Margaret Sanger, Sterilization, and the Swastika

by Mike Richmond

"To give certain dysgenic groups in our population their choice of segregation [concentration camps] or sterilization", advocated the founder of Planned Parenthood, Margaret Sanger in April 1932 ("A Plan For Peace", Birth Control Review; see 'appendix' for this full unabridged seminal article). Which country pioneered forced sterilization in the 20th century, Germany or the United States of America? The German program began in January 1934, but the U.S. state of Indiana passed a forced sterilization law (for mental defectives) in 1907 (when Adolf Hitler was 18 years old). Before the German program began, at least seventeen U.S. states (including California) had 'forced sterilization' laws. Before 1930 there were 200-600 forced sterilizations per year (in the U.S.A.) but in the 1930s the rate jumped to 2,000-4,000 per year. (1)

Who 'Inspired' the architects of the German Sterilization law?

"The leaders in the German sterilization movement state repeatedly that their legislation was formulated after careful study of the California experiment as reported by Mr. Gosney and Dr. [Paul] Popenoe. It would have been impossible, they say, to understake such a venture involving some 1 million people without drawing heavily upon previous experience elsewhere." (2) Who is Dr. Paul Popenoe? He was a leader in the U.S. eugenics movement and wrote (1933) the article 'Eugenic Sterilization' in the journal (BCR) that Margaret Sanger started. How many Americans did Dr. Popenoe estimate should be subjected to sterilization? Between five million and ten million Americans. "The situation [in the U.S.A] will grow worse instead of better if steps are not taken to control the reproduction of mentally handicapped. Eugenic sterilization represents one such step that is practicable, humanitarian, and certain in its results." (3)

Who is Ernst Rudin?

Ernst Rudin was director of the foremost German eugenics research institute (Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Genealogy, in Munich, Germany). "On June 2, 1933, [German] Reich Interior Minister Wilhelm Frick announced the formation of an Expert Committee on Questions of Population and Racial Policy .... to plan the course of Nazi racial policy. The committee brought together the elite of Nazi racial theory: Alfred Ploetz, ..... Ernst Rudin, director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Genealogy in Munich;...." (4) On July 14, 1933 this committee's recommendations were made law, the sterilization law ("Law for the Prevention of Genetically Diseased Offspring"); the start date for exercising the law was 1 Jan 1934. What was Ernst Rudin's opinion of Adolf Hitler and eugenics ('racial hygiene')?:

Academic William H. Tucker (The Science and Politics of Racial Research, 1994, University of Illinois Press) tells us about Ernst Rudin (p. 121):

In an address to the German Society for Rassenhygiene [Race-hygiene] Ernst Rudin, a professor of psychiatry who was one of the organization's original members and now its head, recalled the early, fruitless days when the racial hygienists had labored in vain to alert the public to special value of the Nordic race as "culture creators" and the danger of "unnatural" attempts to preserve the health of heredity defectives. Now Rassenhygiene [Race-hygiene] was finally receiving the attention it deserved, and Rudin virtually slavered over the man whose efforts produced this change: "The significance of Rassenhygiene 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 Rassen- hygiene into action finally become a reality." Terming it a "duty of honor" (Ehrenpflicht) for the society to aid in implementing Hitler's program, Rudin proclaimed, "We can hardly express our efforts more plainly or appropriately than in the words of the Fuhrer: 'Whoever is not physically or mentally fit must not pass on his defects to his children. The state must take care that only the fit produce children. Conversely, it must be regarded as reprehensible to withhold healthy children from the state.' (E. Rudin, "Aufgaben and Ziele der Deutschen Gesellschaft fur Rassenhygiene," Archiv Fur Rassen- und Gesellschafts- biologie 28 (1934): 228-29)

Who is author William H. Tucker? He is an associate professor of psychology at Rutgers University, Camden, New Jersey. Tucker is apparently somewhat left of center politically, since he complains about the 'Reagan slash and burn spending cuts.'

How many Germans were 'force sterilized'? Most estimates are in the range of 250,000-500,000. The Germans started twenty-seven years later that the U.S. but within a few years they greatly outpaced them.

Did Ernst Rudin advocate sterilization of Americans?

Three months before the German 'sterilization law' was passed, Rudin's "Eugenic Sterilization: An Urgent Need" article was published in the journal (BCR) Margaret Sanger started and continued to influence until its demise in 1940.

