the story of Gertrud and Auguste Macé

The discussions about the links between early statistics and eugenism brought back to memory the tragic story of a German-Norman couple, friends of my grandparents, Gertrud(e) and Auguste Macé, whom I met in the mid 1980’s. Auguste Macé was a school friend of my grandmother, born near the harbour city of Granville, Manche and, like my grandparents,  a war orphan, son of a French conscript killed in combat during WW I. During WW II, when Nazi Germany promptly invaded France in the Spring of 1940, Auguste Macé was part of the millions of French conscripts captured by German troops and sent to a stalag, in North-Eastern Germany (Prussia), where he was made to work in farms missing their workforce conscripted to war. In one of these farms, he met Gertrud, daughter of the farm owners, they fell in love, and Gertrud eventually got pregnant. When her pregnancy was revealed, Auguste was sent to another POW camp. And, while Gertrud was able to give birth to a baby boy, she was dreadfully punished by the Nazis for it: as she had broken their racial purity laws, she was sterilised and prevented from having further children, presumably staying in her parents’ farm. At the end of WW II, Auguste was freed by Soviet troops and went searching for Gertrud. It took him around six months of traveling in the chaotic post-war Germany, but he eventually found both her and their son! They then went back to Auguste’s farm, in Normandy, where they spent the rest of their life, with further hardships like the neighbourhood hostility to a Franco-German couple, lost their young adult son in circumstances I cannot remember, and tragically ending their life together in a car accident in 1988, on a trip to Germany… [When remembering this couple, I have been searching on-line for more information about them but apart from finding the military card of Auguste’s father and Auguste’s 1988 death record by INSEE, I could not spot any link in birth or wedding certificates or in the 98 lists of WW II French POWs. Where I could not find my great-uncle, either.]

4 Responses to “the story of Gertrud and Auguste Macé”

  1. In 1934, at University College, London, K.Pearson gave a famous speech praising “Reichskanzler Hitler and his proposals to
    regenerate the German people”. K.Pearson applauded the “enthusiasm” of the Nazi eugenic program, that was about to be substantially improved, for “the Germans are only just starting the study of mathematical statistics in the modern sense!”
    K.Pearson was pointing at somewhere… I just don’t know exactly where. It could be just K.Pearson wishful thinking, but I have the feeling it was more than that. However, I have no access to K.Pearson correspondence, nor to the documentation of Aktion T4 and its forerunners.
    Instead of removing a beautiful window from Caius College alluding to Fisher’s work on eugenics, and similar public references to K.Pearson, I believe we should try to fully understand the implications and repercussions (intended or not) of their work in the field of eugenics. Forgetting is way too easy…

    • Thank you for pointing out this (in)famous speech. The book of Kevles (1995) has a few entries on US-based support for the Nazi racials laws although none from statisticians. Maybe MacKenzie (1977) The development of statistical theory in Britain has more about this.

  2. Thanks for telling us this tragic story; those stories must be remembered, they cannot be forgotten. On a distinct scale of generality and abstraction, I am interested in understanding the “story” of the “statistical foundations” of eugenics that, in turn, “justified” eugenic programs in continental Europe. For starters, I am interested in documenting the influence of K.Pearson and R.Fisher ideas os statistics and eugenics on the scientists and physicians responsible for Aktion T4. Is anyone familiar with the pertinent historical documents?

    • I am definitely not knowledgeable in such potential connections. All I can mention is that R.A. Fisher knew Otmar Freiherr von Verschuer well-enough to write a recommendation for him after WW II and to arrange a visit to Britain. But I think an homonymous Fisher, Eugen Fisher (1874-1967), advisor to von Verschuer, was a direct and early initiator of the racial and genocidal policies of the Nazi regime.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.