articles appear below.
1. Dr Bergman argues that "Mengele's zeal in
implementing the Holocaust was based squarely on orthodox...19th
2. John Williams responds: "Mengele was a fanatical
devotee of Hitler, who rejected evolution and...held the traditional
Christian creationist belief in the
fixity of species...[and] had Darwin's books banned or censored..."
Darwin's Disciple, Dr.
(Investigator 136, 2011
The scientist who
presided over the race program at Auschwitz was Dr. Josef Mengele
(March 16, 1911 – February 7, 1979).
symbolizes the worst of the Nazi Germany criminals for his
grossly barbaric, and often lethal, medical experiments on prisoners.
In the name of science he not only committed acts of unspeakable
barbarism on young, innocent, weak and often sick humans, but totally
escaped formal punishment for his hideous crimes (Schmittroth and
Rosteck, 1998, p. 311).
Mengele was a
highly respected and published researcher. He earned a Ph.D. from the
prestigious University of Munich in evolutionary biology and an M.D.
from the University of Frankfurt where he also worked on proving the
evolution of humans, his chief interest (Astor, 1985). While still in
his residency for his medical degree, Mengele was influenced by medical
geneticist Professor Otmar von Verschuer who claimed that "Hitler is
the first statesman who has come to recognize the importance of
hereditary biological and race hygiene and make it a leading principle"
of government policy (quoted in Astor, 1985, p. 23). The phrase "Race
hygiene" is a kinder, less objectionable term for the applied racism
today known as eugenics. Mengele soon became a devoted disciple of
Hitler and Darwin.
and Ware added
that when Mengele was in college, one of his major interests was
anthropology and paleontology, specifically genetics and evolution,
subjects that Hitler and "a growing number of German academics found so
attractive." These views coincided with the development of the
"scientific conclusion" by leading academics that "some human beings
afflicted by disorders were unfit to reproduce, even to live.... His
[Mengele's] consummate ambition was to succeed in this fashionable new
field of evolutionary research" (1986, p. 9, emphasis mine). Reared in
a conservative Catholic family, college took care of that. His new
religion was Darwinism.
Verschuer and others
who advocated incorporating Darwinism into government social policy
concluded that "specialists of race hygiene are happy to have witnessed
that the work normally associated with the scientific laboratories or
the academic study room has extended into the life of our people" (as
quoted in Astor, 1985, p. 23). These ideas had a profound
influence on Mengele – the man who later was responsible for helping
Hitler to implement Nazi Holocaust policy in one of the largest German
death camps, Auschwitz.
implementing the Holocaust was based squarely on orthodox mainline 19th
century Darwinism, and not on sadistic or psychopathic impulsiveness as
is often alleged (Posner and Ware, 1986). Mengele's biographer
concluded that racial purity and the contaminant threat of Jews became
gospel in lower and higher education. When Mengele began his college
studies at the University of Munich, anti-Semitism had already sprouted
in the sciences. The impressionable young man....soaked up writings
like those of a German oriental scholar, Paul de Lagarde, who despised
"those who out of humanity defend these Jews, or who are too cowardly
to trample these usurious vermin to death.... With trichinae and
bacilli one does not negotiate, nor are trichinae and bacilli to be
educated. They are exterminated as quickly and thoroughly as possible"
(Astor, 1985, p. 21).
and the Nazis
attempted to provide a wide variety of justifications to convince the
public to go along with Nazi racist policies (Weikart, 2004). The
metaphor of Jews and other "inferior races" which included all
non-Aryan races, as "diseased organisms" such as bacteria was far more
useful for converting the public to accept the Nazi racists policies
than esoteric scientific theories such as Darwinian eugenics. At the
heart of Nazi racism, though, was Darwinian eugenics (Weikart, 2009).
young mind was
corrupted by a combination of the political climate in Nazi Germany and
the fact that his deep interest in genetics and evolution happened to
coincide with the developing concept that some human beings afflicted
by disorders were unfit to reproduce, even to live. Perhaps the real
catalyst in this lethal brew was that Mengele, first at Munich and
later at Frankfurt, studied under the leading exponents of this
"unworthy life" theory. His consummate ambition was to succeed in this
fashionable new field of evolutionary research (Posner and Ware, 1986,
succeeded all too well, but in ways that the world now regards as one
of the worst tragedies in human history. And the evolutionary ideas
that Mengele so anxiously absorbed in his university in studies were
precisely the ones that would propel him down the road to Auschwitz.
