Study Guide

The Gene - Lebensunwertes Leben (Lives Unworthy of Living) (Part Two) Summary & Analysis

Siddhartha Mukherjee
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Summary

In Germany in 1933, the Nazi party came to power and with them came their ideas of applied genetics and "racial hygiene" (119). Though these ideas were not unique to Nazism, it is through them that eugenics would reach it macabre zenith. Hitler was not alone in his belief that "defective genes were slow-poisoning the nation," but he would put these ideas into action in ways that were unprecedented and extreme in both their application and their monstrous cruelty. In 1933, Hitler enacted a sterilization law modeled on the American eugenics program discussed in a previous chapter, though it was amplified in its terms and bolstered by propaganda. In 1939, the step was made "from sterilization to outright murder" when Hitler approved the killing (or "euthanasia") of a disabled child, Gerhard Kretschmar, at the request of his parents (122). This practice was...

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