What Can the Historian, the Genealogist and the Statistician Contribute to the Investigation of the Biological Aspect of the Jewish Problem?

Baron Otmar von Verschuer, M.D.

Translated from the German by
Charles E. Weber, Ph.D.

Judac Fine Art.

Translator’s Introduction

The following article was originally given as a lecture and was subsequently published in the series, Forschungen zur Judenfrage (Studies on the Jewish Problem). It was taken from the second volume of the series, which was published by the Hanseatische Verlagsanstalt in Hamburg in 1937. It is the second article by its author to appear in English translation in the Liberty Bell. The first translated article by Baron Otmar von Verschuer (1896-1969) appeared in the August-September, 1983, issue of the Liberty Bell under the title, Racial Biology of the Jews, which had originally appeared in the third volume of Forschungen zur Judenfrage. (For further biographical details on Verschuer and the contents of the series, see the introduction and conclusion of this translation.)

The present article is of interest because it reveals the German thinking on the Jewish problem and the research objectives pertaining to the problem during the earlier years of the National Socialist period. Together with the article by Verschuer mentioned above and another article by the distinguished anthropologist Eugen Fischer (The Racial Origin and Earliest Racial History of the Hebrews, Liberty Bell, August, 1984), this article is one of the three articles (out of over fifty articles in the whole series) having primarily to do with the racial and biological aspects of the Jewish problem as seen by outstanding German authorities on them at the time. Most of the other articles in Forschungen zur Judenfrage are concerned with historical, literary, theological, economic, and demographic aspects of the Jewish problem.

Verschuer’s article appeared shortly after the promulgation of the “Blood Protection Law” of 15 September, 1935, to which reference is made toward the end of the article. This law defined German citizenship along racial lines and the legal position of Jews living in Germany at that time. One of the functions of the law was the definition of the status of the rather many persons living in Germany who were only partly of Jewish extraction. Persons of such mixed ancestry were designated as mixed to the first degree if one parent were Jewish and mixed to the second degree if one grandparent were Jewish.

One of the most notable features of this article is Verschuer’s repeated insistence that the policies of the German government with respect to Jews were not based on any evaluations of Jews with regard to their inferiority or superiority in relation to other ethnic groups. The basis of these policies, he points out, was the desire to preserve the genetic and biological basis of German civilization and cultural life. At the very end of Verschuer’s article he explains why he feels that this basis is worth preserving.

Nearly a half century has passed since the publication of this article. During that time demographic developments in the United States have become an ever-greater threat to the preservation of the racial and biological basis of American cultural and economic life. During that time, too, thinking and research on racial matters have been beclouded, twisted, and perverted by anthropologists and sociologists who have little sympathy for, or even an active hostility toward, the majority racial elements of the American population, Their writings and pronouncements have had a profound effect on American education, law enforcement, immigration policies and economic life. Perceptive, patriotic, and responsible Americans cannot avoid sensing that these aspects of American life are deteriorating so severely that the future of their nation is jeopardized.

To a considerable extent American “thinking” on racial and eugenic questions has been dominated in recent decades by a frame of mind which rejects emotionally, irrationally, and uncritically all policies on racial matters which were current in National Socialist Germany just because they were denigrated by a constant and presently continuing barrage of propaganda against all aspects of National Socialism, although it can be documented that there were American and other foreign influences (e.g., publications sponsored by Henry Ford in 1920-1922) which had a considerable effect on National Socialist policies.

Today it is refreshing to read Verschuer’s article with the awareness that it represented the genuine concern of a distinguished scientist with the future of his country, a concern that has become all too scarce in our present-day United States.

What Can the Historian, the Genealogist and the Statistician Contribute to the Investigation of the Biological Aspect of the Jewish Problem?

Let me begin with a little experience that came to my mind while I was preparing this paper. Thirteen years ago, in the spring of 1924, I had given a talk on racial hygiene [i.e., eugenics] at a student study camp which was sponsored by a nationalist student organization. During the subsequent, animated oral discussion, which was also continued in written form, a leader of the nationalist student organization expressed the following idea: He was struck by the fact that anthropological science had hitherto failed to demonstrate the racial inferiority of the Jews. He believed that such a determination was necessary for a justification of anti-Semitism. I replied as follows: Anti-Semitism is primarily a national and political struggle whose justification and necessity, apart from any value judgement of the Jewish race, evolve from the threat to our national existence [Volkstum] from Jewry. A government with a nationalist orientation had to make its highest duty the preservation of our national existence. For that reason the German nationalist struggle should direct its effort primarily against Jewry because German national existence is threatened in a special way by an excess of Jewish foreign influence.

