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"What You Inherit"

Nazi Propaganda film on Eugenics
Bundesarchiv

The featured clip comes from the Nazi propaganda film, “What You Inherit.”1 This film was produced by the Racial Political Office of the Nazi Party in 1938.2 Led by a young German physician named Walter Gross, the Racial Political Office created propaganda meant to increase German support for Nazi racial policies and theories of eugenics—the belief that society could be improved through selective breeding.3 Gross was a dedicated Nazi who tried to attract new supporters to Nazi rule by creating propaganda that downplayed Nazi racism and antisemitism while focusing instead on the seemingly positive themes of community and national pride.4

The featured clip shows several themes that often appeared in Nazi eugenics propaganda aimed at so-called “Aryan" Germans. “What You Inherit” tries to promote feelings of national pride and racial supremacy among its German viewers. The film urges them to have many children to boost the low German birth rate.5 The audience is also encouraged to think about the other members of the Nazi "national community" ("Volksgemeinschaft")as if they were all part of one giant extended family. The film urges viewers to “make sure the bloodstream is passed on pure and unmixed.” It also promotes exercise and active outdoor lifestyles6 and warns against the health risks of alcohol and tobacco.7

Like many other examples of Nazi eugenics propaganda, “What You Inherit” contrasts happy footage of athletic “Aryan” members of the Nazis' so-called "national community" with negatively framed scenes of people with disabilities. Nazi propaganda often showed positive images of model “Aryans” contrasted against negative-looking images of people excluded from the Nazi "national community." People with disabilities were portrayed as objects of pity or scorn. They were also mocked as a waste of national resources. German audiences were even told that they should only give their love and care to so-called “healthy” children without disabilities. Like other propaganda produced by the Racial Political Office,8 "What You Inherit" mostly uses positive-looking footage of seemingly happy and healthy “Aryans.” Why might this film have used this approach?

The film was directed by Herbert Gerdes, who also directed several other Nazi propaganda films.

The Racial Political Office grew quickly after it formed in 1934. By the late 1930s, it had more than 3,000 people working for it throughout Nazi Germany.

These ideas were widely accepted by many people in the early 20th century, but others at the time doubted that theories of eugenics were actually scientific in any way. Eugenics theories have since been discredited. To learn more about the international eugenics movement, see Marius Turda and Paul J. Weindling, eds., "Blood and Homeland": Eugenics and Racial Nationalism in Central and Southeast Europe, 1900-1940 (Budapest and New York: Central European University Press, 2007); Stefan Kühl, The Nazi Connection: Eugenics, American Racism, and German National Socialism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994); and Randall Hansen, Sterilized by the State: Eugenics, Race, and the Population Scare in Twentieth-Century North America (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013).

Gross was an influential figure in the production of Nazi propaganda for many years, but relatively little is known about him because he destroyed the records of his office before dying by suicide in 1945. To learn more about Walter Gross and the Racial Political Office, see Claudia Koonz, The Nazi Conscience (Cambridge & London: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2003), 105-30.

Although the overall population of Germany grew during the early 20th century, the number of newborn babies sank throughout the 1920s and early 1930s. Smaller families were becoming more common in the early 20th century, and the high casualties of World War I (1914-1918) meant that many young soldiers never had any children at all. For more on Nazi attempts to boost the sinking German birth rate, see the related Experiencing History item, German Motherhood Medals

For more examples of Nazi propaganda promoting exercise and healthy lifestyles, see "Healthy Woman - Healthy Nation," "Sexually Transmitted Disease Is an Obstacle to Marriage," and "The English Disease."

For more about Nazi attitudes toward alcohol consumption, see the related Experiencing History item, "Nazis Hit Alcohol, Tobacco." Public health campaigns discouraging alcohol and tobacco use in Germany began years before the Nazi rise to power in 1933. To learn more about German public health campaigns about healthy lifestyles in the 1920s, see the related Experiencing History item, "Born Out of Necessity."

 

For another example of the eugenics propaganda produced by the Racial Political Office, see the related Experiencing History item, Leaflet Advertising Nazi Magazine Neues Volk. See also the related Experiencing History collections, Targets of Eugenics and Nazi Propaganda and National Unity.

Note: time signatures correspond to time shown on media player.

German: "forefathers."

German: "ancestors."

German: "racial comrades" or "members of the Volk."

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00:131

Wenn Du gesund und tüchtig bist, verdankst Du es vielen Millionen Vorfahren2 schon allein in den letzten Jahrzehnten, die ihr Erbgut rein weitergaben.

If you are healthy and able, you owe it to many millions of ancestors in the last decades alone, who passed on their genetic material unadulterated.

00:49

Jeder Deiner Ahnen3 ist aber auch der Vorfahre anderer Volksgenossen.4

But each one of your ancestors is also the forebear of other racial comrades.

01:06

Deines Blutes ist jeder deutsche Arbeiter der Faust.

Every German who does manual work is of your blood.

01:22

Deines Blutes ist jeder deutsche Arbeiter der Stirn.

Every German who does brain work is of your blood.

01:32

Mannigfaltig sind die Anlagen aus diesem Blutstrom.

The genetic predispositions that derive from this bloodstream are diverse.

02:04

Wir achten und ehren in jedem gesunden Volksgenossen den Blutstrom, der von gemeinsamen Ahnen her uns alle verbindet.

In every healthy racial comrade, we respect and honor the bloodstream that comes from common ancestors and links us all.

02:26

Wir sind stolz darauf, einem Blutstrom anzugehören, der unendlich viele bedeutende Menschen hervorbrachte.

We are proud to share a bloodstream that produced an immense number of individuals of note.

03:02

Wir wachen darüber, daß dieses Bluterbe rein erhalten and unvermischt weitergegeben wird.

We keep watch to ensure that this blood legacy will be kept pure and passed on unadulterated.

Archival Information for This Item

Source (Credit)
Bundesarchiv
Accession Number 2001.359.1
RG Number 60.3308
Date Created
1938
Duration 00:03:09
Sound No
Language(s)
German
Moving Image Type Newsreel
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