2005_02_health_eugenics.jpgCarnegie Hall and Rockefeller Center. Don't you just love 'em? What would the city be like at Christmastime without the tourist-infested tree in the plaza? Or even worse, what if The Today Show's, Dr. Judith Reichman, had no outlet to provide the nation with her sound expert medical advice? And where else would be better to hear the intricacies of David Sedaris' sexy little voice than Carnegie Hall?

Sometimes, when Gothamist Health looks at these architectural beautes all I hear is a resounding voice inside my head saying "Three generations of imbeciles are enough." The Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., wrote those very words in his opinion of the Court in the 1927 case of Buck v. Bell. Holmes ruled that the State of Virginia had the right to forcibly sterilize a mildly mentally challenged woman named Carrie Buck whose mother and six-month old daughter were also deemed "feeble-minded." This case effectively sanctioned 50 years of unrestricted eugenics in the United States enforced by the great surgeons of the 20th Century. They performed at least sixty-five thousand forced sterilizations in the U.S. between 1907 and 1966. New York was quick to catch on and passed a sterilization law in 1912. The law was invalidated in 1918 and officially repealed in 1920 but not before the state of New York performed a mere 42 sterilizations (luckily, we’ve always had that Blue State mentality). Eventually, the Nazi doctors observed the success of sterilization in America and enacted the largest eugenics effort in the history of the world. When they were finally caught, they defended themselves at the Nuremberg trials by citing Justice Holmes’ decision in the Buck v. Bell case.

What does all this have to do with Rockefeller Center and Carnegie Hall you ask?

Beginning in 1904, the Carnegie Institution funded the Station for Experimental Evolution at Cold Spring Harbor, Long Island that hosted the federally funded Eugenics Record Office. With the Carnegie’s financial support, the ERO quickly became the most important center for eugenics research in America.

The Rockefeller Foundation funded the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute in Germany (known today as the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research). This busy little institution partially laid the intellectual groundwork for the racial-cleansing ideas behind the Holocaust and supported individuals like the French-American Nobel Prize winner, Dr. Alexis Carrel, who supported the Nazis and advocated mass murder of the mentally ill and prisoners. Also on the Rockefeller’s payroll was the Deutsche Forschungsanstalt fur Psychiatrie (German Institute for Psychiatric Research) and Dr. Ernst Rudin. Rudin was named President of the worldwide Eugenics Federation in 1932 and stated in a public address:

“The significance of Race-Hygiene did not become evident to all aware Germans until the political activity of Adolf Hitler and only through his work has our 30 year long dream of translating Race-Hygiene into action finally become a reality.”

The Rockefeller Foundation attempted to foster cutting-edge scientific research by supporting Psychiatric research in Germany. To the Foundation’s credit, it did withdraw support for these institutions when the U.S. entered World War II in 1941. Also, the involvement of German doctors in mass murder and other atrocities in Nazi Germany was not universally known before the U.S. entered the war. And the Rockefeller Foundation did help many prominent German scientists who were dismissed from their positions get new jobs outside of Germany.

And for this, Gothamist health can be proud that Katie Couric has a studio to keep our parents entertained every morning.