Esther M. Zimmer Lederberg: No Supporter of Eugenics
Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Anthropology, Human Heredity, and Eugenics
Dr. Esther M. Zimmer Lederberg was always the scientist, always the
humanist, she never supported racial theories, she opposed racism,
and such ideologically based Eugenics!
The Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Anthropology, Human Heredity, and Eugenics
(KWI-A) was founded in 1927. The Rockefeller Foundation supported both the Kaiser
Wilhelm Institute of Psychiatry and the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Anthropology,
Human Heredity and Eugenics. The Rockefeller Foundation partially funded the
actual building of the Institute and helped keep the Institute afloat during the
The Kaiser Wilhelm Society was composed of high-level representatives or
liaisons with the German government, as well as industrialists and financiers.
These also included people with political contacts (especially during the
Third Reich, people who insured that National Socialist attitudes would
prevail at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institutes.) Later on, during the Nuremberg
War Criminal Trials, interlocking directorates expressing political, financial
and governmental direction were discussed and are precisely what existed at
the Kaiser Wilhelm Society. In terms of the actual work accomplished at the
Kaiser Wilhelm institutes, the most important institute was the KWI-A. This
was reflected in the fact that the KWI-A was the only institute with a
"W" classification (Wehrwirtschaft;
important for a wartime economy). 1
It was first directed by Eugen Fischer (1927-1942), then Otmar von Verschuer
(1942-1945), until the Kaiser Wilhelm institutes were renamed Max Planck
Eugen Fischer, Anthropologist, KWI-A.
First director of the KWI-A. Worked primarily in the area of
race eugenics, an area of work that straddled both the Second Reich (in
German South West Africa) and the Third Reich. His areas of specialization
included Bastard studies, the name then in use for the offspring of mixed
races. He coordinated his work with fellow
International Federation of Eugenics Organizations member
Charles Davenport. Even before Fischer formally became a Nazi in 1940, he
devoted himself to directing various programs identified with the Nazi agenda,
including twin studies, sterilization, and euthanasia (Action T4). Prior to his
retirement from the KWI-A in 1942, Fischer prepared the transition of leadership
from himself to Otmar Freiherr von Verschuer, the second Director of the KWI-A,
partly through a shift in emphasis from twin study to phenogenetics. Fischer was
a racial anti-Semite. He participated in the Final Solution (volkstod) to
the Jewish Question when he attended the Frankfurt Institute for the
Investigation of the Jewish Question on March 27-28, 1941.
Otmar Freiherr von Verschuer, Physician, Anthropologist, KWI-A.
Joined the National Socialist Deutsch Workers Party (Nazi) in 1940. Became
the second director of the KWI-A. Started at the KWI-A in 1927 (under
Eugen Fischer, the first Director of the KWI-A),
as the director of the KWI-A Department of Human Genetics; he subsequently
became director of the KWI-A Division on Twin Research. In 1935 Verschuer
continued to work at the KWI-A but shifted his primary attention to the
Frankfurt Institute for Genetic Biology and Racial Hygiene ('Institut für
Erbbiologie und Rassenhygiene'), leading the sterilization effort in the city
of Frankfurt. Verschuer once again gave his primary attention to the KWI-A in
1942, when he succeeded Fischer as Director of the KWI-A. Verschauer worked
primarily in the area of twin studies, with a strong interest in racial hygiene
as implemented via sterilization. He was responsible for implementing the
transition from twin study to phenogenetics: an approach. that emphasized what
modern scientists would call developmental biology. Two of Verschuer's most
well-known assistants were Karin Magnussen and Josef Mengele. Karin Magnussen
studied eyes from living twins at Auschwitz harvested for her by Mengele at
Auschwitz. Verschauer participated in the Final Solution ('volkstod') to the
Jewish Question when he attended the Frankfurt Institute for the Investigation
of the Jewish Question on March 27-28, 1941. At the close of the war, Verschuer
hid or destroyed the records of KWI-A activities and other activities, at his
Karin Magnussen, Biologist, teacher, KWI-A.
Researcher at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Anthropology, Human Heredity, and
Eugenics during Germany's Third Reich, known for her 1936 publication "Race and
Population Policy Tools", and her studies of heterochromia iridis (different
colored eyes) using iris specimens from Auschwitz concentration camp victims
(supplied by her colleague, Joseph Mengele).
