This film is part of Free

Heredity in Man

A chilling insight into the brave new world of pre-Holocaust eugenics

1937 14 mins



Biologist Julian Huxley, brother of Brave New World author Aldous, gives a chilling insight into the discredited science of coercive eugenics. Huxley compares the genetics of families of 'defectives' who are institutionalised with those of successful actors (including John Gielgud) and the physically strong. He concludes that it would be better if disabled people were not born. Shortly after this film was made, Hitler authorised the mass murder of disabled Germans.

In the 1930s, the eugenics movement was on the crest of a wave. Many European countries and the USA embraced its ideology of population control, 'racial hygiene' and elimination of 'defectives'. Only relatively recently have we become aware of the horrors of the Nazi 'Aktion T4' programme, which systematically gassed many thousands of German disabled people - labelled 'useless eaters' - during World War Two. Some disability activists argue that current debates around 'assisted dying' have their roots in the coercive eugenics movement. Disabled artist and activist Liz Crow has made a thought-provoking film, Resistance (also available on BFI player), about the 'Aktion T4' programme.