Admin Building of the Sonoma Development Center
Among other procedures, more than 5,000 patients were involuntarily sterilized at this facility during the period 1918 to 1949. The facility's current name dates from 1986. Former names include:
California Home for the Care and Training of Feeble Minded Children (1883)
Sonoma State Home (1909)
Sonoma State Hospital (1953)
Eugenics and the Nazis - the California connection (excerpt)
By Edwin Black, San Francisco Chronicle, Sunday 9 November 2003 Page D1
Hitler and his henchmen victimized an entire continent and exterminated millions in his quest for a so-called Master Race.
But the concept of a white, blond-haired, blue-eyed master Nordic race didnt originate with Hitler. The idea was created in the United States, and cultivated in California, decades before Hitler came to power. California eugenicists played an important, although little-known, role in the American eugenics movements campaign for ethnic cleansing.
Eugenics was the pseudoscience aimed at improving the human race. In its extreme, racist form, this meant wiping away all human beings deemed unfit, preserving only those who conformed to a Nordic stereotype.
Elements of the philosophy were enshrined as national policy by forced sterilization and segregation laws, as well as marriage restrictions, enacted in 27 states. In 1909, California became the third state to adopt such laws. Ultimately, eugenics practitioners coercively sterilized some 60,000 Americans, barred the marriage of thousands, forcibly segregated thousands in colonies, and persecuted untold numbers in ways we are just learning.
Before World War II, nearly half of coercive sterilizations were done in California, and even after the war, the state accounted for a third of all such surgeries.
California was considered an epicenter of the American eugenics movement.
During the 20th centurys first decades, Californias eugenicists included potent but little-known race scientists, such as Army venereal disease specialist Dr. Paul Popenoe, citrus magnate Paul Gosney, Sacramento banker Charles Goethe, as well as members of the California state Board of Charities and Corrections and the University of California Board of Regents.
Eighteen solutions were explored in a Carnegie-supported 1911 Preliminary Report of the Committee of the Eugenic Section of the American Breeders Association to Study and to Report on the Best Practical Means for Cutting Off the Defective Germ-Plasm in the Human Population. Point No. 8 was euthanasia.
The most commonly suggested method of eugenicide in the United States was a lethal chamber or public, locally operated gas chambers. In 1918, Popenoe, the Army venereal disease specialist during World War I, co-wrote the widely used textbook, Applied Eugenics, which argued, From an historical point of view, the first method which presents itself is execution . . . Its value in keeping up the standard of the race should not be underestimated.
Applied Eugenics also devoted a chapter to Lethal Selection, which operated through the destruction of the individual by some adverse feature of the environment, such as excessive cold, or bacteria, or by bodily deficiency.
Eugenic breeders believed American society was not ready to implement an organized lethal solution. But many mental institutions and doctors practiced improvised medical lethality and passive euthanasia on their own.
One institution in Lincoln, Ill., fed its incoming patients milk from tubercular cows believing a eugenically strong individual would be immune.
Thirty to 40 percent annual death rates resulted at Lincoln. Some doctors practiced passive eugenicide one newborn infant at a time. Others doctors at mental institutions engaged in lethal neglect.
Nonetheless, with eugenicide marginalized, the main solution for eugenicists was the rapid expansion of forced segregation and sterilization, as well as more marriage restrictions.
California led the nation, performing nearly all sterilization procedures with little or no due process. In its first 25 years of eugenics legislation, California sterilized 9,782 individuals, mostly women. Many were classified as bad girls, diagnosed as passionate, oversexed or sexually wayward. At the Sonoma State Home, some women were sterilized because of what was deemed an abnormally large clitoris or labia.
In 1933 alone, at least 1,278 coercive sterilizations were performed, 700 on women. The states two leading sterilization mills in 1933 were Sonoma State Home with 388 operations and Patton State Hospital with 363 operations.
Other sterilization centers included Agnews, Mendocino, Napa, Norwalk, Stockton and Pacific Colony state hospitals.
Comment by Vera Hassner Sharav, Alliance for Human Research Protection (AHRP)
On Sunday, Nov 9, the San Francisco Chronicle published an extraordinary, most informative article by Edwin Black, that sheds light on the role played by the American eugenics movement in the Nazi extermination policy. Eugenics is a pseudoscience whose purported aim is to improve the human race, while eliminating that portion of the race that eugenicists deem undesirable.
The article is adapted from Blacks recently released book, War Against the Weak, published by Four Walls Eight Windows.
