The Philosophical Roots of the Holocaust: Psychiatry, Eugenics, Scientism, and the Loss of Morality

German psychiatry started organized murder of patients through starvation diets 20 years before the Nazi party was founded and continued until 1949. In America, psychiatry started mass sterilization programs and similar programs have also taken place in several European countries. The Holocaust began with the murder of more than 300,000 psychiatric patients.

(1998) Forced euthanasia by Starvation in Psychiatry 1914-1949 Source: semanticscholar.org

The idea behind eugenics – racial hygiene – that led to the Nazi Holocaust was supported by Universities around the world. It started with an idea that was not naturally defensible and that was thought to require trickery and deceit. It resulted in a demand for people with the capabilities of Nazis.

The famous German Holocaust scholar Ernst Klee described the situation as follows:

“The Nazis didn't need psychiatry, it was the other way around, psychiatry needed the Nazis.”

A video report by Holocaust scholar Ernst Klee:

Diagnose and Exterminate

Critical psychiatrist Dr. Peter R. Breggin has researched it for years and says the following about it:

The psychiatric eradication program was not a hidden, secret scandal of psychiatry—at least not in the beginning. It was organized in a series of national meetings and workshops by leading professors of psychiatry and directors of psychiatric hospitals. So-called euthanasia forms were distributed among the hospitals and each death was then given final approval in Berlin by a committee of the country's leading psychiatrists.

In January 1940, patients were transferred to six special extermination centers with a staff of psychiatrists. At the end of 1941, the program was clandestinely outraged by Hitler's lack of enthusiasm, but by then between 100,000 and 200,000 German psychiatric patients had already been murdered. Since then, individual institutions, such as the one in Kaufbeuren, have continued on their own initiative, even taking in new patients for the purpose of killing them. At the end of the war, many large institutions were completely empty and estimates from various war tribunals, including that of Nuremberg, range from 250,000 to 300,000 dead, mostly patients of psychiatric hospitals and homes for the mentally handicapped.

Psychiatrist Frederic Wertham, by no means a radical critic of his craft, deserves credit for being the first to describe the role of psychiatry in Nazi Germany: …

“The tragic thing is, the psychiatrists didn't need a warrant. They acted on their own initiative. They did not carry out a death sentence handed down by someone else. They were the legislators who set the rules for deciding who should die; they were the administrators who worked out the procedures, supplied patients and places, and determined the methods of killing; they pronounced a sentence of life or death in each individual case; they were the executioners who carried out the sentences or – without being forced to do so – handed over their patients to be murdered in other institutions; they guided the slow dying and often watched it.”

The bond between Hitler and psychiatrists was so close that much of Mein Kampf literally corresponds to the language and tone of the major international journals and psychiatric textbooks of the period. To quote some of many such passages in Mein Kampf:

“To demand that the feeble-minded be prevented from producing equally feeble-minded progeny is a demand made for the purest of reasons and, if carried out systematically, represents the most humane act of mankind…”

“Those who are physically and mentally unhealthy and unworthy should not let their suffering continue in the bodies of their children…”

“Preventing the ability and opportunity to procreate in the physically degenerate and mentally ill… would not only liberate humanity from an immense misfortune, but also lead to a recovery that seems hardly conceivable today.”

After taking power, Hitler gained support from psychiatrists and social scientists from all over the world. Many articles in the world's leading medical journals studied and praised Hitler's eugenic legislation and policies.

The patients were killed for their own good as well as that of the community.

(1938) Exterminaton of life unworthy of life (Vernichtung lebensunwerten Lebens) Source: Psychiatry professor Alfred Hoche

Eugenics in contemporary psychiatry

There is strong evidence for eugenic motives in contemporary psychiatry.

  1. Antipsychotics: The top 3 most deadly antipsychotics (Seroquel, Risperdal and Zyprexa) match the top 3 most prescribed antipsychotics. Modern antipsychotics are 10x more expensive and up to 41% more deadly than the old antipsychotics from 20 years ago. Antipsychotics make users chronically ill and shorten lives by at least 30 years.

    (2009) Study may prompt rethink on schizophrenia drugs Source: Reuters (The Lancet) (PDF)

    According to a large study, patients have a 40% chance of a good recovery without treatment, while antipsychotics reduce the chance of recovery to nil. Alternative non-medical psychotherapeutic treatment options, which in first experiments showed a potential of up to 90% chance of good recovery, were systematically suppressed.

    Long-term outcomes of schizophrenia, source: Martin Harrow and Thomas Jobe. “Factors involved in Outcome and Recovery in Schizophrenia Patients Not on Antipsychotic Medications: A 15-year Multifollow-up Study. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 195 (2007):406-414.

