Conroy, Melvin

Nazi Eugenics


Precursors, Policy, Aftermath



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Conceived as the answer to all of mankind’s seemingly insoluble health and social problems, and promoted as a substitute for orthodox religious beliefs, the pseudo-science of eugenics recruited disciples in many countries during the latter years of the nineteenth and early years of the twentieth centuries. Nowhere was this doctrine more enthusiastically endorsed than in Germany, where the application of eugenic theory received its most fervent support. A programme born of what were often contradictory opinions began, under Nazi rule, with the compulsory sterilization of thousands of Germany’s citizens before morphing into the mass murder of the most vulnerable of the state’s own population under the guise of so-called “euthanasia”, before ultimately escalating into a continent-wide policy of extermination of those who did not fit the Nazi eugenic template.
The progress of this inexorable descent into barbarity was marked by successive stages of development. From the practical application of “euthanasia” through the organisation dedicated to it—later on called Aktion T4—and the killing centres that this institution spawned, to the centrality of Aktion T4 to Aktion Reinhard and the Holocaust, important elements of the historical record can be seen to emerge.
How did it happen? What impact has it had on contemporary society? And what of the character and fate of the individuals involved in the gestation and implementation of this murderously inhumane quasi-religion? Deceptively simple questions that require complex and often disturbing answers.

492 Seiten. Hardcover. 2017
ISBN 978-3-8382-1055-1



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Among the most extended treatments of this subject to date, Melvyn Conroy’s accessible study of eugenics and the so-called ‘Euthanasia Programme’ deserves a wide readership. Nazi Eugenics charts the mainstreaming of a dangerous and illusory utopia—the ‘secular religion’ of eugenic praxis in Europe and the United States—before moving onto its murderous culmination in the Third Reich under the code name T4. An important precursor and parallel to Nazism’s wartime ‘Final Solution to the Jewish Question’, tens of thousands of disabled victims were decided, killed and plundered by many the same functionaries staffing Aktion Reinhard death camps like Belzec, Treblinka, and Sobibor. This genocidal historical development is rendered intelligible here by an independent scholar of welcome readability and admirable scope, with the latter exemplified by the detailed biographies of perpetrators and accomplices presented in the appendix.

Matthew Feldman, Professor in Contemporary History, Teesside University




In Nazi Eugenics Conroy offers a lucidly and forcefully written account of euthanasia in the Third Reich. It is an impressively wide ranging study exploring the eugenic mindset that spawned programmes such as T4, 14f13 and Aktion Reinhard, as well as the continuities between them. The numerous, in-depth histories of a broad variety of individual institutions are particularly useful in how they speak to the scale and intricacy of the programmes’ network. Similarly, the veritable encyclopaedia of over 180 individual biographies Conroy has researched and compiled with such dedication completes the study by detailing Nazi eugenics’ main architects and their clearly many, many engineers.

Tudor Georgescu, Oxford Brookes University




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