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The Eugenic Fortress

The Transylvanian Saxon Experiment in Interwar Romania


Tudor Georgescu

Tudor Georgescu is an Associate Lecturer in History at Oxford Brookes University, UK, and currently has two projects on the First World War in collaboration with the University of Nottingham and the Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum

The ever-growing library on the history of eugenics and fascism focuses largely on nation-states, while Georgescu asks why an ethnic minority, the German-speaking Transylvanian Saxons, turned to eugenics as a means of self-empowerment in inter-war Romania. The Eugenic Fortress examines the eugenic movement that emerged in the early twentieth century, and focuses on its conceptual and methodological evolution during this turbulent period.

Further on, the book analyzes the gradual process of radicalization and politicization by a second generation of Saxon eugenicists in conjunction with the rise of an equally indigenous fascist movement. The Saxon case-study offers valuable insights into why an ethnic minority would seek to re-entrench itself behind the race-hygienic walls of a "eugenic fortress", as well as the influence that home nations had upon its design.

Georgescu’s work is ground-breaking in the sense that the history of this uprooted community is usually handled with extreme sensitivity, and serious (and critical) research into Transylvanian Saxon involvement with Nazism has been scant, until now.

290 pages, 2016
978-963-386-139-4 cloth
$55.00 / €48.00 / £37.00

ISSN 2079-1119 CEU Press Studies in the History of Medicine, Volume VII

"The strength of the Transylvanian Saxons’ support for German National Socialism from the mid to late 1930s may lead one to assume that expressions of fascism and eugenics within this community were imported. However, The Eugenic Fortress shows this was far from the case. Instead, we see how from the 1900s to the 1940s, Saxons ‘define, deliberate, legislate, and even execute a eugenic agenda’, which represented ‘a novel ideological and practical tool with which to re-homogenise and re-entrench a redefined sense of self behind the race-hygienic walls of a eugenic fortress’. This is a fascinating study of a German ethnic minority fighting for its very existence, often not against its host state, Romania, but itself and such dysgenic demons as alcohol and tobacco abuse, emigration and ethnically mixed marriages" - Medical History

"While most eugenics studies focus on cases empowered by nation-states, few have examined ethnic minorities pursuing independent or competing eugenic agendas. Georgescu offers the Saxon case study as a model against which to investigate how other minorities responded to, and sometimes advanced, the rise of biological determinism more generally. The particular significance of the Saxon case study is that it sought practical means to implement its eugenic policies. Saxon eugenicists responded to their minority status and strong assimilatory pressures with an increasingly radical eugenic discourse that sought the support of a complementary fascist movement (the Self-Help movement) in the 1920s.
Georgescu persuasively demonstrates that an interwar ethnic minority could pursue an ambitious eugenic agenda without statehood (and even with state opposition). While the church necessarily remained central to eugenic discourse due to its social significance and infrastructure, Saxon eugenicists embraced Saxon fascism as the natural route for implementing national renewal. Saxon eugenics provide an excellent case study for comparison to other interwar ethnic minorities that might have done the same." - H-Net Reviews in the Humanities & Social Sciences

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