Just because we put the matter of national existence in the foreground does not mean that the importance of race should be minimized. This importance becomes clearest when we approach the solution to the Jewish problem. It is not the first time in history that a foreign nationality has established itself in the geographical area of our nation. I simply point out the establishments of the Romans and the reception of the Huguenots, who had been driven out of France on account of their religion. However, there is no longer any Roman or French national component [Volkstum] within our nation. Those foreigners and their descendants have given up their language and allowed the cultural aspects they brought with them to assimilate in the culture of their host population. They thus gradually became components of this nation.

Many people have dreamed of a similar solution of the Jewish problem as well. Quite aside from the fact that the mutual relation between Jews and Germans was an entirely different one, just in the ethnic sense alone (language, religion, history, attitude toward the host population and its culture, giving up the previous nationality), the racial question is added as an essential factor. Jews and Germans are quite different from each other with regard to their racial origins. The racial homeland of the Germans lies in northern and central Europe, while the homeland of the Jews is located in the Near East and Arabia. The basic racial component of the Germans is the Nordic and Falid [fälische] races with additional components of the Alpine, Dinaric and, to a lesser extent, the Mediterranean races. The basic racial component of the Jews is the Near Eastern and Orientalid races. In addition, admixtures of a great variety of other races have entered this basic component partly at a very early time and partly during later migration.

The absorption of Jews into our people would thus not simply be a blending of another nationality and another culture into the German culture, but a simultaneous incorporation of a foreign racial heritage which has hitherto not been present at all in central Europe. In the judging of this last question, the advances of anthropological and genetic research are now certainly of the very greatest importance.

Racial differences are genetic differences. Hereditary tendencies are developmental forces, which determine the physical, mental, and character development of the human being in the original cell of every organism, within certain limits. These forces are transmitted from generation to generation in accordance with laws discovered by Mendel [1822-1884]. Aside from rare mutations occurring under certain influences, the special characteristic of every individual hereditary tendency is maintained without change. A person can give up the culture of the people of his homeland and enter into the cultural sphere of another people. In some cases he can become a member of another nation. It is impossible, however, for a person to give up his race in order to assume another race. Every attempt toward this end is condemned to failure because it is opposed to the laws of heredity which are well-known to us today.

The nationalist government has shaped for itself the instrument of its national biological policy in the present governmental concern with heredity and race on the basis of the findings of genetic biology and racial hygiene. There are measures for the preservation of our racial character in addition to measures which serve to preserve genetic health by the elimination of severely pathological genetic material [1] and the maintenance of good genetic qualities by the encouragement of the reproduction of persons who are genetically healthy. The avoidance of any racial admixture is the clear and simple imperative. Within the framework of this concern for race in the narrower sense, for us Germans the discussion of the biological aspect of the Jewish problem is of prime importance. On a statistical basis alone, other admixtures of foreign races are a minor consideration.

The racial policy of our government has as its objective the preservation of the racial heritage of our people as the biological requisite for German national existence and German civilization. This positive attitude with regard to our national existence can have no bearing on opinions regarding the superiority or inferiority of a race foreign to us. For that reason, we likewise reject a foreign admixture of Jews as well as mixed marriages with Negroes and Gipsies, or for that matter, with Mongolids or South Sea islanders. Our national attitude toward the biological problem of the Jewish question is, accordingly, completely independent of all observations which have to do with strengths or weaknesses, good or bad characteristics of Jews. We can quietly wait for the results of such investigations. They can alter nothing with regard to our basic attitude.

Our position on the race question is rooted in the known facts of genetics; our position on the biological Jewish question [is based] on what we know about the foreign racial nature of the Jews. All research projects related to that are therefore of essential value. We possess sufficient data on the bodily and psychic characteristics of the Jews of the present and the past.

The anthropological picture is a rather clear one. We are also well informed about the origin of the Jewish people. We likewise see the roads these people have traveled since their dispersal. There is perhaps much to be done with regard to particular questions in order to extend and supplement that which has hitherto become known. Above all, the biologist is interested in the investigation of the question as to what extent the Jews, particularly the Jews who have immigrated into Germany, have absorbed other racial components from their host populations during the past 2,000 years. That is the case because the absorption of such other blood could have changed the original racial makeup. The great difference between the Ashkenasim, with a stronger Near Eastern component, and the Sephardim, with a stronger Orientalid and Mediterranean component, is well-known and emphasized by the Jews themselves.

The further research on the racial makeup of the Jews is primarily the task of the anthropologist, the physician and the psychologist. On the other hand, the services of those versed in historical science are primarily required for the clarification of the racial history of the Jews.

