Eugen Fischer

Eugen Fischer

Eugen Fischer
Eugen Fischer with photographs of indigenous African women, circa 1938.
Born (1874-07-05)July 5, 1874
Karlsruhe, Grand Duchy of Baden
Died July 9, 1967(1967-07-09) (aged 93)
Freiburg im Breisgau, West Germany
Nationality German
Occupation Professor
Known for Nazi Eugenics
Political party
Nazi Party

Eugen Fischer (5 July 1874 – 9 July 1967) was a German professor of medicine, anthropology and eugenics. He was director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Anthropology, Human Heredity, and Eugenics between 1927 and 1942. He was appointed rector of the Frederick William University of Berlin by Adolf Hitler in 1933, and later joined the Nazi Party.


Fischer was born in Karlsruhe, Grand Duchy of Baden, in 1874. Studies medicine, folkloristics and history from 1893–1898 in Berlin, Freiburg and Munich. Promotion to Dr. med in 1898 and in 1900 habilitation for anatomy and anthropology at the University of Freiburg.[1] He became Director of the Anatomical Institute in Freiburg in 1918,[2] part of the University of Freiburg.[3]

In 1927, Fischer became the director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Anthropology, Human Heredity, and Eugenics (KWI-A), a role for which he'd been recommended the prior year by Erwin Baur.[4]

In 1933, Adolf Hitler appointed him rector of the Frederick William University of Berlin, now Humboldt University.[5] Fischer retired from the university in 1942.

Otmar Freiherr von Verschuer was a student of Fischer, Verschuer himself had a prominent pupil, Josef Mengele.[6][7]

After the war, he completed his memoirs, which critics claim whitewash his role in the genocidal program of the Third Reich. He died in 1967.

Early work

In 1908 Fischer conducted field research in German Southwest Africa (now Namibia). He studied the Basters, offspring of German or Boer men who had fathered children by the native women (Hottentots) in that area. His study concluded with a call to prevent a "mixed race" by the prohibition of "mixed marriage" such as those he had studied. It included unethical medical practices on the Herero and Namaqua people.[8] He argued that while the existing Mischling descendants of the mixed marriages might be useful for Germany, he recommended that they should not continue to reproduce. His recommendations were followed and by 1912 interracial marriage was prohibited throughout the German colonies.[9][10] As a precursor to his experiments on Jews in Nazi Germany, he collected bones and skulls for his studies, in part from medical experimentation on African prisoners of war in Namibia during the Herero and Namaqua Genocide.[11][12]

His ideas expressed in this work, related to maintaining the purity of races, influenced future German legislation on race, including the Nuremberg laws.[10]

Nazi Germany

Eugen Fischer during a ceremony at the University of Berlin 1934

In the years of 1937–1938 Fischer and his colleagues analysed 600 children in Nazi Germany descending from French-African soldiers who occupied western areas of Germany after First World War; all children were illegally subjected to sterilization afterwards.[13]

Fischer didn't officially join the Nazi Party until 1940.[14] However, he was influential with National Socialists early on. A two-volume work, Foundations of Human Hereditary Teaching and Racial Hygiene published 1921 and 1932, and in 1936 published under Human Heredity Theory and Racial Hygiene, co-written by Erwin Baur and Fritz Lenz. The book served as the "scientific" basis for the Nazi's eugenic policies.[15] He also authored The Rehoboth Bastards and the Problem of Miscegenation among Humans (1913) (German: Die Rehobother Bastards und das Bastardierungsproblem beim Menschen), a field study which provided context for later racial debates, influenced German colonial legislation and provided "scientific" support for the Nuremberg laws.[16]

Under the Nazi regime, Fischer developed the physiological specifications used to determine racial origins and developed the so-called Fischer–Saller scale. He and his team experimented on Gypsies and African-Germans, taking blood and measuring skulls to find scientific validation for his theories.