His apprenticeship as a mass murderer formally began not on the
selection lines of the concentration camp but in the classrooms of the
University of Munich (Lagnado and Dekel, 1991, p. 42).
in his extensive
study of Nazi doctors, wrote that he (Lifton) "began and ended" his
study of Nazi crimes with Mengele (1986). Indeed, very few men are as
closely associated with the Holocaust in the public's mind as is
Professor Josef Mengele, MD, Ph.D.
Astor, Gerald. 1985. The
last Nazi: The life and Times of Joseph Mengele. Donald Fine Co.,
Lagnado, Lucette Matalon
and Sheila Cohn Dekel. 1991. Children of the Flames:
Dr. Josef and the Untold Story of the Twins of Auschwitz. New York:
William Morrow and Company, Inc.
Lifton, Robert Jay. 1986. The
Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide.
New York: Basic Books.
Posner, G.L. and J. Ware.
1986. Mengele. McGraw Hill Book Company, New York.
Schmittroth, Linda and
Mary Kay Rosteck. 1998. People of the Holocaust. Detroit, MI:
2004. From Darwin to Hitler. New York. Palgrave Macmillan.
______. 2009. Hitler's
Ethic: The Nazi Pursuit of Evolutionary Progress. New York:
DARWINISM and ARTIFICIAL SELECTION
(Investigator 140, 2011
| "It is a rare
and special good fortune for a
theoretical science to flourish at a time when the prevailing ideology
welcomes it, and its findings can immediately serve the policy of the
state…" (Prof Eugen Fischer, March, 1943)
"I have called this principle, by which each slight variation, if
useful, is preserved, by the term Natural Selection." (Charles Darwin)
"Everything will end up in catastrophe if natural selection is altered
to the point that gifted people are overwhelmed by morons." (Josef
In #136 Jerry
Bergman outlined Josef Mengele’s crimes at Auschwitz, and
attempted to associate his experiments with the scientific work of
Charles Darwin. This theme has long been part of Answers in Genesis’
Young Earth Creationist evolution-denial. Intelligent Design (ID) too
has been actively promoting the absurd implication that a ‘hodge-podge’
of beliefs has led to social Darwinism, eugenics, Mengele’s experiments
and the Holocaust.
like Bergman deny that evolution has occurred, despite the
overwhelming evidence that it has. Their strategy is to indirectly
attack Darwin's work, as in From Darwin to Hitler, written by
Richard Weikart, a Senior Fellow of ID’s The Discovery Institute. In
his book’s acknowledgements, Weikart wrote, "Many thanks…to the Center
for Science and Culture (a misleadingly named section of The Discovery
Institute) which provided crucial funding…" Team Creationism/ID is
slick, relentless and extremely well funded, and Darwin and "Darwinism"
are its targets.
apparently left a "deadly legacy": "No Darwin, no Hitler"! The 'trick'
is to manipulate words like evolution, Darwinism and "survival
of the fittest" with the aim of denigrating and undermining Darwin and,
by association, evolution. We’re told that Hitler was a keen believer
in evolution, often using that word, entwicklung, and if there’d been
no Darwin (Wallace too?) there’d not have been the "intellectual
framework" for the Holocaust. What nonsense! However, one has to admire
Weikart and Bergman for their industry and persistence: nobody does it
better, but their ID- enhanced articles and books require close
scrutiny and challenge.
misrepresentation of Darwinian science was a key part of Expelled:
No Intelligence Allowed (2008), described in the New York Times as
a "conspiracy theory rant masquerading as an investigative inquiry".
The Anti-Defamation League described it so: "using the Holocaust to
tarnish those who promote the theory of evolution is outrageous and
trivialises the complex factors that led to the mass extermination of
European Jewry". Clearly, if one tries to make an anti-evolution case,
one would need to keep it simplistic and selective, steering away from
as many "complex factors" as possible, as exemplified in Bergman’s
Descent of Man (1871) Darwin wrote "At some future
period…the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate and
replace throughout the world the savage races", a line quote-mined by
creationists, who fail to give its context, in which "Darwin was
reporting on and criticising the extermination of people by colonial
powers, rather than promoting it" (Hector Avalos, 2008). Ben Stein, in Expelled,
offered this Darwin quote, "Hardly is anyone so ignorant as to allow
his worst animals to breed…", but without this: "…Nor could we check
our sympathy, if so urged by hard reasons without deterioration of the
noblest part of our nature." The creationist canard that Darwin
advocated eugenics is shown here to be wrong.
