction may be
Edwin Black’s introduction may
be read here:
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