Black shows that American eugenics played a decisive role in the adoption of racist and even lethal public policies in the US and then in Germany. Black writes: Eugenics would have been so much bizarre parlor talk had it not been for extensive financing by corporate philanthropies, specifically the Carnegie Institution, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Harriman railroad fortune. They were all in league with some of Americas most respected scientists from such prestigious universities as Stanford, Yale, Harvard and Princeton. These academicians espoused race theory and race science, and then faked and twisted data to serve eugenics racist aims.
Stanford President David Starr Jordan originated the notion of race and blood in his 1902 racial epistle Blood of a Nation, in which the university scholar declared that human qualities and conditions such as talent and poverty were passed through the blood.
The Harriman railroad fortune paid local charities, such as the New York Bureau of Industries and Immigration, to seek out Jewish, Italian and other immigrants in New York and other crowded cities and subject them to deportation, confinement or forced sterilization.
The influence of American eugenicists was even more sinister. American eugenicists influenced the Nazi sterilization, experimentation, and extermination policies—including the medical atrocities first conducted on institutionalized disabled human beings—adults and children. Whats more, the scions of American philanthropy financed German eugenicists and actively supported their pseudoscientific research institutes.
Therefore, no useful discussion about medical and behavioral research ethics can take place without an examination of the American eugenics movement.
Yet, American bioethicists have studiously avoided a critical analysis of the eugenics movement, its lethal ideology, and its inevitably lethal solutions. By their silence, American bioethics seem to be attesting to the lingering, but covert influence of eugenics within the American healthcare and research community.
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Long Island, was a eugenics center founded by the Carnegie Institution. Among its activities was the stockpiling of millions of index cards on ordinary Americans, as researchers carefully plotted the removal of families, bloodlines and whole peoples. From Cold Spring Harbor, eugenics advocates agitated in the legislatures of America, as well as the nations social service agencies and associations. See also: http://nucleus.cshl.org/CSHLlib/archives/ciwfiles.htm
Black notes: The superior species the eugenics movement sought was populated not merely by tall, strong, talented people. Eugenicists craved blond, blue-eyed Nordic types. This group alone, they believed, was fit to inherit the Earth. In the process, the movement intended to subtract emancipated Negroes, immigrant Asian laborers, Indians, Hispanics, East Europeans, Jews, dark- haired hill folk, poor people, the infirm and anyone classified outside the gentrified genetic lines drawn up by American raceologists. How?
By identifying so-called defective family trees and subjecting them to lifelong segregation and sterilization programs to kill their bloodlines.
The grand plan was to literally wipe away the reproductive capability of those deemed weak and inferior—the so-called unfit. The eugenicists hoped to neutralize the viability of 10 percent of the population at a sweep, until none were left except themselves.
Todays covert eugenicists are similarly screening for undetected conditions. Children are especially screened for psychiatric and anti-social conditions for which no cures exist. Others are engaging in genetic manipulation experiments seeking to produce perfect babies.
Much of the spiritual guidance and political agitation for the American eugenics movement came from Californias quasi-autonomous eugenic societies, such as Pasadenas Human Betterment Foundation and the California branch of the American Eugenics Society, which coordinated much of their activity with the Eugenics Research Society in Long Island. These organizations—which functioned as part of a closely-knit network—published racist eugenic newsletters and pseudoscientific journals, such as Eugenical News and Eugenics, and propagandized for the Nazis.
Black provides compelling evidence showing that the ideological roots and even the methods of extermination—including the gas chambers—were the brain child of American eugenicists living in California. He reveals that the Rockefeller Foundation financed the work of Josef Mengele, MD, Ph.D., before he went to Auschwitz where his unspeakable medical experiments on twins earned him the epithet Angel of Death.
See: http://www.crimelibrary.com/serial_killers/history/mengele/research_5.html?s ect=6
More than just providing the scientific roadmap, America funded Germanys eugenic institutions.
By 1926, Rockefeller had donated some $410,000—almost $4 million in todays money—to hundreds of German researchers. In May 1926, Rockefeller awarded $250,000 toward creation of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Psychiatry. Among the leading psychiatrists at the German Psychiatric Institute was Ernst Rdin, who became director and eventually an architect of Hitlers systematic medical repression.