Physician, anthropologist. Closely associated with the KWI-A due to his
relationship with Otmar Freiherr von Verschuer. Mengele earned doctorates
in anthropology from Munich University and in medicine from Frankfurt University.
Verschuer was Mengele's doctoral advisor at the Frankfurt Institute for Genetic
Biology and Racial Hygiene; Mengele joined Verschuer's staff as a "promising
young researcher" in 1937, 2
the same year he officially joined the Nazi party. When Verschuer became Director
of the KWI-A in 1942, he continued his association with Mengele. A member of the
Waffen-SS, Mengele performed human experiments on inmates at Auschwitz death
camp, primarily on twins (mainly children). Mengele supplied Karin Magnussen
with iris specimens from Auschwitz concentration camp victims, for her studies
of heterochromia iridis (different colored eyes).
Mengele was the only one of the Nazi anthropologists who was prosecuted before
an international court because his crimes were so obvious. He was sentenced in
absentia, for he had escaped to South America.
Prosecution For War Crimes
Fischer, Verschuer, Magnussen and many others involved in medical anthropology
during the Third Reich were never prosecuted as war criminals, though it was
recommended several times, because it was feared that the German public would
utterly lose confidence in both German science and the German medical
establishment; thus, the political transition after World War II, into the
Cold War, would not be disrupted. Although some of the preceding views may seem
controversial, there is ample written documentation to substantiate these views.
A more complete historical record continues to be impeded by the limited access
provided to the public of further documentation. See
Research Materials: Max Planck Society Archive.
Kaiser Wilhelm Institute and National Socialist Propaganda Anthropobiology was used to support stereotyped views of Gypsies, Jews,
Blacks, the mentally ill, and physically handicapped people. Anthropobiology
utilized anthropometry: the measurement and recording of "metrics"
(different physical or mental factors) which could then be used to classify people
by race or value. To create reproducible anthropometric results, Hermann Werner
Siemens developed a technique called "polysymptomatic similarity diagnosis ". This
was initially associated with twin research, as such measurements would only be of
value if they were understood to be inheritable and independent of the environment.
Characteristics measured by anthropometry were grouped into distinct
stereotypes. For example, "Jews" had a particular type of nose; "Blacks" had kinky
hair; "Gypsies" were always criminals; etc. However, the work done at the KWI-A
used as criteria to identify races, such as:
hair color and shape
color of lanugo hairs
cornification in hair follicles
skulls (shape, capacity)
shape of the ear
form of the hand
dactyloscopy (handprints, fingerprints)
spine vertebrae types
Human race crossings
Human internal organs:
anterior pituitary hormone
menarche and climate
hardness of soft tissues
These stereotypes were primarily used to create propaganda support for the
Lebensborn program; the
sterilization program; the euthanasia
program; genocide at concentration camps;
deportations; and medical
experimentation done by other programs such as the Waffen-SS
(low pressure experiments, hyper- and hypothermia experiments, etc.). For
details, see the Doctors' Trial, also known as the Nuremberg Medical Trial.
The purpose of the propaganda was to dehumanize those who were considered
to be enemies of the Third Reich. Methods of dehumanization included the
use of stereotypes in newspapers (Julius Streicher cartoons) and films
such as Jud Suss (1940 film). At that time, films that were very popular
internationally, such as "Nosferatu" (directed by F. W. Murnau,
starring actor Max Schreck), depicted dehumanized forms with very wan
complexions, long noses and long ears, and cadaverous body shapes, who drank
blood. Unfortunately, some people in the 21st century still believe these
things. 3, 4, 5
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, Gottingen, 2003, p. 263.
Yisrael Gutman, Michael Berenbaum , "Anatomy of the Auschwitz death camp",
Indiana U. Press, 1998, p. 318
Marcel Lozinski, "Witnesses: Anti-Semitism in Poland, 1946" released 1990.
A university-educated person provides his evidence that Jews are vampires.
John Frankenheimer, "The Fixer", released 1968. Based on a novel and
screenplay by Bernard Melamud about the famous 1913 Beilis 'blood libel'
trial in Czarist Russia in 1913.
Judit Elek, "Memories of a River", released 1990. Based on the famous Tiza
River blood libel trial of the late 19th century, in the Austro-Hungarian