An area which is still investigated to a very slight extent within the framework of the biological problem of the Jewish question is the interbreeding of Jews and non-Jews, i.e., persons of a different racial origin. This is a particular aspect of interbreeding in human beings in general. It is an accomplishment of permanent value on the part of Eugen Fischer that he investigated the consequences of crossing between two strongly different races by employing methods of Mendell’s genetic research for the first time in his classical work on the Rehoboth bastards. Only a few rather large investigations of this sort are extant in addition to the work by Fischer (1913) concerning the half-breeds of Boer men and Hottentot women. I shall mention that of Rodenwaldt (1927) on crossbreeds of Europeans and Malays, that of Davenport and Steggerda (1929) on crossbreeds of Europeans and Negroes, that of Dunn (1928) on crossbreeds of Polynesians, Europeans and Chinese, that of Lotsy and Godijn (1928) on crossbreeds of Negroes, Europeans, Hottentots, and Indians, that of Herskovits (1930) on Negro crossbreeds in America, that of Williams (1931) on crossbreeds of American Indians and Europeans, and finally that of Tao (1935) on the children from marriages of Chinese and Europeans. As you see, there is no work amongst these having to do with crossbreeds of Jews and non-Jews. There are probably numerous individual observations, but a rather large investigation and comprehensive disquisition are lacking. Initially the scientific foundations had to be prepared, for one thing; the knowledge of the laws of heredity of the particular bodily and psychic characteristics of the human being. In the field of genetic psychology the research is still quite in a state of flux with regard to basic questions, while in the case of inheritance of bodily characteristics the basic laws are known to a considerable extent and simply have to be cleared up as to many details. Further, there was the matter of investigating the phenomenon of racial crossbreeding on a quite general genetic-biological basis. It is no more than obvious that such a research turned to the most extreme racial crossings at first (as, for example, between Negroes and Whites) because the bastardization phenomena are still simplest to investigate in the children and grandchildren of such crossings in view of the great racial differences. But today we have made so much progress that research can also be directed toward cases of crossbreeding which are more difficult to analyse. Such a genetic-biological and anthropological investigation consists of an exact determination of the bodily and psychological characteristics of the racially different parents and of the children who issued from the mixed marriage and their further descendants.

In the course of carrying out the legislation related to racial policy, all the living people who are of mixed ancestry of the first and second degree in the meaning of the First Regulation for the Carrying Out of the Reich Citizenship Law [Reichsbürgergesetz] will be identified to an ever-greater extent and finally nearly completely. [Persons of mixed ancestry of the first degree were such persons who had one Jewish parent, while those of the second degree were those who had one Jewish grandparent. – Translator.] Numerous data are being obtained concerning these persons of mixed ancestry and even concerning biological facts, especially in the case of every petition for permission to marry. Even if I do not expect any all too great scientific results from such a collection of statistics of observations entered in the documents on the petitions for permission to marry (because the observers are too varied to guarantee a uniformity and basis of comparison of the findings), the attempting of such a project should not be forgone. I expect more from a methodical collection of all material which can be gathered about mixed marriages that have occurred in Germany between Jews and Germans. In this connection it is important to observe the following: What kind of people entered into the mixed marriages, in the case of the Germans as well as that of the Jews? Can the genetic material of these people be deduced, perhaps, from their own life and from that of the parents and other family members? Which characteristics are manifested in the case of the children and grandchildren of these persons of mixed ancestry? In what way do these characteristics differ from those of the German families, on the one hand, and of the Jewish families, on the other hand, which have crossbred with each other? It is no more than obvious that any such research must avoid generalizing from individual observations and that the attempt must be made to derive more general laws from statistical summations.

I wish to select just one example at this point. In the semi-Gotha pocketbooks [see the bibliography at the end of this article] many hundreds of aristocratic families are listed in which mixed marriages with Jews or Jewesses have occurred. In many cases it would not be difficult to determine if, and in some cases in which way, a family tradition showing typical success in life was changed. Have, for example, the previous careers of landowner, officer or official been abandoned?

In all such investigations the primary consideration is a collecting of the extant material with a maximal exactitude. The biologist is not suited to carry out this part of the work. He is quite dependent on the collaboration of the psychologist, the historian and the genealogist. The source material deposited in a great variety of archives should not be just collected but also be evaluated in an historical and critical manner. Only after this preliminary archival work can the statistician undertake the evaluation with the objective of obtaining biological data. The path of this research is a long and tedious one. At this point, too, I shall mention just one example: My collaborator, Dr. Mess, had already begun with a collecting of all baptisms of Jews in Frankfurt am Main when I took him into my institute. For this purpose he examined, in addition to the baptismal books, the records of the poorhouse, of the orphan home, of the workhouse, of the tax office [Kastenamt], and of the hospital office, the church records, the citizenship books, the petitions, the city council records, and the records of the mayor’s office. But this compilation of the baptisms of Jews is only the very beginning. To this must be added a methodical collection of the life data of all descendants from mixed marriages with Jews, which is then followed by the comparison with corresponding German population groups.