Another in the Kaiser Wilhelm Institutes complex of eugenics institutions was the Institute for Brain Research. Since 1915, it had operated out of a single room. Everything changed when Rockefeller money arrived in 1929. A grant of $317,000 allowed the institute to construct a major building and take center stage in German race biology. The institute received additional grants from the Rockefeller Foundation during the next several years.
Leading the institute, once again, was Hitlers medical henchman Ernst Rdin. Rdins organization became a prime director and recipient of the murderous experimentation and research conducted on Jews, Gypsies and others.
Perhaps the date of publication of Blacks article was chosen to coincide with Nov 9, 1938, Kristallnacht—the night the Nazis unleased a diabolical campaign of mass extermination.
Edwin Black is author of the award-winning IBM and the Holocaust and the recently released War Against the Weak (published by Four Walls Eight Windows), from which this article is adapted.
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A Dark Chapter In Medical History
Vicki Mabrey On Experiments Done On Institutionalized Children
Feb. 9, 2005 by Rebecca Leung
Sonoma State Hospital, which housed 3,500 students, was the largest institution for children in California.
(CBS) Karen Alves was just 10 when she lost her baby brother, Mark Dal Molin, in 1961.
As the oldest of four, she says her fondest childhood memories are of doting on her little brother. "One of the things we looked forward to, when we came home from school, was to play with Mark," she says.
But life would be a struggle for the Dal Molins because Mark was born with cerebral palsy, a condition that cripples the body, but not necessarily the mind.
"In the '50s, cerebral palsied children were considered to be developmentally disabled, mentally retarded," says Alves to correspondent Vicki Mabrey.
"I never believed he was mentally retarded. When you looked into his eyes, he communicated through his eyes. … He'd laugh and giggle and kick, and just screech when he saw us."
But by 3, Mark could neither walk nor talk, which meant his mother, Rosemarie, had to care for him.
"We know he recognized everybody," says Rosemarie. "He would laugh or he would cry if he was unhappy."
The children's father, Bill Dal Molin, felt that Rosemarie was neglecting their three daughters, because of Mark. "His mother was very, very much attentive to him, and the girls, I felt, were like troops to her," says Bill. "She was very hard on them, the girls."
Doctors advised the Dal Molins to commit their son, so Bill told Rosemarie they had to send Mark to an institution. It was November 1958.
"I just remember one day coming home from school and the house was very quiet," says Karen, who never got to say goodbye to her brother. "I don't remember much after that. It profoundly affected me."
Rosemarie had committed 3-year-old Mark to Sonoma State Hospital, the largest institution for children in California. At the time, the hospital housed 3,500 children with diverse needs, from babies born with minor defects, like a cleft palate or a club foot, to children with epilepsy and Down syndrome.
While the severely disabled languished in overcrowded rooms, the able-bodied were put to work in the institution’s dairies and orchards.
Rosemarie did something more that other parents who had committed their children to Sonoma State did not; she visited her son every Wednesday.
"It was just a small thing that I can still do is to go see him," says Rosemarie. "Because most of these children, they never see parents again."
But those visits came to an abrupt end on Memorial Day, 1961, when Mark was 6.
"I picked up the phone and I heard a voice say, 'Is Mrs. Dal Molin in?' and I just knew," says Karen. "They didn’t even say where they were calling from. But I just, this dread came into my heart, and I got my mom and I left. I ran. I hid. Nobody told me. I knew he was dead."
From that day on, Karen and her sisters, Chris and Gail, say they never spoke Mark's name again. They buried their grief, grew up and had families of their own. But after 40 years, they still struggle with the decision to institutionalize their brother.
"It pretty much blew the family apart," says Gail. "I believe that Dad did what he felt was best for the family. In my heart, I know that is true. But the impact of it on each one of us and the family was devastating."
In 1994, haunted by thoughts of her baby brother, Karen decided to devote all her spare time to answering the question that had burdened her for decades: how exactly did Mark die?
"I just needed to know and, no matter what it was, I needed to know. So I went to the recorder’s office," says Karen.
"There was no death certificate. One of the clerks came over to the front desk, leaned over and said 'When did he die?' And I said, '1961.' 'Well, when did he go into Sonoma State?' And I said, '1958,' and she said, 'You better look into it, because strange things happened there.'"
Things got stranger still when Karen noticed an article in the local paper saying 16,000 people, including children, had been used in radiation experiments. "Out of curiosity, I started to read it, and they mentioned patients that were in state-run hospitals being used," says Karen. "And I just go, 'Oh my God.' This could be it."
