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Robert Ritter (14 May 1901 – 15 April 1951) was a "racial scientist" doctor of psychology and medicine, with a background in child psychiatry and the biology of criminality. In Berlin in 1936, Ritter was appointed head of the Racial Hygiene and Demographic Biology Research Unit of Nazi Germany's Criminal Police, to establish the genealogical histories of the German "Gypsies", both Roma and Sinti. His work in classifying these populations of Germany aided the Nazi government in the systematic persecution of them, toward a goal of "racial purity".
Scientific racism, is the pseudoscientific belief that empirical evidence exists to support or justify racism, racial inferiority, or racial superiority. Historically, scientific racist ideas received credence in the scientific community but are no longer considered scientific.
Nazi Germany is the common English name for Germany between 1933 and 1945, when Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party (NSDAP) controlled the country through a dictatorship. Under Hitler's rule, Germany was transformed into a totalitarian state that controlled nearly all aspects of life via the Gleichschaltung legal process. The official name of the state was Deutsches Reich until 1943 and Großdeutsches Reich from 1943 to 1945. Nazi Germany is also known as the Third Reich, meaning "Third Realm" or "Third Empire", the first two being the Holy Roman Empire (800–1806) and the German Empire (1871–1918). The Nazi regime ended after the Allies defeated Germany in May 1945, ending World War II in Europe.
The Romani, colloquially known as Gypsies or Roma, are an Indo-Aryan ethnic group, traditionally itinerant, living mostly in Europe and the Americas and originating from the northern Indian subcontinent, from the Rajasthan, Haryana, and Punjab regions of modern-day India.
Ritter was born in 1901 in Aachen, Germany. He attended an exclusive secondary school, as well as a Prussian military academy. After a stint in the German Freikorps , Ritter began his formal education studying at various universities.
Aachen, also known as Bad Aachen, and in French and traditional English as Aix-la-Chapelle, is a spa and border city in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. Aachen developed from a Roman settlement and spa, subsequently becoming the preferred medieval Imperial residence of Charlemagne, and, from 936 to 1531, the place where 31 Holy Roman Emperors were crowned Kings of the Germans.
Prussia was a historically prominent German state that originated in 1525 with a duchy centred on the region of Prussia on the southeast coast of the Baltic Sea. It was de facto dissolved by an emergency decree transferring powers of the Prussian government to German Chancellor Franz von Papen in 1932 and de jure by an Allied decree in 1947. For centuries, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia, successfully expanding its size by way of an unusually well-organised and effective army. Prussia, with its capital in Königsberg and from 1701 in Berlin, decisively shaped the history of Germany.
Freikorps were German volunteer units that existed from the 18th to the early 20th centuries, which effectively fought as mercenary or private armies, regardless of their own nationality. In German-speaking countries, the first so-called Freikorps were formed in the 18th century from native volunteers, enemy renegades and deserters. These sometimes exotically equipped units served as infantry and cavalry, sometimes in just company strength, sometimes in formations up to several thousand strong; there were also various mixed formations or legions. The Prussian von Kleist Freikorps included infantry, jäger, dragoons and hussars. The French Volontaires de Saxe combined uhlans and dragoons.
In 1927, Ritter received his doctorate in educational psychology at the University of Munich. Post-doctorate, Ritter continued his education and received a medical degree from Heidelberg University in 1930, and was medically licensed the same year. In 1934, two years before being appointed as head of the German police's racial hygiene research unit, Ritter received his specialist certification in child psychology, studying the inheritability of criminality. He completed part of his residence in the University of Tübingen, where he would later be hired as a professor again, post-WWII.
Heidelberg University is a public research university in Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany. Founded in 1386 on instruction of Pope Urban VI, Heidelberg is Germany's oldest university and one of the world's oldest surviving universities. It was the third university established in the Holy Roman Empire.
Psychology is the science of behavior and mind, including conscious and unconscious phenomena, as well as feeling and thought. It is an academic discipline of immense scope and diverse interests that, when taken together, seek an understanding of the emergent properties of brains, and all the variety of epiphenomena they manifest. As a social science it aims to understand individuals and groups by establishing general principles and researching specific cases.
The University of Tübingen, officially the Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen, is a public research university located in the city of Tübingen, Baden-Württemberg, Germany.
Nazi seizure of power in 1933 allowed the party to transform their ideology of racial purity into policy. The Law for the Prevention of Genetically Diseased Offspring was put into effect New Year’s Day, 1934, and included compulsory sterilization of individuals who, according to medical knowledge, were likely to pass on to their offspring a serious physical or mental disorder. Besides a diagnosed medical disorder, citizens would also be sterilized for being classified as asocial. An asocial diagnosis was often associated with having “moral” or “disguised mental retardation”, despite showing no deficit in intelligence. Of the two terms, Ritter was responsible for the invention "disguised mental retardation" in which, according to Ritter, individuals, especially children, would display a certain independence and cunning and were quick talkers. The alleged disorder supposedly carried a mask of cleverness, which the pseudo-scientific medical specialists characterized as disguised mental retardation: if they couldn't actually observe and demonstrate a mental problem, they simply insisted it was present anyway, and that evidence of its opposite was some kind of trick. For the Roma and Sinti population, this meant that with the aid of Ritter, an estimated five hundred Roma and Sinti were sterilized from 1933 to 1939.
