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War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America's Campaign to Create a Master Race

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  813 ratings  ·  104 reviews
In War against the Weak, award-winning investigative journalist Edwin Black traces some of the Nazis' most horrendous crimes back to Charles Davenport's early 20th-century pseudoscientific eugenics movement in the US. Based on selective breeding of human beings, eugenics began in laboratories on Long Island but ended in the concentration camps of Nazi Germany. Cruel and ra ...more
Paperback, 592 pages
Published October 24th 2004 by Thunder's Mouth Press/Avalon Publishing Group (NYC) (first published 2003)
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Paige McLoughlin It was an international movement in Europe and settler society satellites. Herbert Spencer and various French, German, and American intellectuals latc…moreIt was an international movement in Europe and settler society satellites. Herbert Spencer and various French, German, and American intellectuals latched onto convenient just-so stories of superiority to justify racist policies and colonialism. Most ideas get dressed up to suit power.(less)

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Elle (ellexamines)
I don't want to leave a review here. All I want to say is this:

Did you know that from 1930-1960 in America, 64,000 individuals were forcibly sterilized under state-sanctioned programs? That several mental health institutes purposefuly fed their prisoners toberculosis-infected milk upon admission, killing 40% of their patients? That these same eugenics programs served as inspiration for the Holocaust? That they were performed almost entirely on mentally ill women and women of color? These facts m
Oct 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Black details the frightening and unfamiliar story of American (that's right, American) eugenics. Throughout the first SIX decades of the 20th century, hundreds of thousands of US citizens were forcibly sterilized on the grounds that they were "unfit." (where unfit might mean: mentally slow, physically disabled, black, jewish, or more likely, just plain poor). These actions were sanctioned and carried out by America's intellectual, industrial, and government elites. Their goal was clear and unap ...more
Jun 10, 2007 rated it really liked it
This was the first book I read about the eugenics movement, and I was surprised that the first big eugenics laws were enacted here in the US. Germany learned from us and from England. There are two different kinds of eugenics - positive (breed the best people to improve the human race) and negative (sterilize the "unfit") - and doctors, politicians, and hospital administrators latched onto negative eugenics and forcibly sterilized thousands of mentally and physically disabled people in the US. W ...more
Erik Graff
Jun 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: citizens & geneticists
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: history
Black makes a strong, well documented case that early genetic theory jumped the gun, partial, inconclusive data being adduced in the service of political prejudice. He further substantiates his claim that this, the "science" then called "eugenics", primarily originated in the Anglo-American world and was most powerfully promulgated by American foundations and universities during the first decades of the 20th century, the dreams of domestic eugenicists finding expression in the laws of 29 states ...more
Aurélien Thomas
Jul 16, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: eugenics
It's no secret: although eugenics triumphed in its most despicable and murderous form in Nazi Germany, the Nazis were just carrying on to the next extreme what had been thought and done in the USA during the previous decades. In fact, the Nuremberg Laws and even the sterilization laws that had preceded them were just, at their core, just a copy of the same type of legislation then defining about 27 states in the US. Sadly, though, if the victims of the Nazis regime had been liberated when the ga ...more
Dec 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
So much attention has been paid to the means and methods of the Nazi's appalling atrocities during World War II, to the institutional, bureaucratic and legislative infrastructure created to support those actions and the race hatred that impelled them - but little attention has been paid up to the supposed scientific foundations that underlay all of the Nazis' beliefs and justifications. Everyone knows of the Nazis' belief in racial superiority, in the desire for a 'master race', an Aryan race of ...more
Marianne Ulloa
Jul 24, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: faves
gives an in depth account of one of the US's darkest secrets. can get a little too full at times, as there is alot of information thrown in, and it can be watered down. for the most part, its historical documentation that makes connections to how remnants of eugenics are still visible today. (in particular, margeret sanger as a proponent of eugenics. and margeret sanger is.. one of the founders of planned parenthood. think about it...) ...more
Apr 15, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If the topic of ‘eugenics’ or “a belief in the possibility of improving the biological characteristics of the human species by restricting or eliminating the reproductive capacity of certain individuals” is known in the mainstream today, it is usually with some reference to the Nazi policy of Jewish genocide during the 1930s and 40s. Edwin Black, journalist and non-fiction author, has not simply written a book about eugenics as most people know it, but has researched and written a book about eug ...more
Mar 17, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
Ok, so...good with caveats.

The book is divided into three distinct Parts: The Birth of Eugenics, Eugenics and World War II, and the change from Eugenics to Genetics.

