Founded in 1927 in Berlin-Dahlem, the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Anthropology (KWI-A) was an institution responsible for much of the work done in Nazi Germany on scientific racism, eugenics, and racial hygiene theory that underpinned much of the racial and discriminatory Nazi ideology. Important personnel include Eugen Fischer, first director of the KWI-A (1927-1942), Otmar Von Verschuer (1942-1945), Fritz Lenz, Karin Magnussen,and Josef Mengele. The Institute closed in 1945, at the end of World War II.
The KWI-A set out upon its creation to bring together the disciplines of anthropology, genetics, and eugenics (Schuhl, 2008). The institute formed during a strong racial hygiene movement in Germany, which sought to prevent "degeneration" of the race (Memim, 2015). Eugenics in particular was perceived as a bridge between human sciences (Schuhl, 2008). By creating the Institute, it was hoped that Germany could keep up with the likes of Sweden, the United States, France, and England, in regards to eugenics (Memim, 2015). Its creation was highly supported by many political groups (Schuhl, 2008 ; Memim, 2015).
The Institute obtained significant funding before World War II, in the Third Reich. Its founding director was Eugen Fischer, who attempted to use the institute to help bring genes into the centre of scientific development (Schuhl, 2008). Research was carried out in disciplines such as experimental genetics, evolutionary biology, embryology, medicine, anthropology through methods such as twin research, dermatoglyphics, blood group research, and animal models (Schuhl, 2008). Three main departments were created when the Institute was first established: the Department of Anthroplogy, a Department of Genetics, and a Department of eugenics or racial hygiene (Memim, 2015). The Institute also hoped to set out policies where science guided politics. However, many experiments also transgressed over human ethics (Schuhl, 2008), and the Institute is also remembered for its association with Nazi War Crimes.
Funding was received mostly from the government, however, the American Rockefeller Foundation also offered support in the early 1930s in regards to twin research. In 1945, the Institute was dissolved entirely.
-Colette Leung and Erna Kurbegovic
Schmuhl, H.-W. (2008). The Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Anthropology, Human Heredity and Eugenics, 1927-1945: Crossing Boundaries. Springer Science & Business Media.
Memim Encyclopedia. (2015). Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Anthropology, Human Heredity, and Eugenics. Retrieved from http://memim.com/kaiser-wilhelm-institute-of-anthropology-human-heredity-and-eugenics.html