In a statement marking the 75th anniversary of the “Prevention of Progeny with Hereditary Diseases Act”, the German Society of Human Genetics said scientists had colluded with the Nazis to write and implement the brutal law.
“In view of the state of knowledge of genetics at the time, their actions were indefensible, since it should have been clear that the eugenic measures planned were not only morally wrong but biological nonsense,” the society said.
Eugenics, the controversial belief that one could improve the human race by selective breeding, was a popular idea in the first half of the 20th century.
“The new law served the NS (National Socialist) regime as a basis to brutally and systematically violate the fundamental human rights of targeted citizens whose lives the regime deemed ‘unworthy'.”
The society said an estimated 400,000 people were sterilized without their consent and thousands of them died as a result of the procedure. Eventually, the programme “culminated in the mass murders of the so-called euthanasia programmes,” it added.
Historians believe that from 1933 the Nazis murdered more than 200,000 physically and mentally disabled people part of the Third Reich's “euthanasia” programme.
Revelations in recent years have indicated that thousands of frail children were murdered as part of the campaign.
The 20th International Congress of Genetics is currently underway in Berlin.