Esther M. Zimmer Lederberg
Not a Supporter of Eugenics
Bastard Studies

"Bastard" was the name used by Germans to refer to miscegenation: race-mixing, alternatively, "mischlenge".

Eugen Fischer Nama Heads

During both the Second Reich and the Third Reich, "bastard" studies were carried out ("bastard" being the terminology often used in Germany in place of miscegenation). While much of the information is centered upon the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Anthropology, Human Heredity, and Eugenics, founded in 1926, some of the major people associated with this work were pursuing their studies before this date.

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The following table identifies some of the major populations of "bastards" considered, as well as important associated political categories. 1

Population Studied by Geographic location or "racial"
categorization associated by geographic regions
Population crosses
Rehoboth "bastards" Eugen Fischer 2 German South West Africa: 1884-1915 Mixed "race" Herero and Nama peoples
(sometimes pejoratively called "Hottentots")
German (European) x Herero or Nama, including
Dutch Boer x Negro (African)3
Guanche "bastards" Eugen Fischer4 Canary Islands European x Guanch (Berber)
Mongolian spot Yun-kuei Tao East Asians, Polynesians and
Micronesians, Amerindians
European x Mongolian spot carriers
Jamaican mixed-race Charles Davenport, Morris Steggarda Jamaica, West Indies
(representative of all mixed race peoples in the New World)
European x Negro (African slaves)
Trinidad mixed-race Rita Hauschild Trinidad, West Indies Chinese x Negro (African slaves)
Venezuela Rita Hauschild Venezuela, South America Indian x Negro hybrids (African slaves)
Chile mixed-race Johannes Schaeuble Chile Indo-European hybrids x Indian
Kisar mixed-race Ernst Rodenwaldt Kisar, Moluccas European x natives of Kisar
(a creole trade language)
Mixed race: Lapp and Europeans
(Nordic Swedish)
Hermann Nilsson-Ehle
and Herman Lundborg
Sweden and Lapland5 Nordic Swedish x Lapp
Mixed race:
Canadian Amerindians and Europeans
Ruggles Gates Canada Whites x Canadian Indians

In some cases in the above table, races have been replaced by terms such as "white", which fail to specify the race under consideration. In his well-known book Man's Most Dangerous Myth: The Fallacy of Race, Ashley Montagu has examples of people with white complexions who may be considered Negro, people with black complexions who may be considered Caucasian, etc. As another example, calling someone a "Cro-Magnon type" is descriptive, but since there are no more Cro-magnon primates, it is unclear if a race is intended, or whether there has been a racial cross.

The political origin of bastard studies

The International Federation of Eugenic Organizations (IFEO) was founded in 1925 by Charles Davenport, the first president of the IFEO. Later, the second president of the IFEO was Ernst Rudin of the German Research Institute for Psychiatry (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft or DFA, a Kaiser Wilhelm institute). The IFEO was viewed as a 'reservoir for eugenicists who linked their scientific interest in an internationally organized race research with a political propaganda for the enhancement of the 'white race'.6 Davenport aspired to construct a "... 'World Institute for Miscegenations' and was working on a 'world map' of the 'mixed-race areas,' which he introduced for the first time at a meeting of the IFEO in Munich in 1928." 7 The table above provides a partial world wide distribution, or map, of the kind that Davenport had in mind.

In general, the view taken by the above workers in eugenics, was that "when a superior race mixes with an inferior race (mulattos), it always brings the superior race down."8 However, there was disagreement even about this basic principle. For example, according to the racist theory of "Lusotropicalism" of Gilberto Freyre, a distinctly different view is taken, wherein the result of racial mixing produced a superior mixed-race population.

Rehoboth bastards

The Rehoboth bastards are an interesting historical case in that Eugen Fischer, a leader in eugenics as well as racism, studied the Reheboth bastards during both the Second Reich as well as during the Third Reich. Examine:
     http://www.estherlederberg.com/Eugenics (Anecdotes)/Shark Island Extermination Camp.html

Rehoboth was approximately 92 kilometers south of Windhoek, the Capital of German South-West Africa (now Namibia). Fischer's 1913 study on the "Bastards of Rehoboth" 9 "was conceived and intended as a contribution to colonial science, apparent in the fact that the author drew practical consequences for colonial policy from his research findings in its concluding chapter, Die politische Bedeutung der Bastards ('The Political Importance of the Bastards').

