Hans Harmsen, Sanger's Racist Friend

Hans Harmsen, a German physician, was an important scientific and academic supporter of Nazi policies in the 1930s and 1940s, such as the inhumane 1933 sterilization law that mandated coercion.

As a bureaucrat in Nazi Germany, he was responsible for approving eugenic sterilizations performed on the disabled. He “supported forced sterilizations of the mentally handicapped and helped to carry them out in the Protestant Inner Mission institutions for which he was responsible.” (Report by Monika Simmel-Joachim and Elke Kiltz to the National Board of Pro Familia, May 16, 1984, quoted and translated in Atina Grossmann, Reforming Sex: The German Movement for Birth Control and Abortion Reform, 1920-1950 [New York: Oxford University Press, 1995], 211) 

Harmsen became the president of Pro Familia, the German affiliate of Sanger’s International Planned Parenthood Federation, in 1952. He continued to promote ostensibly “voluntary” eugenic sterilization and campaigned for a new law in the post-Nazi age. In 1980, after decades of leadership roles within Pro Familia, he was awarded an honorary presidency. Only in 1984 was he forced to resign (Grossmann, op. cit., 204-11).

For excerpts a Harmsen speech from 1931, see the German History in Documents and Images site, “Hans Harmsen: Contemporary Questions in Eugenics (1931).”