One last question from the group of biological problems of the Jewish question should be examined here. To what extent has a permeation of the German ethnic group by the foreign racial heritage of Jews already taken place? How large is the number of people who have crossed over from the Jewish group to the German group and how many descendants have they left behind?

There are only incomplete data on the number of baptisms of Jews in Germany. Mess found 175 baptisms of Jews in Frankfurt am Main down to the year 1806 (information given to me personally). I have not been able to find a number for the Reich as a whole. However, baptisms of Jews are a rarity in the seventeenth century, but a bit more common in the eighteenth century. According to Levita (quoted from Gutmann), 224,000 are supposed to have been baptized in Prussia during the nineteenth century. However, this number appears to be too high. During the years 1901 to 1918 approximately 400 to 500 joined the Protestant Church in Germany every year (according to Gutmann). According to the data from Samter, 9,149 Jews were baptized in the period 1880 to 1903. In Berlin alone there were 2,977 from 1872 to 1903.

As yet no reliable data on the number of racially mixed marriages in Germany can be given. The statistics have been concerned only with marriages of persons with different religions. Their number is considerable enough and it has kept climbing. At the beginning of the century every twelfth Jew entered a mixed marriage. In Prussia, from 1875 to 1903, there was a total of 9,578 Jewish-Christian mixed marriages. In the years 1901 to 1924 there were approximately 28,500 mixed Christian-Jewish marriages in Germany. In the years 1901 to 1933 there were 42,452. The vast majority of these mixed marriages were in large cities. In Electoral Hesse [Kurhessen; the northern part of Hesse called Hessen-Kassel before 1803], Euler found that mixed marriages very seldom occurred amongst Jews living in the countryside.

The depressing reality of the large number of Jewish-German racially mixed marriages is somewhat limited as to its racial-biological effects on our people by the fact that the number of children from mixed marriages is somewhat below average. Indeed, it is not even sufficient to replace the parents.2 This self-eradication, however, has not led to a decline in the number of persons of mixed ancestry, as a result of the increasing number of mixed marriages. It was not until the Blood Protection Law [Blutschutzgesetz] of 15 September, 1935, that there has been a guarantee that henceforth no persons of mixed ancestry of the first degree will be born in Germany. [Here we should note that a number of states of the United States had laws against miscegenation long before 1935. They were in effect until 1968, when the Supreme Court declared them unconstitutional. – Translator]

Our present legislation with regard to racial policy gives us the foundations for determining the number of persons of mixed ancestry of the first and second degrees. It will also insure, most importantly, that the number of persons of mixed ancestry will keep declining and thus that the racial separation of Germans and Jews will become a complete one.

As a representative of the field of genetic biology and racial hygiene, I could only point out desiderata and requisites for the investigation of the biological aspect of the Jewish question. I could only hint at what the biologist expects from the historian and the archivist, the genealogist, and the statistician. However, I cannot judge in detail how this contribution can be worked up and what means and paths are the most favorable ones. In these questions I request your individual suggestions. The representatives of quite varied scientific fields who have convened in the Reich Institute for the History of the New Germany are the best interdisciplinary group for showing the ways which are practical and promising for the investigation of the biological aspect of the Jewish question. May the Reich Institute for the History of the New Germany succeed in finding the suited research persons and in equipping them with the necessary funds and auxiliary personnel in order to make progress on the questions discussed here.

In the framework of the investigation of the biological aspect of the Jewish question I have designated as the most urgent task the investigation of the extent and results of racial crossbreeding between Jews and Germans. Finally, however, I should like to emphasize expressly that we do not have an absolute need of such research as a basis for our racial policy. It is not possible to reproach our racial policy for being premature because we still know too little about the results of interbreeding of Jews and non-Jews. I herewith return to the beginning of my observations by adding that we reject the interbreeding as such of persons of German extraction with persons of a foreign race, regardless not only of the value judgement of the foreign race in question, but also regardless of the evaluation of persons of mixed ancestry resulting from the crossing. This is because it is scientifically indisputable that the breeding of a foreign race into an ethnic group leads to the alteration of the biological foundations which are in keeping with the character of this ethnic group and from which its own culture has developed. Alteration of the genetic-biological and racial foundation of a nation must also have as a result the alteration of its ethnic character and culture; whether in a favorable or unfavorable way can only seldom be predicted. The political and cultural history of our people provides examples of bravery, heroism and loyalty, of intellectual accomplishments in sciences and arts and deeds of religious faith which remain a model for all times. Care of the genetic health and the preservation of the racial nature of our nation will make it possible that leaders will be born in our nation and that they will find a loyal following.