"[...] At the end of his colonial policy conclusions, Fischer designed a system of apartheid for Deutsch Südwestafrika, long before such a system was introduced in South Africa: The Ovambo and Herero were to be deployed as agricultural laborers, the Hottentots as herders. The 'bastards of Rehoboth,' in contrast, were assigned an important function as a privileged intermediate class, 'as native craftsmen and manual laborers [...] as policemen, i.e. minor officers, foremen, and leaders of the entire supply lines and vehicle pool of the government, troops and private persons, in part as small farmers in their bastard country, to which everyone returns after serving their time.' Despite his paternalistic attitude toward the 'little nation of bastards,' Fischer regarded the Rehoboths from the perspective of the colonial masters:

"So they will be granted just that degree of protection which they 'need' as a race inferior to us, in order to endure, no 'more' and 'only' as long as they are useful to us -- otherwise free competition, i.e., in my opinion, here downfall!

This last comment by Fischer reads like a retrospective justification of the war of extermination the German colonial troops had led against the rebellious Herero and Nama from 1904 to 1908. Fischer had profited from this genocide directly, for he apparently brought skulls and skeletons of 'Hottentots' with him from Southwest Africa, which may have come from the internment camps on Shark Island, where people died like flies. The skeleton of the Nama leader Cornelius Frederiks (1907) also supposedly came into Fischer's collection in this way.

As mentioned above, Fischer continued his studies of the 'bastards of Rehoboth' until 1942. 10

Rhineland bastards

The "Rhineland bastards" were the children conceived by nonwhite soldiers of the French, Belgian, and American occupation troops after World War I and German women. These children were targeted for sterilization by the DWG, under the direction of Ernst Rudin.

Back in 1927, discussions had taken place in the Reich Ministry for the Occupied Areas and in the Reich Health Office about the sterilization of the 'Rhineland bastards,' the oldest of whom had just reached the age of 8. Such a measure was not permitted by law at the time, but apparently the consideration was less about changing the law than about violating it. After the National Socialists came to power, demands in this direction became increasingly vocal. Hans Hacco, for [one], dedicated an entire paragraph to the 'Rhineland bastards' in his work Rassenprobleme im Dritten Reich (Race Problems in the Third Reich), published in late 1933. 11

"Another significant reason for the deterioration of our race lies in commingling with races alien to us. The first task is to excise the remnants of the Black Disgrace on the Rhine. These mulatto children either originated inviolence or the white mother was a prostitute. In either cases there is no moral obligation whatsoever to this progeny of an alien race. [...] Let France and other states deal with their race issues as they will, for us there is only one solution: the destruction of everything alien, especially in these ravages originating in brutal violence and immorality. As a Rhineland man I thus demand: The sterilization of all mulattos left behind by the Black Disgrace on the Rhine! This measure must be carried out within the next two years; otherwise it will be too late and this race degeneration will continue to advance in centuries to come."12 "The [Prussian] Ministry [of the Interior] estimated the actual number of mixed-race children at around 500-600."13

Moroccan and Annamese bastards

In parallel with the recording of statistics a race anthropology study was launched. On April 19, 1933 the Undersecretary in the Prussian Ministry of the Interior, Arthur Ostermann, informed the president of the government in Wiesbaden that a young anthropologist would be sent to Wiesbaden for this purpose -- Ostermann, who, as mentioned on several occasions, had occupied a leading role in the eugenics movement at the time of the Weimar Republic, was retained in office by the National Socialists despite his associations with the Catholic Center Party, until he went into retirement for reasons of poor health in fall 1933. Due to the extremely close connection between Ostermann and Fischer in the Weimar Republic, it was obvious that the Prussian Ministry of the Interior would turn to the KWI-A in connection with the race anthropological study of the 'Rhineland bastards,' especially since Fischer was considered ''the'' expert on the subject of 'bastard biology.' Fischer entrusted his assistant Wolfgang Abel with this mission. [...] Abel examined 39 children from Wiesbaden und Biebrich, supposedly fathered by nonwhite occupation soldiers, of whom he categorized 27 as 'Moroccan bastards' and 6 as 'Annamese bastards.' [...] He found the children's state of health to be 'very poor' on the whole. [...] However, Abel was not able to completely exclude the possibility that 'the social conditions [might] also have have been an influence': 'Some of the bastards are supported by the mothers alone, who have had a hard time getting through life as household maids or minor employees, and thus have little time to raise the children.' 14