Compulsory sterilization, also known as forced or coerced sterilization, programs are government policies which force people to undergo surgical or other sterilization. The reasons governments implement sterilization programs vary in purpose and intent. In the first half of the 20th century, several such programs were instituted in countries around the world, usually as part of eugenics programs intended to prevent the reproduction of members of the population considered to be carriers of defective genetic traits.
The task of the Rassenhygienische und Bevolkerungsbiologische Forschungsstelle (English: Racial Hygiene and Demographic Biology Research Unit), a division of the Kriminalpolizei (Criminal Police), was to identify and categorize all Roma and Sinti people in Germany according to racial standards. Ritter, heading this organization, had a team of other racial scientists including Eva Justin, Adolf Wurth, Sophie Ehrhardt, and Ruth Kellermann.
Kriminalpolizei is the standard term for the criminal investigation agency within the police forces of Germany, Austria and the German-speaking cantons of Switzerland. In Nazi Germany, the Kripo was the criminal police department for the entire Reich. Today, in the Federal Republic of Germany, the state police (Landespolizei) perform the majority of investigations. Its Criminal Investigation Department is known as the Kriminalpolizei or more colloquially, the Kripo.
The Sinti are a Romani people of Central Europe. They were traditionally itinerant, but today only a small percentage of the group remains unsettled. In earlier times, they frequently lived on the outskirts of communities. The Sinti of Central Europe are closely related to the group known as Manouche in France. They speak the Sinti-Manouche variety of Romani, which exhibits strong German influence.
Eva Justin was a German anthropologist during the Nazi era. She specialised in so-called scientific racism. Her work contributed to the Nazi crimes against the Sinti and Roma peoples.
By 1937, the Research Unit was working with the Central Office of Reich Security, and the Reich Ministry of Interior, to travel the country in units to register "full-blooded" and "mixed-race" Roma or Sinti. The units referenced church records which contained centuries of baptisms, marriages, and deaths to track individuals' genealogies. As some of his assistants spoke Romani, Roma individuals who could not provide paper proof of their racial identity were interrogated under threat of being incarcerated. Along with tracking genealogies, the units photographed their subjects, took blood samples, and made anthropometric measurements, as data for the attempt to prove that the Roma and Sinti populations were genetically pre-disposed to crime as a "lesser race".
The Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community, abbreviated BMI, is cabinet-level ministry of the Federal Republic of Germany. Its main office is in Berlin, with a secondary seat in Bonn. The current minister of the Interior, Building and Community is Horst Seehofer. It is comparable to the British Home Office or a combination of the US Department of Homeland Security and the US Department of Justice, because both manage several law enforcement agencies.
White supremacy or white supremacism is the racist belief that white people are superior to people of other races and therefore should be dominant over them. White supremacy has roots in scientific racism, and it often relies on pseudoscientific arguments. Like most similar movements such as neo-Nazism, white supremacists typically oppose members of other races as well as Jews.
Ritter desired to classify the Roma and Sinti populations for legislative precedent. In Germany, he considered there to be three groups: Jenische, part-Gypsies, and pure Gypsies.
Ritter felt the racially pure gypsies of Germany were not as large a threat to the German population as those of mixed-race identity. He argued that the best way to deal with them was to allow them to live a traditional life, sectioned off from the rest of the population. His study of criminality and "race-threat" focused on Jenische and mixed-race gypsies instead.
Despite the de-Nazification of Germany after World War II, Ritter was not required to take responsibility for his actions towards the Roma and Sinti population during Nazi rule. Ritter was hired to teach criminal biology at the University of Tübingen from 1944 to 1946, and was later brought in by the Frankfurt Health Office as a pediatrician. He hired his old assistant, Eva Justin, to work as a psychologist alongside him. All investigations against Ritter were discontinued.
The racial policy of Nazi Germany was a set of policies and laws implemented in Nazi Germany (1933–45) based on a specific racist doctrine asserting the superiority of the Aryan race, which claimed scientific legitimacy. This was combined with a eugenics programme that aimed for racial hygiene by compulsory sterilization and extermination of those who they saw as Untermenschen ("sub-humans"), which culminated in the Holocaust.
The Romani genocide or the Romani Holocaust—also known as the Porajmos, the Pharrajimos, and the Samudaripen —was the effort by Nazi Germany and its World War II allies to commit genocide against Europe's Romani people.
Eugen Fischer was a German professor of medicine, anthropology, and eugenics, and a member of the Nazi Party. He served as director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Anthropology, Human Heredity, and Eugenics, and also served as rector of the Frederick William University of Berlin.
Nazi concentration camp badges, primarily triangles, were part of the system of identification in Nazi camps. They were used in the concentration camps in the Nazi-occupied countries to identify the reason the prisoners had been placed there. The triangles were made of fabric and were sewn on jackets and trousers of the prisoners. These mandatory badges of shame had specific meanings indicated by their colour and shape. Such emblems helped guards assign tasks to the detainees. For example, a guard at a glance could see if someone were a convicted criminal and thus likely of a tough temperament suitable for kapo duty.
