Sterilization statistics 01, Friedlander Henry

Friedlander, Henry. _The Origins of Nazi Genocide: from euthanasia to
the final solution_. University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill,
1995. pp. 25-30, 310, 392, 398.

The sterilization law, issued on 14 July 1933 with the cumbersome name
of Law for the Prevention of Offspring with Hereditary Diseases
(Gesetz zur Verhuetung erbkranken Nachwuchses), opened the attack upon
the handicapped and served as the cornerstone of the regime’s eugenic
and racial legislation. ^26


The law included provisions for compulsory sterilization. Once the
courts had decided in favor of sterilization, surgical intervention
could be carried out “even against the will” of the individual. If
needed, the police were empowered to use force to ensure
compliance. ^31


The medical profession’s capacity to perform surgical sterilization in
1934 was not equal to the ability of the courts to mandate this
procedure. Only about half of the imposed sterilizations were
actually performed that year. Although this capacity increased in
1935 and 1936, the system did not catch up. The figures for 1937,
available only for the first half of the year, show 28,430 operations,
which does not alter that picture. (See table 2.2.)

Table 2.2. Sterilization Surgeries, 1934-1936

Year Positive decisions Surgeries performed

1934 62,463 32,368
1935 71,760 73,174
1936 64,646 63,547

Source: BAK [Bundesarchiv Koblenz], R18/5585: “Uebersicht ueber
die Durchfuehrung des Gesetzes zur Verhuetung erbkranken

The number of men and women sterilized was more or less equal, with
the number of men slightly higher. But the number of deaths resulting
from surgery was far higher for women than for men, reflecting the
greater difficulty of this operation when performed on women. (See
table 2.3.)

Table 2.3. Deaths from Sterilization Surger for Men and Women,

Men Women Deaths Deaths Deaths
Year sterilized sterilized from surgery of men of women

1934 16,238 16,030 102 21 81
1935 37,834 35,340 208 35 173
1936 32,887 30,624 127 14 113

Source: BAK, R18/5585: “Uebersicht ueber die Durchfuehrung des
Gesetzes zur Verhuetung erbkranken Nachwuchses.”

For the year 1934, a breakdown by diagnosis of victims undergoing
mandatory sterilizations is available. ^35 The largest number —
52.9 percent of all those sterilized — were diagnosed as suffering
from feeblemindedness; schizophrenics were the second largest
category with 25.4 percent, and epileptics the third largest with
14 percent. The percentages of all other diagnoses were much smaller.
Although roughly the same number of men and women were sterilized,
their distribution among diagnoses differed slightly. Among those
diagnosed as feebleminded, the largest category, women outnumbered men
9,169 to 7,901; among alcoholics, men outnumbered women 755 to 20.
(See table 2.4.)

Table 2.4. Sterilizations Classified by Disease, 1934

Sterilizations Men sterilized Women sterilized
Diagnosis (percent) (percent) (percent)

Congenital 17,070 (52.9%) 7,901 (48.7%) 9,196 (57.3%)
Schizophrenia 8,194 (25.4%) 4,261 (26.2%) 3,933 (24.5%)
Hereditary 4,250 (14.0%) 2,539 (15.6%) 1,981 (12.4%)
Manic-depressive 1,017 (3.2%) 384 (2.4%) 633 (3.9%)
Severe alcoholism 775 (2.4%) 755 (4.6%) 20 (0.1%)
Hereditary deafness 337 (1.0%) 190 (1.2%) 147 (0.9%)
Hereditary blindness 201 (0.6%) 128 (0.8%) 75 (0.5%)
Severe malformations 94 (0.3%) 45 (0.3%) 49 (0.3%)
St. Vitus’s Dance 60 (0.2%) 37 (0.2%) 23 (0.1%)
(Huntington’s chorea)

Source: BAK, R18/5585: “Uebersicht ueber die Durchfuehrung des
Gesetzes zur Verhuetung erbkranken Nachwuchses.”

Despite the fact that these surviving statustics cover only the early
years of the law’s application, they indicate a trend. Of course, the
reservoir of persons most available for sterilization — patients
suffering from mental illness (schizophrenics and manic-depressives),
St. Vitus’s dance, epilepsy, and severe malformations — was not
unlimited. Other categories, however, provided a pool of candidates
that could be expanded. The nubmers involved fluctuated depending on
the flexibility of the application of definitions. This was certainly
true for blindness and deafness; the category of those diagnosed with
malformations could be expanded indefinitely if harelips, clubfeet,
and similar defects were — as a matter of course — considered
sufficient cause for sterilization. Further, the definitions for the
category of feeblemindedness, which in 1933-36 already provided the
largest number of persons for sterilization, were largely determined
by social criteria and therefore lacked scientific precision and could
be applied to an ever increasing number of persons. The group deemed
alcoholics, providing a small but substantial number for sterilization
during 1933-34, had no doubt been selected on the basis of social and
economic position and obviously had not been exhausted by the end of
the 1930s.

Although exact figures on the number of persons sterilized after 1936
are not available, it is generally agreed that at least 300,000
persons were sterilized during the years preceding World War II.
During the war, when euthanasia largely replaced sterilization as a
means to control so-called inferiors (_Minderwertige_), sterilization
was devalued; still, an estimated additional 75,000 persons were
probably sterilized after 1939, including those in areas recently
incorporated into the German Reich: Austria, Sudetenland, Danzig,
and Memel. ^36 Although the sterilization law was not implemented in
the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, German citizens residing in
the Protectorate were transferred to the incorporated Sudetenland for
the sterilization operation. ^37 The conservative figure of about
375,000 persons sterilized is still very high, representing about
.5 percent of the German population. ^38

26. _Reichsgesetzblatt_ 1933, 1:529, English translation in Control
Commission for Germany (British Element), “Nazi Health Laws,” pp. 1-5.
See also Vogel, “Gesetz zur Verhuetung erbkranken Nachwuchses.”

31. See DOeW [Dokumentationsarchiv des oesterreichischen
Widerstandes, Vienna], file E19198, Reichsgau Wien,
Hauptgesundheitsamt, for a sample form ordering an individual to
report for sterilization. The form concludes with the following
warning: “You are explicitly advised that the operation can also be
performed against your will.”

34. Results of sterilization proceedings, based on statistics
accumulated by the RJM [Reichsjustizministerium (Reich Ministry of
Justice)], were collected by the RMdI [Reichsministerium des Innern
(Reich Ministry of Interior)] and can be found in BAK [Bundesarchiv
Koblenz], R18/5585.

35. See also Proctor, _Racial Hygiene_, pp. 107-8.

36. For the regulations limiting sterilization during the war, see
RMdI decree, 31 Aug. 1939 (_Reichsgesetzblatt_ 1:1560), and the various
RMdI circulars of implementation and clarification (NARA Suitland
[National Archives and Records Administration, Suitland (Maryland)
Records Branch], Heidelberg Docs. 126,804-9, 126,811-12A, 126,813-15A,

37. BA-MA [Bundesarchiv-Militaerarchiv, Freiburg im Breisgau],
H20/463, 465: report on the Protectorate, Sept. 1942, p. 2. See also
NARA Suitland, Heidelberg Docs. 126,822-24.

38. For a good summation and evaluation of all surviving statistics
on sterilizations, see Bock, _Zwangssterilisation_, pp. 230-46.

Bock, Gisela. _Zwangssterilisation im Nationalsozialismus: Studien zur
Rassenpolitik und Frauenpolitik_. Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag, 1986.

Proctor, Robert. _Racial Hygiene: Medicine under the Nazis_.
Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1988.