Then, President Clinton had just ordered thousands of secret documents on government-sponsored human radiation experiments declassified and made available on the Internet.
Karen found a study funded by the federal government involving 1,100 Sonoma State cerebral palsy patients from 1955-1960. One document she also found showed that her brother had been part of the study, assigned Specimen #8732.
Karen wasn't able to find out what tests, if any, Mark was subjected to. But some of the patients in the Sonoma State study were put through painful procedures like the pneumoencelphalogram, in which air is injected into the brain before a series of X-rays.
"Imagine puncturing someone’s spinal cord, drawing fluid out and putting a foreign substance in there. Gas," says Karen. "When they trap air in your body, you’re in pain, excruciating pain, for days."
"They were the raw material of medical research," says Susan Lederer, who teaches medical history at Yale University. She was a member of the presidential committee that investigated the radiation experiments, and she says she wasn’t shocked by the findings because researchers have been using disabled children in experiments for over a century.
"Children in orphanages, children in homes of the mentally retarded, these are all good populations from the sense of medical research, because you have an easily accessible group of people living in controlled circumstances, and you can monitor them," says Lederer.
Lederer read the study that was conducted at Sonoma State Hospital, and says the children underwent painful experimentation "for which they received no direct benefit."
"It seems clear that these were intended to enlarge knowledge about cerebral palsy," adds Lederer.
It did not produce a breakthrough, although Lederer says studies using mentally retarded children were critical in creating vaccines for polio and hepatitis.
Lederer says using captive populations meant big money for medical researchers: "It would even be an advantage in applying for grant money, because you don’t have to go to the problem of recruiting subjects."
In the case of Sonoma State, records show that when the study began, cerebral palsy admissions there jumped by 300 percent.
"One of the ways that medical directors of such institutions sort of connected themselves to the world of medical research was simply to provide their patients as commodities," says Lederer. "I mean, we can provide this many guinea pigs for you."
Sonoma State is now known as Sonoma Developmental Center. During her 12-year search, Karen repeatedly wrote to the current administrator, looking for information about Mark.
She was told that there were "no records on radiation studies at Sonoma," and that there was "no record that your brother was involved in radiation research."
"And I'd say, 'Just go to the human radiation Web site and put in Sonoma State Hospital in your search and documents come up," says Karen. "You’ve gotta have something there. No. They deny it. Deny it. If I called her right now, she’d deny it."
Administrator Theresa Murphy has worked at Sonoma State for 30 years. She said she didn't have any information about the medical experimentation that was taking place at the institution.
When asked if patients at state hospitals were used in medical research, Murphy says, "I've read that there has been things like using rattlesnake venom of epilepsy. But you know, there's just nothing in our archives about the research you are talking about."
"If these studies were being done, if there are patients from here being sent for radiation studies, is that a stain on the hospital record," asks Mabrey.
"I think in the history of people with developmental disabilities, and there have been some dark times. I truly believe that," says Murphy. "And it wouldn't surprise me that there were things we would find - consider questionable today."
It took two years and a court order for Karen to get Sonoma State to turn over Mark’s medical records. Though not complete, records did show that Mark Dal Molin suffered unusually high fevers the last six months of his life before dying of a seizure.
"He ran extremely high fevers that none of us here right now would live through," says Karen. "Swollen eyes, seizures, those things can fit in with radiation poisoning."
Mark's records contained another shock. Karen found not one, but two autopsy reports, one for his body and another for his brain. Karen says that Mark's brain was removed after he died.
"They took my brother’s brain without consent, and the doctor, in his obituary it said that he had one of the largest brain collections," says Karen. "And if there’s any way for me to find that, I would like to put him back together."
60 Minutes Wednesday learned that between 1955 and 1960, the brain of every cerebral palsy child who died at Sonoma State was removed and studied.
Rosemarie says she never gave them permission to take Mark's brain for research purposes. "I came from Europe after the war, where all these horrendous things happened," says Rosemarie. "I never dreamed that in this country, they would do experimenting children. Handicapped children."
Unless their families claimed them, the children ended up in a community grave with the ashes of 500 other people, or buried in a empty field without a headstone to mark their passing.
Theresa Murphy showed 60 Minutes Wednesday the final resting place of 1,400 Sonoma State patients. "The folks that remain here are undisturbed and available for family visitation," says Murphy.
But Mark Dal Molin's family was able, at least, to spare him that fate. They had him cremated and placed his ashes in a private mausoleum.
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