Adolph Gave Good Blurbs (Postscript)
Posted by Richard Conniff on May 8, 2012
The most appalling moment in the literary history of Yale occurred in Madison Grant’s Wall Street law office during the thick of the Depression. The secretary of the American Eugenics Society then was a New Haven veterinarian named Leon F. Whitney, author of The Complete Book of Dog Care and other pet titles; he later worked as a pathology instructor at Yale Medical School, until his retirement in 1964, and his collection of champion dogs ended up at the Peabody Museum, where they are still among the most actively studied specimens.
In 1934, Whitney published a book called The Case for Sterilization, which was not about neutering the family dog. To the question how many Americans “ought to be sterilized,” he added up “all the various types of less useful social elements,” noting that they tended to occur disproportionately in blacks and immigrants. Then he concluded that “we should probably be disposing of the lowest fourth of our population”—or roughly 30 million people. He quickly added that he was not “suggesting that all these be sterilized wholesale, but merely that we make voluntary sterilization available to them.”
One of Hitler’s staff wrote to New Haven requesting a copy of the book, and Hitler himself later followed up with a personal letter of thanks. Soon after, Whitney went down to New York to meet with his fellow eugenicist Madison Grant, and proudly showed him the letter. In the 1994 book The Nazi Connection, historian Stefan Kühl writes: “Grant only smiled, reached for a folder on his desk,” and gave Whitney his own letter, in which Hitler thanked Grant for writing The Passing of the Great Race and called it his “Bible.”
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