The term racial hygiene was used to describe an approach to eugenics in the early twentieth century, which found its most extensive implementation in Nazi Germany. It was marked by efforts to avoid miscegenation, analogous to an animal breeder seeking purebred animals. This was often motivated by belief in a racial hierarchy and the related fear that lower races would "contaminate" a higher one. As with most eugenicists at the time, racial hygienists believed that lack of eugenics would lead to rapid social degeneration, the decline of civilisation by the spread of inferior characteristics.
Otmar Freiherr von Verschuer was a German human biologist and geneticist, who was the Professor of Human Genetics at the University of Münster until his 1965 retirement. A member of the Dutch noble Verschuer family, his title Freiherr is often translated as baron.
The Yenish are an itinerant group in Western Europe, living mostly in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Belgium and parts of France, roughly centered on the Rhineland. They are descended from members of the marginalized and vagrant poor classes of society of the early modern period, and emerged as a distinct group by the early 19th century. In this regard and also in their lifestyle, they resemble the Scottish and Irish Travellers. Most of the Yenish have become sedentary in the course of the mid-19th to 20th centuries.
Ernst Rüdin was a Swiss-born German psychiatrist, geneticist, eugenicist and Nazi. Rising to prominence under Emil Kraepelin and assuming his directorship at what is now called the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry in Munich, he has long been scientifically honoured and cited internationally as the pioneer of psychiatric inheritance studies. He also argued for, designed, justified and funded the mass sterilization and clinical killing of adults and children.
Guenter Lewy is a German-born American author and political scientist who is a professor emeritus of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. His works span several topics, but he is most often associated with his 1978 book on the Vietnam War, America in Vietnam, and several controversial works that deal with the applicability of the term genocide to various historical events.
The Nuremberg Laws were antisemitic and racial laws in Nazi Germany. They were enacted by the Reichstag on 15 September 1935, at a special meeting convened during the annual Nuremberg Rally of the Nazi Party (NSDAP). The two laws were the Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honour, which forbade marriages and extramarital intercourse between Jews and Germans and the employment of German females under 45 in Jewish households; and the Reich Citizenship Law, which declared that only those of German or related blood were eligible to be Reich citizens; the remainder were classed as state subjects, without citizenship rights. A supplementary decree outlining the definition of who was Jewish was passed on 14 November, and the Reich Citizenship Law officially came into force on that date. The laws were expanded on 26 November 1935 to include Romani people. This supplementary decree defined Romanis as "enemies of the race-based state", the same category as Jews.
Nazi eugenics were Nazi Germany's racially based social policies that placed the biological improvement of the Aryan race or Germanic "Übermenschen" master race through eugenics at the center of Nazi ideology. In Germany, eugenics were mostly known under the synonymous term racial hygiene. Following the Second World War, both terms effectively vanished and were replaced by Humangenetik.
Law for the Prevention of Genetically Diseased Offspring or "Sterilisation Law" was a statute in Nazi Germany enacted on July 14, 1933, which allowed the compulsory sterilisation of any citizen who in the opinion of a "Genetic Health Court" suffered from a list of alleged genetic disorders – many of which were not, in fact, genetic. The elaborate interpretive commentary on the law was written by three dominant figures in the racial hygiene movement: Ernst Rüdin, Arthur Gütt and the lawyer Falk Ruttke. The law itself was based on a 'model' American law developed by Harry H. Laughlin.
Antiziganism is the hostility, prejudice, discrimination or racism specifically directed at Romani people. Non-Rom groups such as the Yenish and Irish and Scottish Travellers are often given the misnomer "gypsy" and confused with the Romani people. As a result, sentiments directed towards them are often referred to as "antigypsy" as well.
While Black people in Nazi Germany were never subject to mass extermination as in the cases of Jews, Romani and Slavs, they were still considered by the Nazis to be an inferior race and, along with Romani people, were subject to the Nuremberg Laws under a supplementary decree.
Berlin-Marzahn Rastplatz was a camp set up for Romani people in the Berlin suburb of Marzahn by Nazi authorities.
The Hereditary Health Court, also known as, the Genetic Health Court, were courts that decided whether people should be forcibly sterilized in Nazi Germany. This decision making method of using courts for hereditary health in Nazi Germany was created to implement the Nazi race policy aiming for racial hygiene.
Kinder der Landstrasse was a project of the Swiss foundation Pro Juventute, active from 1926 to 1973. The focus of the project was the assimilation of the itinerant Yenish people in Switzerland by forcibly removing children from their parents, placing them in orphanages or foster homes. A total of about 590 children were affected by the program.
During the era of National Socialism in Germany the discrimination towards the "Hereditarly Diseased" was at its peak. Racial hygiene was a big concern and the intent to fix it made Germany take extreme measures. The hearing impaired and all of the disabled were considered a "social burden". Adolf Hitler and many others feared that deafness was a hereditary gene that could be passed on from mother or father to the child. Germany's main solution to decrease the numbers was through sterilization.