The first part is impeccably well constructed, with a clear relationship between the history and the influence that eugenics had on social policy. There's plenty of detail and documentation, and the author is clearly well versed in the minutiae of the subject. Eugenics as a "science" at the dawn of the twentieth century and it's role
Jun 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
In this book, Black presents scrupulously documented history of the eugenics movement in America. I was amazed to find that this idea of restraining the procreation of "defective" people groups and promoting the procreation of "fit" groups of people was a popular line of thinking at the end of the 19th and into the turn of the century (20th century). The entrance of Darwinian thinking into this time period helped to add fuel to the fire of "the survival of the fittest" mentality that was the fo ...more
Aug 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: medicine, history
This is a very dense book so I would not recommend this as a quick or light read. However it was extremely interesting. Some of the information was a little repetitive and it jumped around on the timeline. I think it was written more as a reference book versus sit down and read the whole thing.

Some of the interesting tidbits: the Carnegie foundation and the Rockefeller family were critical in developing the american eugenics movement (forced sterilization of those deemed less) and therefore the
The idea of the "Master Race" did not originate with Hitler and the Nazis. It began much earlier and was endorsed in many countries (including the U.S.!) beginning in the 1800's. Humans were measured and analyzed and many discussions were done about weeding out defective members of society ("culling the herd"). If farmers could improve their livestock by selective breeding, why couldn't the human race be enhanced with the same techniques? Certain groups (blacks, Jews, aboriginal tribes, homosexu ...more
Jan 16, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Exhaustively researched. 'Eugenics' is a junk science that flowered around the turn of the century in America. Eugenicists sought racial purity, to get rid of 'defectives' like the developmentally disabled, diseased, elderly, and of course every race except Nordics. Eugenics caught on and went to further extremes in Germany by the '30s. In America thousands of blacks, poor, epileptics, natives, etc were sterilized (rendered unable to reproduce); several states also outlawed marriage between rac ...more
Ben Lokey
Nov 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the most complete reference book on any subject that I've read. It's huge in scope, tortuous is it's honesty of the facts on a subject that is at one moment unbelievable and at the next infuriating. It reveals American history at it's worst. Honest and absurd. It's a large book, over 500 pages, excellently written. The author often refers to himself as "this reporter", and indeed, the material is approached as if by a reporter, with a sound sense of objectivity. If you enjoy American his ...more
Jan 04, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The bulk of the book, which established the connnections between US eugenics programs and the Nazis' acts of genocide were great. The atrocities committed on both sides of the Atlantic are stunning. The last chapter, which focused on how genetics could be used in the future, felt more like a fearful flight of fancy than fact. ...more
Stephen Douglas Rowland
2½. There is a wealth of incredible information here, but as I realized how repetitive and redundant it was becoming, my fascination transformed into exasperation. I believe about 150 pages could and should have been lopped off, at least.
Jeremy Michael Gallen
Author Edwin Black dedicates this expose on the topic of eugenics to his mother, who never got to read its original published edition but was witness to the implementation of the pseudoscience in Nazi-occupied Poland. He thanks several volunteer researchers from across the globe and American organizations such as Planned Parenthood, indicating that there were some roadblocks in his research such as the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum refusing some of his Freedom of Information Act reques ...more
Feb 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
A difficult book to read. Not because it is poorly written. But because it is so disappointing to read about the American history of oppressing the weak.

The pseudo-science of eugenics is the application of evolutionistic natural selection to humankind. If humans are descended from animals and still evolving then some portion of humankind could conceivably be further ahead than others. And if this is true, should not the human race be bettered by encouraging the propagation of this portion of ou
Barbie Adamson
Jan 24, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
I know my rating doesn't make sense because I enjoyed this book a lot. It was very educational and I'll need to read it again. Take notes. Make a PowerPoint. I want to retain more but the problem was that a lot of information is thrown at me and I haven't had a chance to fact check or research more. Once I have it verified and work on this topic more, I'll likely raise my rating. ...more
Oct 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Those who warned us against the evils of socialism upon human liberty, and the horror of bolshevism upon culture and civilization, launched at the same time their own murderous utopia based on the self-serving criteria of the West's "natural rulers." Their goal - to purge the human race of the "underman," thereby curing crime, poverty, hunger, disease, and leaving wealth and power to those who had it.

