“We are not alone”: Legacies of Eugenics (1921-2021)


An exhibition proposal for the Wiener Holocaust Library, London in conjunction with anti-eugenics centennial commemoration of the Second International Congress of Eugenics in 1921.

To open in September/October 2021. Free and open to the public.

The exhibition in the Library will consist of:

5 panels, double-sided and 4 display cases

The exhibition will be complemented by a digital presence and a printed brochure as well as by a series of talks with experts in the field

Prelude poster: ‘We are not alone’












Neues Volk, March 1, 1936, p.37.


When observers of German forced sterilization programme raised alarms in the mid-1930s, Nazi propagandists cried foul. “We are not alone,” they said. They cited countries across Europe, North America, and elsewhere where comparable eugenic programmes were in place.


Nazi eugenics continues to receive much attention. But German eugenicists operated nationally and internationally, fostering collaboration, in theory and practice, both before and after the Nazi Party came to power in 1933. Less well known are the international networks that developed, beginning with the First International Eugenics Congress held in London in 1912, and then cemented at the Second and Third International Congresses held in New York in 1921 and 1932, respectively.


Structure of the exhibition:


Panel 1: Eugenics in the UK

A: Founders and Society

Galton and Eugenics Education Society, Leonard Darwin, CP Blacker  (Subhadra Das)

UCL & Karl Pearson

Mary Stopes & Birth control movements

B: 1st international congress, London 1912


Display case

Material from Galton’s archive, UCL

“Invitation Circular”. First International Eugenics Congress, 1912, the Wellcome Library

Application to join the Eugenics Society, Kings College Archive

Covers of The Eugenics Review & Annals of Eugenics, the Wellcome Library and UCL

Report of the Departmental Committee on Sterilisation, 1934, the Wellcome Library


Panel 2: Eugenics in the US

A. Founders and Societies

Ch. Davenport, H. H. Laughlin

ERO and local organisations

Summary map of sterilization laws

B: 2nd Congress, New York, 1921

Display case

Material from H. H. Laughlin’s Archive, Truman State University

Fitter family contests and better baby contests

Cover Gosney and Popenoe textbook or Applied Eugenics, Wellcome Library

Cover Eugenics: A Journal of Race Betterment, Kennedy Library Online Archive California Polytechnic State University

Proceedings of the third Race Betterment Conference, January 2-6, 1928: under the auspices of the Race Betterment Foundation, Battle Creek, Michigan.


Panel 3: Internationalization

A. Europe

East- central Europe, France, Italy, Scandinavia

France: A. Pinard; Italy: C. Gini

Deutsche Gesellschaft für Rassenhygiene, Ploetz’s book on race and alcohol, LSE Library

Focus on international connections; Jon Alfred Mjøen; Swedish State Institute for Racial Biology

B: Global Eugenics

Australia, Canada, Japan, South Africa, Latin America, India

Display case

Ploetz’s programme of racial hygiene, 1911 Dresden Hygiene Exhibition

Cover G von Hoffmann, Die Rassenhygiene in den Vereinigten Staaten von Nordamerika,  Francisco de Haro, Eugenesia y matrimonio, the Wellcome Library

Narayan Sitaram Phadke, Sex problem in India : being a plea for a eugenic movement in India and a study of all theoretical and practical questions pertaining to eugenics, the Wellcome Library


Panel 4: ‘We are not alone’

3rd Congress, New York, 1932 - Connections to the 3rd Reich

Display case

Congress proceedings and exhibition catalogues

“Healthy parents with healthy children, representing benefits of the National Socialist policy on the struggle against inherited diseases.” Colour lithograph after F. Würbel, 1936., Wellcome Library


Panel 5: Hiding behind the giant/Eugenics Today

Discussions of eugenics invariably lead to comparisons with Nazi programmes in the 1930s and 1940s. Those were neither the beginning nor the end of eugenics. History tells us eugenicists operated in international networks and eugenics policies developed in many nations during the 1950s and 1960s.


Eugenics - by whatever name - occurs today in many forms. It ranges from state-sponsored programmes:

  • forced sterilization based on ethnicity or criminal record

  • immigration restrictions based on ethnicity

  • marriage licenses based on notions of crossing biological boundaries

to pressures within communities and families:

  • to choose life partners based on race or ethnicity

  • to pursue prenatal genetic testing for cosmetic issues and disabilities

  • Archives:

  • Simon Population Trust and Voluntary Sterilisation, Wellcome Library and Archive

  • Papers of the Eugenics  Society (SA/EUG)

  • Papers of Carlos Paton Blacker (PP/CPB)


Extension into digital presence

FAQ: “but what about [where I live]?”

provide links and sources describing national and local eugenics programmes in many countries. Make a decision about the historical past and the present. And a chance for people to submit additional information for us to use.


Look inside feature: Links to full copies of the books shown in the exhibition cases

Exhibition to be curated by Marius Turda, with the support of Subhadra Das and Benedict Ipgrave