Welcome to the VMoE (Virtual Museum of Eugenics).
We will take you on a journey into the contested history of eugenics.
‘What is eugenics?’ ‘When was it influential?’ ‘How did it affect how we value some people today?’ ‘And could it have been beneficial to our society?’
Eugenics means ‘good birth’ or ‘good creation’. The eugenics movement emerged predominantly in the 20th-century, although earlier individuals, including the Greek philosopher Plato, explored similar ideas. The eugenics movement took off on a global scale in the early 20th century. Eugenics ideas were embraced in the USA and Europe, but Australia too played its part in the development of the movement. Eugenic ideology can be found in the Stolen Generation and White Australia policies as well as institutionalisation of people with disability.
However, most people today connect eugenics with the Nazis atrocities of the Jewish Holocaust as well as the Aktion 4 program for forced euthanasia of people with disability, that occurred during and before WWII. As these horrors were exposed, the eugenics movement lost its influence in the aftermath of the war, as countries committed to protect human rights, and didn’t want to be associated with Nazi views.
But is that a good thing? That is the question we will aim to answer.
The history of eugenics is contested by those who feel that its ideas are legitimate, but often forgotten because of a lack of understanding about the way this ideology played a part in some of the most confronting events of WWII and in human history. Lack of communication between generations also weakens this understanding. It is important to recognise eugenics ideology, so that these heinous acts do not reoccur, and also because many groups of people in our society continue to be marginalised by similar ideas today.
Cover photo © The Eugenics Crusade