The featured leaflet for the monthly Nazi propaganda magazine Neues Volk ("New People" or "New Nation") was created sometime in 1937 or 1938. Neues Volk was published by the Racial Political Office of the Nazi Party throughout the 1930s and early 1940s.1 Led by a young German physician named Walter Gross, the Racial Political Office was formed to build public support for Nazi racial policies and theories of eugenics—the belief that society could be improved through selective breeding.2 Gross was a dedicated Nazi whose speeches and propaganda tried to win new support for Nazi rule by downplaying Nazi racism and antisemitism. He focused instead on the seemingly more positive themes of community and national pride.3
The monthly publication Neues Volk was designed to resemble the format of popular German women’s magazines and American magazines such as Life. It featured many photographs and articles on a wide range of topics in order to attract a large number of readers,4 but the magazine was designed to spread Nazi propaganda about race, eugenics, and family life. Neues Volk celebrated the supposed racial and cultural superiority of so-called “Aryan” Germans and encouraged “Aryans” to have large families with many children. The magazine also spread negative propaganda about people excluded from the Nazi regime’s so-called "national community" ("Volksgemeinschaft") on the basis of Nazi understandings of race and biology. The groups targeted in Neues Volk included Jewish people, ethnic Poles, and Germans with disabilities.
The featured leaflet was designed to increase public support for Nazi eugenics policies by criticizing the economic costs of providing care for people who were “hereditarily ill” (“Erbkranke”). This phrase was frequently used to describe a wide range of people diagnosed with mental or physical disabilities, alcoholism, or medical conditions such as Huntington’s disease. Nazi propaganda often cast people with disabilities as financial burdens on the “national community” in order to increase public support for forced sterilizations—medical procedures designed to make it biologically impossible to reproduce.5 Shortly after the Nazi Party rose to power in 1933, the new regime enacted the Law for the Prevention of Offspring with Hereditary Diseases. This law created so-called Hereditary Health Courts that ordered the forced sterilizations of roughly 400,000 Germans during the years of Nazi rule.6
Nazi ideology promoted a narrow view of the value of human life—an individual’s worth was measured only by how they might contribute to the goals of the regime and the broader welfare of the Nazis' so-called “national community.” While many Nazi propaganda films tried to portray people with disabilities with scorn, other examples of Nazi propaganda like Neues Volk promoted the idea that people with disabilities were objects of pity that could not contribute to Nazi society. In a 1934 speech, for example, Walter Gross mourned those “poor creatures” who are “no joy either to themselves or others. They are a burden throughout their miserable existences.” He also focused on economic considerations and the “enormous sums that have been spent for decades.” Nazi eugenics propaganda often highlighted the financial costs of providing care to people with disabilities. Why might the regime have focused on these themes to increase support for Nazi eugenics policies among German citizens?