December 21, 2005

Sweden to probe dark eugenics history

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Sweden launched a probe on Wednesday
to understand how eugenics, a theory on improving the human
race used by Nazi Germany to justify the Holocaust, became
broadly accepted in the Nordic state in the early 20th century.

Sweden is now known for its strong social welfare system
and outspoken advocacy for human rights, but in the past it has
experimented with social engineering. This led to abuses such
as the forcible sterilization of around 60,000 women in

In 1922, the National Institute for Race Biology was
founded with support from a range of political parties. The
first of its kind in the world, the institute investigated
whether race was a determining factor in illness or human
character traits.

"An over-arching question is to find out more about the
kind of society which could develop thinking on race biology
and have scientifically accepted research in that area,"
Education Minister Leif Pagrotsky said in a statement.

The Living History Forum, a government body tasked with
spreading "a deeper knowledge about crimes against humanity,"
was appointed to chart what is known about the Swedish history
of eugenics and, if necessary, do more research on the issue.

The Forum was founded by Social Democrat Prime Minister
Goran Persson's government in 2003, mainly to improve public
knowledge about the Holocaust in which around 6 million Jews
were killed by the Nazis and their allies from 1933-1945.

The Swedish eugenics research body was merged in the 1950s
with a university genetics department.

Other negative aspects of Sweden's past have come to light
recently. The government this month promised an official
inquiry into claims by thousands of Swedes of physical abuse
and cruel treatment in state children's homes for decades from
the 1950s.