Oral History

Benno Müller-Hill discusses genetics and eugenics

Benno Müller-Hill, professor of Genetics, University of Cologne, and author of Murderous Science, discusses genetics and eugenics.

[Photo credits: Getty Images, New York City; Yad Vashem, Jerusalem; Max-Planck-Institut für Psychiatrie (Deutsche Forschungsanstalt für Psychiatrie), Historisches Archiv, Bildersammlung GDA, Munich; Bundesarchiv Koblenz, Germany; Dokumentationsarchiv des österreichischen Widerstandes, Vienna; Kriemhild Synder: Die Landesheilanstalt Uchtspringe und ihre Verstrickung in nationalsozialistische Verbrechen; HHStAW Abt. 461, Nr. 32442/12; Privat Collection L. Orth, APG Bonn.]


Eugenics has two parts. One part is obviously the genetic analysis of humans in regard of their capabilities, intelligence and so on. Is this genetic, how far is it genetic, and not? And I think that’s fine. That is certainly, that’s a valid thing. But then the bad thing is that you come to the conclusion that those who have low intelligence should be sterilized and only the other ones are allowed to have children. Obviously it’s this mixture between something which may be hard science, that is human genetics, and then political decisions--what do you do then with this?--which became so explosive.

Geneticists needed politicians to make their ideas real, on the one hand. And on the other hand, Hitler and the Nazis needed some scientists who would say that antisemitism has a scientific background.

They kind of hesitated to call the Jews minderwertig,of lower value. But they said they were different and they are so different that this is bad for the German, for the development of the German population, ergo let’s have an apartheid, let’s have a separation.

They had one major goal and that was to stop the propagation of all those who were supposedly not fit and all of those of low intelligence, those who were antisocial, and so on and so on. And so what they wanted was to get laws which allowed the sterilization of these people


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