Black's research team was meticulous and he did the most thorough job possible of integrating a
Dec 26, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A history of the eugenic movement in the United States in the first half of the last century, which served as a model to its counterpart in Germany but was surpassed by it. American eugenicists merely succeeded at sterilizing tens of thousands of the "feebleminded", most of whom weren't; the daughter of Carrie Buck, the woman whose sterilization was upheld by SCOTUS because "three generations of imbeciles are enough", once made the honor roll in her elementary school. The Germans sterilized hund ...more
Feb 05, 2016 rated it liked it
Eugenics that culminated in horrors in German concentration camps began in Long Island laboratories, measuring heads and corroborating body characteristics to superior intelligence. If they had ever found superior intelligence in races other than pale technicoloured ones, they would have abandoned it and buried it under a heap of abuse masquerading as criticism and concern for humanity, but they did not think of measuring intelligent people of sepia or monochromatic races - even though Hardy had ...more
Jan 23, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, history
While I knew that the Nazis' attempt to cleanse Europe of the "lower races" was based on theories developed from Mendel's studies in heredity and Darwin's observations of evolutionary changes in groups, like most people I was unaware that the "science" of eugenics was largely developed in America with the support and financing of progressive people and institutions of the highest influence: Theodore Roosevelt, Margaret Sanger, the Supreme Court, the Rockefeller and Carnegie Foundations, the Amer ...more
Dec 17, 2017 rated it liked it
I feel like it was a good insight into a ongoing evolving science known as Eugenics. But flawed with poor editing and understanding of human history.

Hitler and other Eugenicists were slowed down by a lack of information and archeological evidence in the early 20th century. But it is now the year 2018 and more evidence of this so called "master race" has popped up. And continues to pop up.

They found a calender in France, its called the Coligny calender. Then there is Gobekli Templi, a megalith
Nov 18, 2008 rated it really liked it
Black deserves much credit for helping to shatter the myth that Nazism happened because Hitler was a madman. In War Against the Weak, just like in "IBM and the Holocaust," Black answers the "how could the Holocaust happen?" question with an uncomfortable answer: with the material backing of America's wealthy and powerful.

Just as IBM custom-designed punch cards so the Nazi's could more efficiently track and kill Jews and other victims, the Carnegie and Rockefeller foundations poured money into E
Jan 04, 2009 rated it liked it
Very detailed overview of the history of the Eugenics movement from the Mid 1800s to the present day renamed Genetics and Genomics sciences.

While much of this information has already been available in other books, Black puts it into clear linear fashion to show the development from British Colonial Racists, to American Racists, back to Europe thanks to the Rockefeller and Carnegie foundations, to the German Nazis who as Hess said, "National Socialism is nothing but applied biology."

Edwin Black
ebnewberry Newberry
I learned a lot about the eugenics movement and the American influence in the field that ultimately led to the holocaust. It was very dense, but not difficult to read. I agree with some of the other reviews of this book that the author repeats entire passages throughout the book. I noticed that some paragraphs were word for word repetitions. I also get annoyed when authors write things like ...a man was in prison for starting a rebellion. He had ideas about a making Germany great again...etc. Th ...more
Eric McLean
Jan 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
To be honest, I read about half of the book thoroughly and then skipped around a bit in the last half. I really enjoyed this book, but with school coming up soon I couldn't take the time to seriously delve into the last half of the book with primarily deals with the rise of Hitler and "Eugenicide", something that most of us are familiar with.

I found this book to be absolutely fascinating and eye-opening. The author is clearly on top of his research and goes into massive amounts of detail (too m
Jan 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
For years I was told of the horror of Hitler and the Nazi's eugenic campaign and how America fought this evil. This, it turns out, was just another lie I learned in US History classes! The "contributions" in the US to the idea that people, classes, races, and cultures can be graded by their genetic makeup involve a who's who of US politicians, jurists, scientists, educators, businesses, and foundations. IBM created hardware and software to help the Nazis, the Carnegie foundation funded eugenic c ...more
Apr 30, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hitler wasn't the first one with idea of eugenics and creating the race of masters. The Americans were first, but they did it in less violent ways. But still Alabama had anti-miscegination legislation til 2000 and in 2009 in Louisiana Justice of the Peace refused to make offical interracial marriage.
Even rich families as the Rockeffelers were involved. And the world thinks that America is crazy.
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Is an American syndicated columnist and journalist. He specializes in human rights, the historical interplay between economics and politics in the Middle East, petroleum policy, the abuses practiced by corporations, and the financial underpinnings of Nazi Germany.

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