"In evaluating 1,500 grade cards from 993 children, Abel arrived at the result that the average scholastic achievement of the 'bastard children' was only 86.9% of the class average. [...] In summary Abel came to the conclusion that 'the main cause of the adverse conditions of the Rhineland bastards within our population is found in the mixture of Caucasian with Negroid and Mongoloid races.'15

Dissenting opinions about Bastard-focused science

Melville J. Herskovits (one of Franz Boas' students) pointed out that the health problems and social prejudices encountered by these children and their parents explained what was being observed, as opposed to being the results heredity. This "... provoked polemic invective against the latter [Boas] from Fischer. "The views of Mr. Boas are in part quite ingenious, but in the field of heredity Mr. Boas is by no means competent [...]." even though "... a great number of research projects at the KWI-A which had picked up on Boas' studies about immigrants in New York had confirmed his findings - including the study by Walter Dornfeldt about Eastern European Jews in Berlin. Fischer resorted to polemic simply because he had no arguments to counter the Boasians' critique." 16

Since Fischer clearly felt that he was competent to deal with race from a genetic point of view, it is interesting to note that Fischer was never able to identify specific genes for any racial group.

To get a sense of German public opinion during the time while National Socialism was rising in power, see the following:

"... [Abel] made his own opinion known in an article entitled ''Bastarde am Rhein'' ('Bastards on the Rhine'), which he published in the February 1934 editing of the journal Neues Volk put out by the Race Policy Office of the NSDAP. Without any mention of his study, Abel unfurled an infamous agitation against the nonwhite occupation children, which was directed expressly to the political decision makers 'in whose hand it lies to prevent the propagation of suffering.' With this he recommended in barely veiled form the sterilization of all of these 'half-breeds' -- although such a measure was not covered by existing legislation. 15

"[H]ere the Foreign Office put up resistance, repeatedly urging to restrict the race legislation to the Jewish minority in Germany in the interest of relations with Japan, China, India, Turkey and South America. As such, the sterilization of the 'bastard children' remained irreconcilable with the legal situation even after the GzVeN [Gesetz zur Verhutung erbkranken Nachwuchses] (Law on the Prevention of Genetically Deficient Progeny) was enacted on January 1, 1934. However, the GzVeN opened up a loophole in the form of indication of 'congenital feeble-mindedness,' to which the Prussian Minister of the Interior directly referred the presidents of the relevant governments ..." 14, 17

Impact of bastard studies

Bastard studies led directly to laws mandating sterilization, euthanasia, forced abortions, forced deportation, and genocide (Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, Poles, Communists), as a means of obtaining "racial hygiene" in Nazi Germany.18 After World War II and the Nuremberg War Trial, Nuremberg Medical Trial and Denazification Commissions, there was a need to salvage what was left of German medical science. Bastard studies were abandoned, as racism was no longer viewed as science.

"Why is it that only one of the Nazi anthropologists was prosecuted before an international court? Mengele, whose crimes were so obvious and who was not hiding in a laboratory or a university office, was an easy target. He was sentenced in absentia, for he had escaped to South America. Verschuer and Magnussen were under grave suspicion by the prosecutors of the Nurenberg Medical Trials of 1946. Leo Alexander, a neurologist who gathered evidence for the courts, felt they should come before the court as a separate case in a new trial. He was aware of the experimentation on eyes of inmates of Auschwitz and felt there was enough evidence for prosecution. ... In September 1946, the Berlin office of the U. S. Counsel for War Crimes and its chief research analyst, Manfred Wolfson, recommended that both Verschuer and Magnussen be arrested.