  2. ADHD: ADHD medication causes aggression and psychosis for which antipsychotics are prescribed. The number of antipsychotic prescriptions to children in the Netherlands grew by 49% in 2010. There is evidence that there is a relationship between the growth in ADHD medication prescriptions and antipsychotic prescriptions.

  3. Antidepressants: Antidepressants have suspicious side effects while a fake pill with a side effect (active placebo) that gives users the feeling that something is happening in the body, is proven to be just as effective as antidepressants in patients with a clinical major depression.

    (2008) Effectiveness of antidepressants: an evidence myth constructed from a thousand randomized trials? Source: PhilPapers

    Antidepressants double to tenfold the risk of suicide and hundreds of professors raised the alarm that antidepressants can have extreme violence as a side effect. Some magazines even published covers with the title “Killer Pills”.

    (2010) A criminal side effect There is no hard scientific evidence that antidepressants can be the cause of extremely violent behavior, but the evidence is piling up. Source: Trouw (2009) Pills of the Devil Source: REVU. [Online] (2008) Cheating with suicide rates: Miracle pill, fake pill, suicide pill Source: VARA/VPRO Noorderlicht

    Antidepressants cause genetic damage in the sperm and fetus that makes men infertile, that increases the risk of miscarriage by 68% or that causes children to be born with birth defects, such as specifically a weakened heart that increases the risk of premature death in children.

    The side effects of antidepressants are suspicious when it is known that an active placebo is just as effective in almost all patients.

According to hundreds of scientists, the diagnosis of ADHD is a hoax. It is striking that the Dutch Association against Quackery (VtdK) is silent.

The former chairman of the association, Dr Cees Renckens, called on members to adopt the Nazi mentality. During a Christmas speech, the chairman praised Nazis with the message that one should react to quackery as the Nazi Hermann Göring reacted when he heard the word culture.

Nazi Hermann Göring: “When I hear the word culture, I unlock my gun!

In a Volkskrant opinion piece, the chairman ranted at critics of psychiatry just before his resignation, an additional indication of an ideologically motivated defense of what many scientists consider to be one of the most unsound practices in science.

(2012) Antipsychiatry has done a lot of damage The truth is that the advent of antipsychotics in the 1950s humanized the psychiatry and lives of psychotic patients, freeing them from extreme fears, hallucinations, and movement disorders. That writes Cees Renckens, board member of the Association against Quackery. Source: Volkskrant

An article by well known philosopher Bonnie Burstow, an anti-psychiatry scholar (someone involved in criticism on psychiatry), shows a more current perspective on eugenics in psychiatry.

(2019) Psychiatric Eugenics Then and Now — You Betcha It’s Still Happening! Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” (George Santayana) Source: Mad In America

Eugenics in contemporary society

Eugenics is an emergent topic in recent years. In 2019 a group of over 11,000 scientists argued that eugenics can be used to reduce world population.

(2020) The eugenics debate isn't over – but we should be wary of people who claim it can reduce world population Andrew Sabisky, a UK government adviser, recently resigned over comments supporting eugenics. Around the same time, the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins — best known for his book The Selfish Gene — provoked controversy when he tweeted that while eugenics is morally deplorable, it “would work.” Source: Phys.org (2020) Eugenics is trending. That's a problem. Any attempt to reduce world population must focus on reproductive justice. Source: Washington Post

In 2014, New York Times journalist Eric Lichtblau published the book The Nazis Next Door: How America Became a Safe Haven for Hitler's Men, which showed that more than 10,000 high-ranking Nazis emigrated to the United States after World War II. Their war crimes were quickly forgotten, and some received help and protection from the US government.

(2014) The Nazis Next Door: How America Became a Safe Haven for Hitler's Men Source: Amazon.com

(2020) Is America Starting Down the Path of Nazi Germany?

wayne allyn root

I cannot express how truly sad writing this op-ed has made me. But I'm a patriotic American. And I'm an American Jew. I have studied the beginnings of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. And I can clearly see parallels with what is happening in America today.

OPEN YOUR EYES. Study what happened in Nazi Germany during the infamous Kristallnacht. The night of Nov. 9-10, 1938, marked the beginning of the Nazis' attack on the Jews. Jewish homes and businesses were looted, desecrated and burned while the police and “good people” stood by and watched. Nazis laughed and cheered as books were burned.

Wayne Allyn Root – bestselling author and nationally syndicated talk show host on USA Radio Network

Source: Townhall.com

New York Times columnist Natasha Lennard recently mentioned the following:

natasha lennard (2020) Forced sterilization of poor women of color There need be no explicit policy of forced sterilization for a eugenicist system to exist. Normalized neglect and dehumanization are sufficient. These are Trumpian specialties, yes, but as American as apple pie. Source: The Intercept

Embryoselection

Embryo selection is a modern day example of eugenics that shows how easy the idea is accepted by the short term self-interest perspective of humans.