Literature Cited:

[The following bibliography is reproduced as given originally but it is followed by translations of the titles. – Translator.]

Baur, Erwin, Eugen Fischer und Fritz Lenz: Menschliche Erblehre und Rassenhygiene. Bd. I: Menschliche Erblehre. 4. Aufl. München: Lehmann 1936.

Euler, Rudolf: Zur Frage der jüdischen Durchsetzung innerhalb der ländlichen Bezirke Kurhessens. In: Arch. Rassenbiol. 29. Bd. (1935) S. 73-82.

Fischer, Eugen: Die Rehobother Bastards und das Bastardierungsproblem beim Menschen. Jena: Fischer 1913.

Fishberg, Maurice: Die Rassenmerkmale der Juden. Eine Einführung in ihre Anthropologie. München: Reinhardt 1913.

Fritsch, Theodor: Handbuch der Judenfrage. Die wichtigsten Tatsachen zur Beurteilung des jüdischen Volkes. 40. Aufl. Leipzig: Hammer-Verlag 1936.

Grau, Wilhelm: Die Judenfrage als Aufgabe der neuen Geschichtsforschung. 2. Aufl. Hamburg: Hanseat. Verl.-Anst. 1935.

Guenther, Hans F. K.: Rassenkunde des jüdischen Volkes. 2. Aufl. München: Lehmann 1931.

Gutmann: Zur Statistik der Juden. In: Arch. Rassenbiol. Bd. 16 (1924/25) S. 314-316.

Gutmann: Die Juden in Deutschland. Hrsg. v. Institut zum Studium der Judenfrage. 5. Aufl. München: Eher 1936.

Gutmann: Jüdische Mischehen in Deutschland. In: Volk und Rasse. 1936. H. 6, S. 261.

Levita: In: Arch. Demogr. u. Stat. d. Juden. 1923, zit. aus: Arch. Rassenbiol. Bd. 16 (1923/24), S. 315.

Samter, N.: Judentaufen im 19 Jahrhundert. Mit besonderer Berücksichtigung Preußens. Berlin: Poppelauer 1906.

Semigothaisches genealogisches Taschenbuch ari(st)okratisch-jüdischer Heiraten mit Enkellisten (Deszendenzverfolgen). 3. Jg. München 1914.

Theilhaber, F. A.: Bevölkerungsvorgange bei den berliner Juden. In: Stat. Arch. 1926, S. 48-57.

Wellisch, S.: Die Anzahl der Menschen jüdischer Abstammung. In: Ztschr. Rassenkunde. Bd, 2 (1935), 198-203.

 *

Baur, Fischer and Lenz, Human Genetics and Racial Hygiene. Volume I: Human Genetics.

Euler, On the Question of the Jewish Interspersal in the Rural Districts of Electoral Hesse.

Fischer, The Rehoboth Bastards and the Problem of Crossbreeding in Man.

Fischberg, The Racial Characteristics of Jews. An Introduction to Their Anthropology.

Fritsch, Manual of the Jewish Question. The Most Important Facts for the Evaluation of the Jewish People.

Grau, The Jewish Question as a Task of the New Historical Research.

Guenther, Ethnology of the Jewish People. Second edition.

Gutmann, On Jewish Statistics.

Gutmann, The Jews in Germany. Published by the Institute for the Study of the Jewish Question.

Gutmann, Jewish Mixed Marriages in Germany.

Levita, Archive of Demographics and Statistics on Jews; Quoted from Archive for Racial Biology.

Sampter, Baptisms of Jews in the Nineteenth Century, With Special Reference to Prussia.

Semi-Gotha Genealogical Pocketbook of Aristocratic-Jewish Marriages with Lists of Grandchildren (Lines of Descent).

Theilhaber, Demographic Developments in the Jews of Berlin.

Wellish, The Number of People of Jewish Extraction.


1  [* Similar eugenic measures were by no means a National Socialist innovation. A number of European countries and rather many states of the United States had enacted laws providing for them long before 1933. – Translator.]

2  In particular instances, nevertheless, the progeny of baptized Jews is extraordinarily large. Thus, Mess (information given to me personally) could ascertain 1,200 descendants of Daniel Liechtenstein, who was baptized in 1606, down to the year 1866. Today there might be around 3,000.

SOURCE: The Liberty BellSeptember 1984

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