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Ursula Ferdinand (2007)

National Socialist Population Studies and Policy Reflected by the International Demographic Congress in Paris 1937*

In: Zeitschrift für Bevölkerungswissenschaft, Vol. 32, 1-2/2007, p. 263-287, Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, ISSN: 0340-2398

The International Union for the Scientific Investigation of Population Problems (IUSIPP) created a major international forum for demographers in the inter-war period. Their international population conferences – 1931 in London, 1935 in Berlin und 1937 in Paris – provided platforms for the methodical and theoretical establishment and consolidation of this discipline. However, the conferences like the one which took place in 1935 in Berlin were also used as political instruments. This was celebrated by demographers in National Socialist Germany as a victory for “German population policy” and for “German race concepts”. Protests by Dutch scientists against the instrumentalisation of the Berlin congress by the National Socialists largely fell on deaf ears within the IUSIPP. Anti-racist initiatives and individual personalities used the international demographic conference held in Paris in 1937 in order to launch a scientific counterweight to the population studies and policy and the racial concept of National Socialist Germany. This encountered massive resistance in Germany. A 56-man delegation was assembled for the Paris conference via a rigid secondment policy. Led by Ernst Rüdin, these German scientists and politicians took active measures in defence of German population studies and policy in Paris. They defended themselves aggressively against the criticism of the National Socialist definition of race, as well as of race-hygiene sterilisation policy, decrying it as a “Jewish general attack”, and celebrated this as a “victorious” defence of “positions inimical to Germany”. Still at the beginning of the forties, with the conviction of the “master race” to which the IUSIPP had no counterarguments to offer, German population politicians continued to announce to the German scientific community that “the leading role of Germany” within the IUSIPP was in any case assured after a “favourable” outcome of the war.

* Original title: Die NS-Bevölkerungswissenschaft und -politik im Spiegelbild des internationalen bevölkerungswissenschaftlichen Kongresses in Paris 1937 (full text in German only)

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