North Carolina will spend $10 million to compensate men and women who were sterilized in the state's eugenics program, which was among the most extensive and long-running of its kind.
North Carolina sterilized 7,600 people from 1929 to 1974 who were deemed socially or mentally unfit. Victims were as young as 10 years old and nearly all were sterilized forcibly or with inadequate consent, according to the state.
The Legislature this past week approved a $10 million compensation fund that would begin paying out in June 2015. So far the state has identified 177 living victims. The amount of compensation each receives will depend on the number of verified claims, according to the state Department of Administration. If 200 people are verified, for example, each would receive $50,000.
"The money don't take up the place of what happened," said Willis Lynch, an 80-year-old retired handyman who was sterilized at age 14 after being deemed mentally unfit. "I'm glad they did something, though."
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Eugenics has had quite a long history here in the United States. In fact, the Nazis in Germany, got many of their ideas from the eugenics movement, right here in the US.
After the eugenics movement was well established in the United States, it spread to Germany. California eugenicists began producing literature promoting eugenics and sterilization and sending it overseas to German scientists and medical professionals. By 1933, California had subjected more people to forceful sterilization than all other U.S. states combined. The forced sterilization program engineered by the Nazis was partly inspired by California's.
The Rockefeller Foundation helped develop and fund various German eugenics programs, including the one that Josef Mengele worked in before he went to Auschwitz.
Upon returning from Germany in 1934, where more than 5,000 people per month were being forcibly sterilized, the California eugenics leader C. M. Goethe bragged to a colleague:
"You will be interested to know that your work has played a powerful part in shaping the opinions of the group of intellectuals who are behind Hitler in this epoch-making program. Everywhere I sensed that their opinions have been tremendously stimulated by American thought . . . I want you, my dear friend, to carry this thought with you for the rest of your life, that you have really jolted into action a great government of 60 million people."