In 1920, Alfred Erich Hoche and Karl Binding published "Die Freigabe der Vernichtung lebensunwerten Lebens" - "The permission to destroy life not worth living" (my translation). The main point that certain disabled people are a mere "ballast" on society and that there should be a mechanism to legally kill these people. They argued from an economic standpoint, not from a true eugenics standpoint - heridarity of conditions was not their focus. Still, this text was widely and positivly received by the eugenics movment in Germany. The economic argument for murder was later used by Nazis in implementing the euthanasia murders.

during the 20ties and 30ties, there where eugenics movements in many countries around the world, and not all of them associated with the far right. Was the proposal by Binding and Hoche discussed in these movements (in their own press, at conferences etc.)? If so, can we say that the reception was rather critical, or approving of the proposed murders?

  • I can narrow down the question to one country if people feel it is too broad as it stands, comments?
    – mart
    Sep 21, 2017 at 8:43

1 Answer 1


The book The Origins of Nazi Genocide: From Euthanasia to the Final Solution By Henry Friedlander discusses reception of this book on pg 16 (emphasis mine),

In the United States and Great Britain, where public discussion of euthanasia centered on mercy killing of terminal patients, and not the killing of unworthy life, the Binding-Hoche polemic made no impression. In Germany, however, it was very influential;

Note that worldwide discussion of eugenics at the time was mainly focused on sterilization or birth control to eliminate the undesired genetic traits, not euthanasia, which this work seemed to be mainly about.

  • 1
    There appears to be a footnoe at the relevant part of the text, it would be interesting to know friedlanders source to this claim. Good find.
    – mart
    Sep 21, 2017 at 13:32

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