"In the final analysis, the decision was made by the British and Americans to resume German medical science and forgo the prosecution of other crimes. In July of 1946, Max Planck was invited to come to the Royal Society to be honored on the occasion of its hundredth anniversary. Here, it was decided that the old KWI would now be known as the Max Planck Institute." 19

The Kaiser Wilhelm Society and its associated Kaiser Wilhelm Institutes were too heavily implicated with the Nazi programs of racism, death and pseudo-science. The name "Kaiser Wilhelm" had to be replaced and Max Planck did not seem to be deeply implicated with the policies of the Third Reich. The reason given for this change of image was to gain distance from an association with the "imperialist militarism" associated with Kaiser Wilhelm. 20

Eugenics after the Nazis

Medical applications of eugenics continue, but are based upon genetics, not politics. What then is the difference between eugenics based on genetics and eugenics based on "politics" or racism? Medical diseases such as Down Syndrome, Tay-Sachs disease, Marfan's Syndrome, Sickle cell anemia, Cystic fibrosis, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, Phenylketonuria, etc. may be found among subpopulations among many peoples. Prospective parents can be tested for a genetic predisposition to some of the aforementioned diseases before they conceive a child; a fetus can also be tested for the presence of such diseases before birth, using Amniocentesis. Entire disciplines, such as Medical Deontics, are being created to deal with ethical and legal questions of genetic diseases, including informed consent, sterilization, and even euthanasia. This seeks to avoid the use of forced euthanasia or forced sterilization to remove entire populations (as was done during the Third Reich), and addresses the needs of individuals with genetic diseases. For example, 'Zinc fingers' are now being examined to treat Duchenne muscular dystrophy/Becker muscular dystrophy (a genetic disease caused by ribosomal RNA frame misreading; and gene therapy using Transduction (Esther M. Lederberg), is currently being used to solve problems of Haemophilia B. 21

The Nazis claimed that entire populations were inferior and could thus be destroyed; for example, all Jews, all Blacks, all Poles, all Gypsies (Sinta and Roma), all "mixed-race" people, etc. What genetic evidence was used to support the claims of the Nazis? The criteria used by Nazis was differences in behavior. However, a "Geneticists' Manifesto", written by Hermann Joseph Muller clearly shows the deficiencies of behaviour-oriented and non-scientific views of Nazi eugenics. 22 Bear in mind that DNA had not yet even been related to "genes", and biochemistry barely existed as a study at that time. As yet another example, of Medical deontics, but in law, DNA identification using PCR to 'amplify' DNA has been employed to identify the children of "Diasapperados", kidnapped by the perpetrators who murdered the parents of these children, during the "Dirty War" in Argentina.


