War Against the Weak – The Documentary

Posted by Osagie Obasogie January 27, 2009
Biopolitical Times

Edwin Black’s award-winning book on the history and modern implications of the American Eugenics Movement is about to hit the silver screen. War Against the Weak the movie had its World Premiere over the weekend at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. The book offers a chilling and remarkably accessible look at the American eugenics movement by examining its origins and the cultural, political, and institutional practices that fostered its popularity in the early to mid 20th century. The filmmakers offer the following synopsis:

In the first three decades of the 20th Century, American corporate philanthropy, combined with the efforts of the scientific, academic and political elite, created the pseudoscience eugenics, and institutionalized race politics as national policy. The goal was to create a superior, white, Nordic race and obliterate virtually everyone else.

Under the Nazis, American eugenic principles were applied without restraint, careening out of control into the Reich's infamous genocide. American eugenicists openly supported Germany's program, with both financial and intellectual capital. Once WWII began, Nazi eugenics turned from mass sterilization and euthanasia to genocidal murder. War Against the Weak explores this complex relationship between American eugenics and the horrors of the Holocaust.

While this documentary exploration of the history of eugenics is incredibly important and should make a profound contribution in educating the public, one can only hope that the filmmakers do not minimize one of the strongest points made by Black in his book: that many of the concerns raised by past attempts to breed better humans may be presenting themselves today through developments in reproductive and genetic technologies.  Too often we lose this context.