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Anthropometer used to measure length of body parts in Nazi Germany

Object | Accession Number: 1990.255.1

Anthropometer, for measuring the human body, owned by Dr. Eugen Fischer, a German Anthropologist and leader in the Nazi-controlled German eugenics movement from 1933 to 1945. In the early 1900s, Swiss Anthropologist Dr. Rudolf Martin, designed the tool so that it could be stored in several pieces in a portable case and used in the field. Anthropometry is a branch of Anthropology that focuses on how to systematically identify and classify a range of physical characteristics found within different populations of people. Many supporters linked eugenics to race, and believed that “race mixing,” modern medicine, keeping the “unfit” alive to reproduce, and costly welfare programs hindered natural selection and would lead to the biological “degeneration” of society. These ideas and practices began to inform government policy, and were absorbed into the ideology and platform of the newly formed Nazi Party during the 1920s. Following Hitler’s appointment as Chancellor in January 1933, a politically extreme, antisemitic variation of eugenics shaped Nazi policies and permeated German society and institutions. These policies touted the “Nordic race” as its eugenic ideal, and made efforts to exclude anyone deemed hereditarily “less valuable” or “racially foreign,” including Jews, “Slavs, Roma (gypsies), and blacks.” Racial hygiene studies assigned individuals to state-defined races, ranked from “superior” to “inferior,” based on family genealogies, anthropometric measurements, and intelligence tests. Many German physicians and scientists, like Dr. Fischer, who had supported racial hygiene ideas before 1933, embraced the Nazi emphasis on biology and heredity, in order to take advantage of new career opportunities and additional funding for research. Others that opposed the Nazi ideologies regarding racial hygiene, like Dr. Saller, often found themselves removed from posts, forced out of the field, driven to emigrate, or imprisoned in concentration camps.

use:  approximately 1933-1945
manufacture:  approximately 1920-1945
use: Germany
manufacture: Zurich (Switzerland)
Tools and Equipment
Credit Line
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of the Institut für Humangenetik der Universität Freiburg
Record last modified: 2020-09-10 13:12:26
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