by Edwin Black
Sunday, November 9, 2003
from SFGate Website
This article appeared on page D - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle
Edwin Black is author of the award-winning "IBM and the Holocaust" and the recently
released "War Against the Weak" (published by Four Walls Eight Windows), from which
this article is adapted.
Hitler and his henchmen victimized an entire continent and exterminated millions in his quest for a so-
called Master Race.
But the concept of a white, blond-haired, blue-eyed master Nordic race didn't originate with Hitler. The
idea was created in the United States, and cultivated in California, decades before Hitler came to power.
California eugenicists played an important, although little-known, role in the American eugenics
movement's campaign for ethnic cleansing.
Eugenics was the pseudoscience aimed at "improving" the human race. In its extreme, racist form, this
meant wiping away all human beings deemed "unfit," preserving only those who conformed to a Nordic
stereotype. Elements of the philosophy were enshrined as national policy by forced sterilization and
segregation laws, as well as marriage restrictions, enacted in 27 states. In 1909, California became the
third state to adopt such laws. Ultimately, eugenics practitioners coercively sterilized some 60,000
Americans, barred the marriage of thousands, forcibly segregated thousands in "colonies," and
persecuted untold numbers in ways we are just learning. Before World War II, nearly half of coercive
sterilizations were done in California, and even after the war, the state accounted for a third of all such
California was considered an epicenter of the American eugenics movement. During the 20th century's
first decades, California's eugenicists included potent but little-known race scientists, such as Army
venereal disease specialist Dr. Paul Popenoe, citrus magnate Paul Gosney, Sacramento banker
Charles Goethe, as well as members of the California state Board of Charities and Corrections and the