titled his article "Darwin’s Disciple". If Mengele were truly a
disciple, ‘one who follows a teacher or school of thought’, he was a
lethally wayward one! Mengele was not "devoted" to Darwin’s scientific
teachings, though it’s clear that social Darwinism strongly appealed to
him, as it did to Hitler and his henchmen. This does not show that he
found inspiration in Darwin’s writings or thought of his own ideas and
practices as Darwinian! Mengele was as "devoted" to Darwin’s science as
he was to his Hippocratic Oath. His doctoral thesis (1935) gives a
strong insight into his mindset as well as the ‘scientific’ context
within which he operated: Racial Morphological Research on the
Lower Jaw Section of Four Racial Groups!
was a fanatical devotee of Hitler, who rejected evolution and
natural selection, since he (Hitler) held the traditional Christian
creationist belief in the fixity of species ("a fox remains a fox, the
goose remains a goose"). Hitler had Darwin’s books banned or censored:
The List of Banned Books 1932-1939 proscribed "writings of a
philosophical and social nature whose content deals with the false
scientific enlightenment of primitive Darwinism."
never once referred to Darwin or Natural Selection; he never
mentioned evolution, in the true Darwinian sense, in any of the
editions of Mein Kampf or elsewhere. Mengele and many other
Nazis completely misunderstood Darwin’s key ideas, hugely accentuating
survival of the fittest (actually best fit), when the weak give way to
the strong, an immutable ‘law of nature’. As cited by Robert Lifton,
"The regime…rejected much of Darwinism, since evolutionary theory is
more or less democratic in its assumption of a common beginning for all
races, it is therefore at odds with the Nazi principle of inherent
Aryan racial virtue." So much for Hitler’s apparent adherence to
Führer was influenced by Ernst Rudin, who espoused a primitive
and violent Spartan eugenics, in which young boys were bathed in wine
then left overnight to see who survived. A prevalent idea was that
genius and talent were uncommon, and over time, in Mengele’s words,
"everything will end up in catastrophe if natural selection is altered
to the point that gifted people are overwhelmed by morons", which
starkly reveals his fundamental misunderstanding of natural selection.
article has three mentions of the word Darwinism, but the
reader must guess its meaning. We assume that he assumes that we
understand it to mean the evolution of species over time through common
descent by means of natural selection. However, what the Nazi racial
‘science’ policies led to, as embraced by Mengele’s mentor, Prof von
Verschuer, was clearly artificial selection, a practice traditionally
used in animal husbandry, which long pre-dated Darwin who took pains to
become knowledgeable in that field.
asked to accept that an undefined process, "Darwinism", was
Mengele’s "new religion". Yet we’re told of Mengele’s admiration for
the work of the racist oriental scholar Paul de Lagarde (1827-1891) for
whom Jews were "trichinae, bacilli, to be exterminated as quickly and
thoroughly as possible"; and that his mind was corrupted by a
combination of forces and beliefs within the toxic socio-political
climate in which he grew up, leading to the ‘un-Darwinian’ idea that
certain ‘unworthy humans’ were unfit to reproduce, or even to live.
eugenics was, according to Bergman, "the heart of Nazi
racism". If he believes that the practice of eugenics was advocated by
Darwin it ought to have been referred to with quotations, but,
tellingly, it wasn’t. Bergman needed to explain the manner in which
social Darwinism, a misapplied ‘sink or swim’ ‘entwicklung’, infused
Nazi ideology, but there is not one use of that term in his article!
definition of social Darwinism is that individuals or groups achieve
advantage over others as a result of genetic or biological superiority.
In the Nazi biocracy, medical imagery referring to Germany’s post-WW1
chaos and demoralisation was pervasive. Hitler called it "an illness",
the diagnosis was racial, and the ‘cure’ became the removal of the
Jews, who’d "provoked a world war", and who’d made the superior Aryan
race "sick’’. The "high priests", Hitler, Goering, Heydrich and
Himmler, called the tune. In the latter’s view, "a plant-breeding
specialist…when he wants…a new strain from a well-tried species that
has been exhausted by too much cross-breeding, first goes over the
field to cull the unwanted plants".
appropriated language and ideas from genetics, anthropology
and medicine (especially the germ theory of disease) as propaganda
tools in their goal of promoting a perverted ideology of racial purity.