In addressing an American audience Rudin is much more circumspect with his choice of words:

The following essay is concerned only with sterilization as a a voluntary practice, that is, when undertaken with the consent of the patient himself or his statutory guardians......

But as the essay wears on, the mask begins to slip:

My experience has led me to the conclusion that systematic and careful propaganda should be undertaken where sterilization is advisable. Such propaganda should, of course, be gradual and and should be directed in the first instance at the medical directors in institutions and schools, medical officers of health, and finally at private practitioners.....

Margaret Sanger corresponded with Ernst Rudin and never once renounced his eugenic views.

The Planned Parenthood connection - Who is Lothrop Stoddard?

Margaret Sanger appointed Lothrop Stoddard as a board member of the Birth Control League (the forerunner of Planned Parenthood). What did Stoddard think about Nazi eugenics? Author Stefan Kuhl writes (5):

When the Nazis came to power, argued Stoddard, they started to increase "both the size and the quality of the population." They coupled initiatives designed to encourage "sound" citizens to reproduce with a "drastic curb of the defective elements." (7) Stoddard personally witnessed how the Nazis were "weeding out the worst strains in the Germanic stock in a scientific and truly humanitarian way."

Lothrop Stoddard and the "Jews Problem"

It is no secret that Adolf Hitler and the Nazis favored Jews be more subject to induced abortion and sterilization than other groups. Stefan Kuhl writes (pp. 61-62):

He [Lothrop Stoddard] even met personally with Adolf Hitler. William L. Shirer, an American colleague who had been in Germany since 1934, complained that the Reich minister for propaganda [Joseph Goebbels] gave special preference to Stoddard because his writings on racial subject were "featured in Nazi school textbooks."(8)

Kuhl continues:

Stoddard claimed in 1940 that the "Jew problem" is "already settled in principle and soon to be settled in fact by the physical elimination of the Jews themselves from the Third Reich."

Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood, made Lothrop Stoddard a board member of the forerunner to PP (the Birth Control League). Why was the Birth Control League reconstituted as Planned Parenthood? The 'Nazi smell' of BCL was so bad, that some 'cosmetics' were required.

High Praise from Adolf Hitler

Margaret Sanger was a prominent proponent of eugenics and forced sterilization. Stefan Kuhl writes:

In 1934 one of Hitler's staff members wrote to Leon Whitney of the American Eugenics Society and asked in the name of the Fuhrer for a copy of Whitney's recently published book, The Case for Sterilization. Whitney complied immediately, and shortly thereafter received a personal letter of thanks from Adolf Hitler. In his unpublished autobiography, Whitney reported a conversation he had with Madison Grant about the letter from the Fuhrer. Because he thought Grant might be interested in Hitler's letter he showed it to him during their next meeting. Grant only smiled, reached for a folder on his desk, and gave Whitney a letter from Hitler to read. In this, Hitler thanked Grant for writing The Passing of the Great Race and said that "the book was his Bible." Whitney concluded that, following Hitler's actions, one could believe it. (unpublished autobiography of Leon F. Whitney, written in 1971, Whitney Papers, APS, 204-5) (6)

Sanger's Siren Song of Sterilization

This article started with a Sanger quote, "to give certain dysgenic groups in our population their choice of segregation or sterilization." To assure yourself that this is NOT an 'out of context quote', read the full article (A Plan For Peace) in the 'appendix'. Although Margaret Sanger may have been unaware of it, one possible side-effect of an induced abortion is sterility. If only 4% of women undergoing an induced abortion suffer sterility as a side-effect, then the U.S. has had over one million sterilizations (from induced abortion alone), easily topping the Nazi 'record'.

(1) The Surgical Solution, Philip R. Reilly
(2) Legal and Medical Aspects of Eugenic Sterilization in Germany, American Sociological Review, Marie E. Kopp, 1936:763
(3) Eugenic Sterilization, Birth Control Review, Dr. Paul Popenoe, April 1933
(4) Racial Hygiene, Robert N. Proctor, p. 95
(5) The Nazi Connection (Eugenics, American Racism, And German National Socialism), Stefan Kuhl, Oxford University Press, 1994, p. 62 (6) The Nazi Connection, p. 85
(7) Into The Darkness: Nazi Germany Today, Lothrop Stoddard, 1940, pp. 190-191
(8) Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent, William L. Shire (New York: Alfred Knopf, 1941):257
Healthy Choices for Women,
Mike Richmond


