Björn Felder

Author Biography and Research Interests: 

Björn Felder received his PhD by University of Tübingen in 2006, and was awarded the Fraenkel Prize in Contemporary history for his thesis comparing the both colonial and racist occupation policies implemented during the Soviet and Nazi occupations of Latvia as well as the local population’s responses to these. Since 2003, Björn conducts research for the Latvian Commission of Historians. His interests span comparative totalitarianism, political religion and Soviet history, Baltic history and social and cultural dimensions of history of medicine, and he is currently preparing a project on eugenics, racial anthropology and psychiatry in the Baltics.


Eugenics and Racial Identity in Latvia: Scientific Transfer and European Zeitgeist

Bjorn Felder

7th May 2009; Goethe Institute Riga, Latvia.

This paper seeks to examine these themes by scrutinising Latvian racial anthropology after 1918 within not only its local, but its European context. A ‘latecomer’ to the club of nation states, the Latvian state founded in 1918 was soon confronted with many of the problems it shared with many Central and East European states seeking to create a national history in the tradition of the European ‘master story’. The process of defining the Latvian nation was influenced by the contemporary European discourse that promoted biological paradigms as ‘modern’, while the Latvian national discourse on nationhood was dominated by ethno-nationalism by the 1930s, and that understood the nation as an organic unity generated by a distinct biological heritage. The introduction of a nationwide eugenic project in 1937 exacerbated the virulence of these biological tenets that came to dominate the definition of what a nation was.


Felder, Börn. Lettland im Zweiten Weltkrieg: Zwischen sowjetischen und deutschen Besatzern 1940-46. Paderborn: Schöningh, 2009.
“Stalinismus als ‘russisch-jüdische Herrschaft’: sowjetische Besatzung und ethnische Mobilisierung im Baltikum 1940-41.” Zeitschrift für Geschichtswissenschaft 1 (2009): pp.5-24.
.“Mazvērtīgo samazināšana“- eigēnika Latvijā [Verminderung der Minderwertigen - Eugenik in Lettland]. ” Kultūras Diena 23. April 2005: pp.16f.
‘Mit Lettland leben, mit Lettland sterben’: Der SS-Jagdverband Ost - Unternehmen ‘Wildkatze’ und die
Vorbereitung von antisowjetischen Partisanen in Lettland (1944-1945).” Zeitschrift für Ostmitteleuropa-Forschung 1(2005): pp.98-127.

Working Group in the History of Race and Eugenics



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