S J Gould, in his Mismeasure of Man (1981 and 1996) outlined
the crude biological determinism adopted by governments practising
eugenics in North America, much admired and later duplicated by the
Nazis. (The movement drew strong support from Christian organisations
such as the Uniting Methodist, the Presbyterian and Episcopalian
Churches: the Uniting Church has only recently apologised for its role).
work was left to doctors who were called upon to implement
‘scientific’ racism. The Law for the Prevention of Genetically Diseased
Offspring (1934) led to the sterilisation of those who would
"contaminate the German gene pool" — the deaf, blind, deformed,
feeble-minded, alcoholics, epileptics and schizophrenics. Later these
and other ‘unworthy plants’ were ‘culled’.
emphasises that "the clear rulers were Hitler and his gang
of ill-educated thugs, not biological theorists and certainly not
doctors." Mengele was an opportunistic enthusiast, while many of his
peers hated their role. Here’s his response to the key ethical issue:
How do you
reconcile your work with your Hippocratic oath as a doctor?
a doctor and I want to preserve life. And out of respect for human
life, I would remove a gangrenous appendix from a diseased body. The
Jew is the gangrenous appendix in the body of mankind. (R J Lifton, p
16/17, The Nazi Doctors,1986).
analogy shows Mengele as being imbued with the unworthy life
ethos, absorbed from von Verschuer, who had, with Mollison and Eugen,
been involved in live medical experiments on the Hereros in the German
‘protectorate’ of SW Africa (now Namibia) in the early 20th century.
Another tribe, the Christianised Namas, put up a stout resistance
(1904-1907) in the face of German ethnic cleansing which was bolstered
by the crude application of social Darwinist doctrines. This was
deliberate genocide, infamously used at Shark Island, a "rough draft
for the death camp", later streamlined for the Final Solution.
regime borrowed much from their Namibian ‘laboratory’: the
Herero (disparagingly called "Hottentots") were unmensch (non-humans).
Franz von Epp, an important early supporter of Hitler, fought there as
a soldier; the despised mischlinge (of mixed race) was much used there;
the SA brownshirts of the 1930s still wore camouflaged uniforms once
used in the Namib desert; Goering’s father, Heinrich Goering, was SW
Africa’s first governor; and Hitler viewed ‘the East’ ("Germany’s
California") as akin to the former colony. He referred to Ukrainians as
"colonial people", marked for "clearance" and "resettlement", code
words for genocide.
was a latecomer (from 1871) to the imperialist ‘scramble for
empire’. Following the infamous and racist Berlin Conference of 1884/5,
it wreaked such havoc on the natives of SW Africa that it’s regarded as
the most brutal and destructive colonial experience of people anywhere
in the world. Applied social Darwinism was well to the fore, as it was
one to two generations later in a criminal regime led by someone who
celebrated and gloried in its barbarianism.
essence of Darwin’s morally neutral scientific work on evolution
had no direct connection with Nazi pseudo-scientific race theory,
eugenics, Mengele’s experiments and what became the Holocaust. In the
words of Robert Richards, a historian of Darwin and eugenics, "It can
only be a tendentious and dogmatically driven assessment that would
condemn Darwin for the crimes of the Nazis." (2006)
Bergman J, Eugenics and the
Development of Nazi Race Policy, Investigator
#80, September, 2001
Bergman J, Darwin’s
Disciple, Dr Josef Mengele, Investigator
#136, Jan, 2011
Hale C, Himmler’s
Crusade: The Nazi Expedition to Find The Origin
of the Aryan Race, John Wiley, Hoboken, 2003
Lifton Robert J, The
Medical Doctors: Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide, Basic Books, New York, 1986
Olusugo D, Erichsen C, The
Kaiser’s Holocaust: Germany’s Forgotten
Genocide and the Colonial Roots of Nazism, Faber & Faber, 2010
Snyder L, Hitler’s
Henchmen: The Nazis Who Shaped the Third Reich,
Weikert R, From Darwin
to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics and
Racism in Germany, Palgrave MacMillan, 2004