Parents want their child to be healthy and prosperous. Laying the choice for eugenics with parents could be a scheme for scientists to justify their otherwise morally reprehensible eugenic beliefs and practices. They could piggyback on the back of parents who may have factors in mind such as financial worries, their career opportunities and similar priorities that may not be an optimal influence for human evolution.

The rapidly growing demand for embryo selection shows how easy it is for humans to accept the idea of eugenics.

(2017) China's embrace of embryo selection raises thorny questions about eugenics In the West, embryo selection still raises fears about the creation of an elite genetic class, and critics talk of a slippery slope towards eugenics, a word that elicits thoughts of Nazi Germany and racial cleansing. In China, however, eugenics lacks such baggage. The Chinese word for eugenics, yousheng, is used explicitly as a positive in almost all conversations about eugenics. Yousheng is about giving birth to children of better quality. Source: Nature.com (2017) Eugenics 2.0: We're at the Dawn of Choosing Our Kids Will you be among the first parents that pick their kids' obstinacy? As machine learning unlocks predictions from DNA databases, scientists say parents could have options to select their kids like never before possible. Source: MIT Technology Review

The Philosophical Roots of the Holocaust

The origin of the Holocaust was not hatred but an at that time developing status quo of the international psychiatric and scientific establishment that believed that the human mind causally 'originates' in the brain (the philosophical concept psychopathology).

It can be seen in the flyer of the first eugenics congress that shows a clear link with psychiatry.

eugenics congres flyer promotion Eugenics is the self direction of human evolution

In science the inability to define the meaning of life has resulted in an ideal to abolish morality.

GM: science out of control 110 (2018) Immoral advances: Is science out of control? To many scientists, moral objections to their work are not valid: science, by definition, is morally neutral, so any moral judgement on it simply reflects scientific illiteracy. Source: New Scientist

While personal hate might be the reason that groups of people such as the Jews were included in the originally psychiatric eradication program, the rise of the Nazi's followed a strong demand for breaking with morality (and therewith religions) by psychiatry as a honourable branch of a greater international scientific establishment that sought to break free from moral constraints on behalf of the deemed 'greater good' scientific progress.

(2016) Why Did Adolf Hitler Hate the Jews? In "Mein Kampf," published in two volumes, in 1925 and 1926, Hitler himself explains that he had no special feelings about Jews before he moved to Vienna, in 1908, and that even then, initially, he thought favorably of them. He started to hate Jews only after Germany's loss in World War I, for which he held the Jews responsible. Source: Haaretz

Psychiatrist Peter R. Breggin:

The bond between Hitler and psychiatrists was so close that much of Mein Kampf literally corresponds to the language and tone of the major international journals and psychiatric textbooks of the period.

After taking power, Hitler gained support from psychiatrists and social scientists from all over the world. Many articles in the world's leading medical journals studied and praised Hitler's eugenic legislation and policies.

The ideal of science to abolish morality and the consequent ideas propagated as a greater good for humanity by a scientific establishment is hard to challenge for individual people. It would require 'philosophy beyond science' to do so and science was in its infancy and fighting its way into the world by suppressing philosophy and religions, as shown by the following quote of philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche in Beyond Good and Evil (Chapter 6 – We Scholars).

Friedrich Nietzsche

The declaration of independence of the scientific man, his emancipation from philosophy, is one of the subtler after-effects of democratic organization and disorganization: the self- glorification and self-conceitedness of the learned man is now everywhere in full bloom, and in its best springtime – which does not mean to imply that in this case self-praise smells sweet. Here also the instinct of the populace cries, “Freedom from all masters!” and after science has, with the happiest results, resisted theology, whose “hand-maid” it had been too long, it now proposes in its wantonness and indiscretion to lay down laws for philosophy, and in its turn to play the “master” – what am I saying! to play the PHILOSOPHER on its own account.

It shows the path that science has pursued since as early as 1850. Science has intended to rid itself of religions, philosophy and morality.

When science is practised autonomously and intends to get rid of any influence of philosophy, the 'knowing' of a scientific fact necessarily entails certainty. Without certainty, philosophy would be essential, and that would be obvious to any scientist, which it is not.

It means that there is a dogmatic belief involved (a belief in uniformitarianism) that legitimises autonomous application of science without thinking about whether it is actually 'good' what is being done (i.e. without morality).

The idea that the facts of science are valid without philosophy results in the natural tendency to completely abolish morality.

This might explain why in that dark time before the Holocaust morality stood to lose ground in the face of an international scientific establishment that was reaching its heights. The rise of science resulted in an attempt to shed humanity of morality.

The root of the problem that led to the Nazi holocaust and barbaric (immoral) practices therefore has been the preceding evolution of science that resulted in the suppression of philosophy and morality.