Efforts to return the Namibian skulls harvested by Fischer were started with an investigation by the University of Freiburg in 2011 and completed with the return of the skulls in March 2014.[17][18][19]


To 1909

  • Fischer, Eugen. 1899. "Beiträge zur Kenntniss der Nasenhöhle und des Thränennasenganges der Amphisbaeniden", Archiv für Mikroskopische Anatomie. 55:1, pp. 441–478.
  • Fischer, Eugen. 1901. "Zur Kenntniss der Fontanella metopica und ihrer Bildungen". Zeitschrift für Morphologie und Anthropologie.4:1. pp. 17–30.
  • Fischer, Eugen, Professor an der Universität Freiburg i. Br. 1906. "Die Variationen an Radius und Ulna des Menschen". Zeitschrift für Morphologie und Anthropologie. Vol. 9. No. 2.
  • Fischer, Eugen. 1908. Der Patriziat Heinrichs III und Heinrichs IV. Tübingen: J.C.B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck). Fischer's PhD thesis.

1910 to 1919

  • Maass, Alfred. Durch Zentral-Sumatra. Berlin: Behr. 1910. Additional contributing authors: J.P. Kleiweg de Zwaan and E. Fischer.
  • Fischer, Eugen. 1913.Die Rehobother Bastards und das Bastardierungsproblem beim Menschen: anthropologische und ethnographiesche Studien am Rehobother Bastardvolk in Deutsch-Südwest-Afrika, ausgeführt mit Unterstützung der Kgl. preuss, Akademie der Wissenschaften. Jena: G. Fischer.
  • Gaupp, Ernst Wilhelm Theodor. Eugen Fischer (ed.) 1917. August Weismann: sein Leben und sein Werk. Jena: Verlag von Gustav Fischer.

1920 to 1929

  • Schwalbe, G. and Eugen Fischer (eds.). Anthropologie. Leipzig: B.G. Teubner, 1923.
  • Fischer, E. and H.F.K. Günther. Deutsche Köpfe nordischer Rasse: 50 Abbildungen mit Geleitwarten. Munich: J.F. Lehmann. 1927.

1940 to 1949

  • Fischer, Eugen and Gerhard Kittel. Das antike Weltjudentum : Tatsachen, Texte, Bilder. Hamburg: Hanseatische Verlagsanstalt, 1943.[20]

1950 to 1959

  • Sarkar, Sasanka Sekher; Eugen Fischer and Keith Arthur, The Aboriginal Races of India, Calcutta: Bookland. 1954.
  • Fischer, Eugen. Begegnungen mit Toten: aus den Erinnerungen eines Anatomen. Freiburg: H.F. Schulz. 1959.

See also


  1. ^ Max-Planck-Gesellschaft - Archive. "Fischer, Eugen". 
  2. ^ "Eugen Fischer". 
  3. ^ Eugen Fischer (1921). "Bitte des anatomischen Instituts Freiburg i.B.". 
  4. ^ Schmul 2003, p. 25.
  5. ^ Historische Komission München
  6. ^ Michael H. Kater (2011). "The Nazi Symbiosis: Human Genetics and Politics in the Third Reich". Bulletin of the History of Medicine 85: 515–516.  
  7. ^ Randall Hansen, Desmond King (2013). Sterilized by the State: Eugenics, Race, and the Population Scare in Twentieth-Century. Cambridge University Press. p. 158.  
  8. ^
  9. ^ Holocaust Encyclopedia, p. 420
  10. ^ a b Friedlander 1997, p. 11
  11. ^ experimentation in Africa
  12. ^  
  13. ^ Bioethics: an anthology Helga Kuhse,Peter Singer page 232 Wiley-Blackwell 2006
  14. ^ "Human biodiversity: genes, race, and history", Jonathan M. Marks. Transaction Publishers, 1995. p. 88. ISBN 0202020339, 9780202020334.
  15. ^  
  16. ^ Holocaust Encyclopedia p. 420.
  17. ^ "Repatriation of Skulls from Namibia University of Freiburg hands over human remains in ceremony". 2014. 
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^ Das Antike Weltjudentum - Forschungen zur Judenfrage. 1944. 


  • Baumel, Judith Tydor (2001). The Holocaust Encyclopedia. Yale University Press.  

External links