Filmmaker Justin Strawhand Tackles Eugenics in ‘War Against the Weak’
Jennifer Weiss - Nov 17th, 2010
Jersey City filmmaker Justin Strawhand explores eugenics in America in his latest film, War Against the Weak. Strawhand directed the film, which outlines the connection between the United States’ push to create a master race by eliminating the “unfit” and the Holocaust.
We caught up with Strawhand in advance of the film’s Thursday night screening at New Jersey City University, his alma mater.
Could you give us a quick primer on eugenics in America — how it started and how it ultimately ended?
The American eugenics movement really starts at the beginning of the 20th century on Long Island, in Cold Spring Harbor. It’s funded by some of the wealthiest families in the country, Rockefeller and Carnegie, and it really takes off like wildfire. Eugenics becomes taught in schools, it’s legislated all over the country, and the Supreme Court decides that eugenics sterilization is okay in 1927.
There’s really two things that kill American eugenics. One is that as the atrocities in Germany [are uncovered] — and more specifically, as America goes to war with Germany — eugenics gets a really bad name. Secondly, the very people that eugenicists were so terrified of, which were the waves of immigrants who were coming in from all over the place, but specifically from Eastern Europe, become a very powerful voting bloc, and so the politicians who had supported eugenics really run scared from it. That isn’t to say the ideas of eugenics don’t transform after the war because I think that they do, but they change names and they change tactics.