A. Dr. Paul Popenoe

Author William H. Tucker also identifies Paul Popenoe as a researcher favored eugenics. Says Tucker:

The biologist Paul Popenoe, author of the most widely used American eugenics text and editor of the Journal of Heredity, also reviewed the new German law. Noting that Hitler had read the definitive German work on heredity by Baur, Fischer, and Lenz, Popenoe judged the fuhrer's program to be based "solidly on the application of biological principles to human society." (p. 123)

In the April 1933 BCR Paul Popenoe tells us:

Eugenic sterilization is one of the many indispensable measures in any modern program of social welfare. It is an integral part of a general system of protection, parole, and supervision, for those who by reason on mental disease or deficiency are unable to meet the responsibilities of citizenship.

It promotes eugenics by cutting off some of the lines of descent that are spreading mental disease and mental defect throughout the population. It is conservatively estimated that there are approximately 5,000,000 people in the United States who will at some time be committed to state hospitals as insane and that there are approximately 5,000,000 more who are so deficient intellectually (with less than 70% of average intelligence) as to be, in many cases, liabilities rather than assets to the race. The situation will grow worse instead of better if steps are not taken to control the reproduction of the mentally handicapped. Eugenic sterilization represents one such step that is practicable, humanitarian, and certain in its results.

B. A Plan for Peace

The following (A Plan for Peace, Margaret Sanger) was published in Birth Control Review (April 1932, pp. 107-108):

A Plan for Peace

First, put into action President Wilson's fourteen points, upon which terms Germany and Austria surrendered to the Allies in 1918.

Second, have Congress set up a special department for the study of population problems and appoint a Parliament of Population, the directors representing the various branches of science: this body to direct and control the population through birth rates and immigration, and to direct its distribution over the country according to national needs consistent with taste, fitness and interest of individuals. The main objects of the Population Congress would be:

a. to raise the level and increase the general intelligence of population.

b. to increase the population slowly by keeping the birth rate at its present level of fifteen per thousand, decreasing the death rate below its present mark of 11 per thousand.

c. to keep the doors of immigration closed to the entrance of certain aliens whose condition is known to be detrimental to the stamina of the race, such as feebleminded, idiots, morons, insane, syphilitic, epileptic, criminal, professional prostitutes, and others in this class barred by the immigration laws of 1924.

d. to apply a stern and rigid policy of sterilization and segregation to that grade of population whose progeny is tainted, or whose inheritance is such that objectionable traits may be transmitted to offspring.

e. to insure the country against future burdens of maintenance for numerous offspring as may be born of feebleminded parents, by pensioning all persons with transmissible disease who voluntarily consent to sterilization.

f. to give certain dysgenic groups in our population their choice of segregation or sterilization.

g. to apportion farm lands and homesteads for these segregated persons where they would be taught to work under competent instructors for the period of their entire lives.

The first step would thus be to control the intake and output of morons, mental defectives, epileptics.

The second step would be to take an inventory of the secondary group such as illiterates, paupers, unemployables, criminals, prostitutes, dope-fiends; classify them in special departments under government medical protection, and segregate them on farms and open spaces as long as necessary for the strengthening and development of moral conduct.

Having corralled this enormous part of our population and placed it on a basis of health instead of punishment, it is safe to say that fifteen or twenty millions of our population would then be organized into soldiers of defense---defending the unborn against their own disabilities.

The third step would be to give special attention to the mothers' health, to see that women who are suffering from tuberculosis, heart or kidney disease, toxic goitre, gonorrhea, or any disease where the condition of pregnancy disturbs their health are placed under public health nurses to instruct them in practical, scientific methods of contraception in order to safeguard their lives---thus reducing maternal mortality.

The above steps may seem to place emphasis on a health program instead of on tariffs, moratoriums and debts, but I believe that national health is the first essential factor in any program for universal peace.

With the future citizen safeguarded from hereditary taints, with five million mental and moral degenerates segregated, with ten million women and ten million children receiving adequate care, we could then turn our attention to the basic needs for international peace.

There would then be a definite effort to make population increase slowly and at a specified rate, in order to accommodate and adjust increasing numbers to the best social and economic system.

In the meantime we should organize and join an International League of Low Birth Rate Nations to secure and maintain World Peace.

Summary of address before the New History Society, January 17th, New York City