1   Hans-Walter Schmuhl, The Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Anthropology, Human Heredity and Eugenics, 1927-1945, Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science, Vol. 259, Wallstein verlag, Göttingen, 2003, p. 114-115.
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2   During the Second Reich. A famous photograph of Fischer shows him with a collection of skulls from the Herero and Namaqua genocide, obtained during his 1908 trip to GSWA.
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3   "Hottentot" is a perjorative term used to refer to either native Black women or mixed-race women. The offspring of crosses between European men and Hottentot women in the South African area may confuse native people in (British) South Africa or native black people in (what was then) German Southwest Africa. Thus these mixed-race crosses put the German x Black German South West African women, or Boer (Dutch x Khoisan women, etc. The fact that the distinctions are not clear reflects the racial prejudices that existed. The Hottentots in German South West Africa could be German x Demara, German x Herero, German x Nama, etc.
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4   "On his return trip from studying the 'bastards of Rehoboth' in German Southwest Africa in 1908, Fischer stopped in Las Palmas on Tenerife to visit the skull collection of the local museum. He had categorized the skulls of the original inhabitants of the Canary Islands, the Guanches, as of the Cro-Magnon type, which he also believed to recognize on occasion in the living population. In 1925, Fischer thus undertook a research expedition to the Canary Islands to look into this phenomenon. He saw his intuitive idea confirmed in his examinations of skeletal remains and anthropometric studies of living subjects: The Guanches belong to the 'Cro-Magnon race,' which is surprisingly, also clearly preserved in the recent population." Hans-Walter Schmuhl, The Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Anthropology, Human Heredity and Eugenics, 1927-1945, Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science, Vol. 259, Wallstein verlag, Göttingen, 2003, pp. 82-83.
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5   Lapps are nomadic and near the Arctic circle, may cross "national" boundaries such as Sweden and Finland. Thus it is not truly correct to limit Lapps to a "national" boundary.
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6   Hans-Walter Schmuhl, The Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Anthropology, Human Heredity and Eugenics, 1927-1945, Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science, Vol. 259, Wallstein verlag, Göttingen, 2003, p. 114.
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7   Hans-Walter Schmuhl, The Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Anthropology, Human Heredity and Eugenics, 1927-1945, Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science, Vol. 259, Wallstein verlag, Göttingen, 2003, p. 115.
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8   "Every European nation without exception [...] that has assimilated the blood of inferior races - and that Negroes, Hottentots and many others are inferior can be denied only by dreamers - has paid for this assimilation of inferior elements with intellectual, cultural decline." Attributed to Eugen Fischer. See Schmuhl 2003, p. 336
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9   Eugen Fischer, Die Rehobother Bastards und das bastardisierungsproblem beim Menschen ("The Mixed race population of Rehoboth and the Problem of Miscegenation in Man")
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10   Hans-Walter Schmuhl, The Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Anthropology, Human Heredity and Eugenics, 1927-1945, Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science, Vol. 259, Wallstein verlag, Göttingen, 2003, p. 336-337.
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11   Hans-Walter Schmuhl, The Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Anthropology, Human Heredity and Eugenics, 1927-1945, Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science, Vol. 259, Wallstein verlag, Göttingen, 2003, p. 171.
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12   Hans-Walter Schmuhl, The Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Anthropology, Human Heredity and Eugenics, 1927-1945, Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science, Vol. 259, Wallstein verlag, Göttingen, 2003, p. 224.
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13   Hans-Walter Schmuhl, The Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Anthropology, Human Heredity and Eugenics, 1927-1945, Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science, Vol. 259, Wallstein verlag, Göttingen, 2003, p. 225.
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14   Hans-Walter Schmuhl, The Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Anthropology, Human Heredity and Eugenics, 1927-1945, Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science, Vol. 259, Wallstein verlag, Göttingen, 2003, pp. 226-227.
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15   Hans-Walter Schmuhl, The Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Anthropology, Human Heredity and Eugenics, 1927-1945, Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science, Vol. 259, Wallstein verlag, Göttingen, 2003, p. 227.
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16   Hans-Walter Schmuhl, The Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Anthropology, Human Heredity and Eugenics, 1927-1945, Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science, Vol. 259, Wallstein verlag, Göttingen, 2003, pp. 212-213.
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17   Note that this legislation was authored by Ernst Rüdin.
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18   Hans-Walter Schmuhl, The Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Anthropology, Human Heredity and Eugenics, 1927-1945, Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science, Vol. 259, Wallstein verlag, Göttingen, 2003.
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19   Gretchen E. Schafft, "From Racism to Genocide: Anthropology in the Third Reich", University of Illinois Press, Urbana 2004, pp. 222, 223.
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20   Doris Kaufman (Herausgegeben), Geschichte Der KWG, Wallstein verlag, 2000, pp. 646-648
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21   Adenovirus-Associated Virus Vector-Mediated Gene Transfer in Hemophilia B, Amit C. Nathwani, M.B., Ch.B., Ph.D., Edward G.D. Tuddenham, M.B., B.S., M.D., Savita Rangarajan, M.B., B.S., Cecilia Rosales, Ph.D., Jenny McIntosh, Ph.D., David C. Linch, M.B., B.Chir., Pratima Chowdary, M.B., B.S., Anne Riddell, B.Sc., Arnulfo Jaquilmac Pie, B.S.N., Chris Harrington, B.S.N., James O’Beirne, M.B., B.S., M.D., Keith Smith, M.Sc., John Pasi, M.D., Bertil Glader, M.D., Ph.D., Pradip Rustagi, M.D., Catherine Y.C. Ng, M.S., Mark A. Kay, M.D., Ph.D., Junfang Zhou, M.D., Yunyu Spence, Ph.D., Christopher L. Morton, B.S., James Allay, Ph.D., John Coleman, M.S., Susan Sleep, Ph.D., John M. Cunningham, M.D., Deokumar Srivastava, Ph.D., Etiena Basner-Tschakarjan, M.D., Federico Mingozzi, Ph.D., Katherine A. High, M.D., John T. Gray, Ph.D., Ulrike M. Reiss, M.D., Arthur W. Nienhuis, M.D., and Andrew M. Davidoff, M.D, New England Journal of Medicine, December 10, 2011.     Factor IX (X-linked), using Adenovirus as a vector, is transduced.
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22   H.J. Muller was hardly biased, as he was a major eugenicist. However, he changed his viewpoint after seeing how eugenics was being misused. He wrote his "Geneticists' Manifesto" after a great deal of thought.

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