Racial hygiene (often labeled a form of "scientific racism") is the selection, by a government, of the most physically, intellectually and morally superior people to raise the next generation (selective breeding) and a close alignment of public health with eugenics.
The concept of racial "purity" was developed by Arthur de Gobineau. De Gobineau argued that race created culture, and that "impure" "race-mixing" leads to chaos. Racial hygiene was historically tied to traditional notions of public health, but usually with an enhanced emphasis on heredity. The use of social measures to attempt to preserve or enhance biological characteristics was first proposed by Francis Galton in his early work, starting in 1869, on what would later be called eugenics.
The German eugenicist Alfred Ploetz introduced the term Rassenhygiene in his "Racial hygiene basics" (Grundlinien einer Rassenhygiene) in 1895. In its earliest incarnation it was concerned more with the declining birthrate of the German state and the increasing number of mentally ill and disabled in state institutions (and their costs to the state) than with the "Jewish question" and "de-Nordification" (Entnordung) which would come to dominate its philosophy in Germany from the 1920s through the second World War.
"Race" was often interchangeably used to mean "human race" as well as "German race" as well as "Aryan race", though these concepts had different implications. In the 1930s, under the expertise of eugenicist Ernst Rüdin, it was this latter use of "racial hygiene" which was embraced by the followers of National Socialist ideology, who demanded Aryan racial purity and condemned miscegenation. This belief in importance of German racial purity often served as the theoretical backbone of Nazi policies of racial superiority and later genocide. These policies began in 1935, when the National Socialists enacted the Nuremberg Laws, which legislated racial purity by forbidding marriage between non-Jewish and Jewish Germans.
A key part of National Socialism was the concept of racial hygiene and during their rule the field was elevated to the primary philosophy of the German medical community, first by activist physicians within the medical profession, particularly amongst psychiatrists. This was later codified and institutionalized during and after the Nazis' rise to power in 1933, during the process of Gleichschaltung (literally, "coordination" or "unification") which streamlined the medical and mental hygiene (mental health) profession into a rigid hierarchy with National Socialist-sanctioned leadership at the top.
Racial hygienists played key roles in the Holocaust, the National Socialist effort to purge Europe of Jews, Communists, Gypsies, homosexuals, political dissidents, the mentally retarded and the insane.
After World War II
- Ethnic cleansing
- Eugenics in Japan
- Mental hygiene
- Nazi eugenics
- Racial policy of Nazi Germany
- T-4 Euthanasia Program
- White supremacy
- Black supremacy
- Racism in Asia
- Glad, John. (2008). Future Human Evolution: Eugenics in the Twenty-First Century. Hermitage Publishers.
- Joseph, J. (2004). The Gene Illusion: Genetic Research in Psychiatry and Psychology Under the Microscope. New York: Algora. (2003 United Kingdom Edition by PCCS Books)
- Joseph, J. (2006). The Missing Gene: Psychiatry, Heredity, and the Fruitless Search for Genes. New York: Algora.
- Paul, Diane B. Controlling Human Heredity, 1865 to the Present. New Jersey: Humanities Press, 1995.
- Proctor, Robert. Racial Hygiene: Medicine Under the Nazis. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1988.