Twins and Eugenics in the Holocaust

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Jonathan Hagood, Hope College

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My project examines the use of twins as subjects for experimentation in the Holocaust and the history of gemology--the scientific study of twins--as an experimental field. Since the early 1800's with Francis Galton's first inquiries into the causes of twinning, the field has been closely linked with eugenics, the study of selective breeding. I argue that there is a direct connection between these experiments and Joseph Mengele's infamous Auschwitz twin studies. The studies involved sets of twins taken off the arrival ramps at Auschwitz in order to live in a block segregated from the rest of the camp specifically to be used as control and experimental subjects. While there are relevant studies on the experiments performed in the camps, a study has never been undertaken on the reasons for Mengele's special interest in experimenting upon twins. Using records from Mengele's studies, as well as photographic evidence, I will argue that Mengele was influenced in his early days of medical school by the research environment of Europe in the first half of the twentieth century.

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