Man, The Unknown

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Man, The Unknown
Author Alexis Carrel
Country France
Language French

Man, The Unknown (L'Homme, cet inconnu) is a best-selling[citation needed] 1935 book by Alexis Carrel which advocated, in part, that mankind could better itself by following the guidance of an elite group of intellectuals, and by implementing a regime of voluntary eugenics.

Hereditary aristocracy[edit]

Sociologist Roger Caillois quoted and paraphrased L'Homme, cet inconnu in The Edge of Surrealism: " '(p)resent-day proletarians owe their status to inherited intellectual and physical defects' (sancta simplicitas). And he [Carrel] suggests that this state of affairs should be accentuated through appropriate measures, so as to correlate social and biological inequalities more precisely. Society would then be directed by a hereditary aristocracy composed of descendants from the Crusaders, the heroes of the Revolution, the great criminals, the financial and industrial magnates" (p. 360).

Regime of enforced eugenics[edit]

Carrel advocated the use of gasses to rid humanity of "defectives", thus endorsing the scientific racism discourse. His endorsement of this idea began in the mid-1930s, prior to the Nazi implementation of such practices in Germany. In the 1936 German introduction of his book, at the publishers request, he added the following praise of the Nazi regime which did not appear in the editions in other languages:

"(t)he German government has taken energetic measures against the propagation of the defective, the mentally diseased, and the criminal. The ideal solution would be the suppression of each of these individuals as soon as he has proven himself to be dangerous."[1]

This is the quote in the book that endorses the use of gasses for euthanasia:

"(t)he conditioning of petty criminals with the whip, or some more scientific procedure, followed by a short stay in hospital, would probably suffice to insure order. Those who have murdered, robbed while armed with automatic pistol or machine gun, kidnapped children, despoiled the poor of their savings, misled the public in important matters, should be humanely and economically disposed of in small euthanasic institutions supplied with proper gasses. A similar treatment could be advantageously applied to the insane, guilty of criminal acts.".[2]


  1. ^ As quoted by Andrés Horacio Reggiani: God's eugenicist. Alexis Carrel and the sociobiology of decline. Berghahn Books, Oxford 2007, p. 71. See Der Mensch, das unbekannte Wesen. DVA, Stuttgart 1937.
  2. ^ Alexis Carrel: Man, The Unknown. Doubleday, NY 1935, p. 391; London 1936, p. 296.