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The dark race theory supported by leading early Zionists

TJI Pick
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Published: 21 April 2023

Last updated: 5 March 2024

The idea of discouraging ‘defective’ individuals was peddled by the first Hebrew sexologist, even as the Nazis implemented eugenics.

In 1933, the year that the Nazis came to power in Germany, a 20-page pamphlet was published in Mandatory Palestine titled “Race Improvement of the Human Species and its Value to Our People.”

The author, sexologist Avraham Matmon, who was born in Odessa and grew up in Tel Aviv, had a few months earlier returned from Berlin to that city, where he established the Institute for Hygiene and Sexual Science.

“To ensure that the people does not degenerate, we must ensure not only its quantitative value but also its quality,” he wrote. “A large proportion of thinking people, particularly intellectuals … believe that the nation’s size, future and strength are dependent on entering into the largest number of marriage ties and the childbirths that follow from them. They do not ascribe much value to the essence of the newborn, whether he is weak or strong, intelligent or ignorant, a person who will become a thinker and be of benefit to others, or whether he will end up a criminal and be a detriment so society.”

At the time, eugenics possessed many adherents and those who saw Judaism as a race to be cultivated included Theodor Herzl (“The Jewish race should be improved immediately, to make the Jews good fighters, lovers of work and virtuous”); Max Nordau, a cofounder, with Herzl, of the Zionist Organization (“We must do everything within our power to elevate the Oriental Jews, who are degenerating, to a higher economic, moral and spiritual level”); Arthur Ruppin, one of the founders of Tel Aviv (“To preserve the purity of our race, Jews like these must refrain from having children”); and Dr Yosef Meir, for whom Meir Hospital in Kfar Saba is named (“Do not have children if you are not certain that they will be healthy in body and mind”).

The dark race theory peddled by the first Hebrew sexologist (Haaretz)

Photos:  Mothers and their babies at a clinic in Yehud in 1950 (Zoltan Kluger / GPO)

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