(Exhibition text in English, referring to a QR code in the exhibition)

The Banana Dance Conquers the World

Name: Josephine Baker, née McDonald
Born: 1906 in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.A.
Died: 1975 in Paris

Spectacular showgirl, superstar and spy. 

Josephine McDonald grows up in humble circumstances and starts working as a showgirl in her teens. At the age of 15 she marries William Baker, and although they later divorce, she keeps his surname.

Baker comes to Paris in the mid-1920s and takes Europe by storm. Audiences are mesmerised by this African-American woman with her unique, exotic dance style. Baker becomes a true superstar. Iconic status is achieved when she performs wearing only a glittering banana skirt in 1927.

Baker never again feel at home in the United States, where even a star like her is exposed to racism and segregation. She settles in France for good and eventually uses her fame for ideological purposes. She spies for the French Resistance during World War II and actively participates in the civil rights movement in the U.S. in the 1950s.

An ”Unfit” Mother

Name: Carrie Elizabeth Buck
Born: 1906 in Charlottesville, Virginia, USA
Died: 1983 in Waynesboro, Virginia, USA

Undergoes compulsory sterilisation at the age of 21 because she is considered ”retarded”.

Carrie Buck is placed in foster care at the age of three. Her mother is in a mental care institution as she is considered a ”loose woman” and “retarded”.
When Buck is 17, she become pregnant. According to her, she was raped by a relative of her foster family. The family claims that Buck is ”retarded” and she is admitted to the same mental hospital as her mother.

Buck becomes the first in the state of Virginia to be forcibly sterilised under the new Sterilisation Act (1924), this after she lost the high-profile court case Buck v. Bell in 1927. She is sterilised in October 1927. One of the reasons for Buck’s defeat in the courtroom is that she, her mother and her daughter are considered carriers of a genetic intellectual disability.

After the sterilisation, Buck is allowed to leave the institution. Her daughter Vivian, taken from her at birth, dies of an intestinal infection at the age of wight. According to Vivian’s school, she was an ordinary, normal child.

Carrie Buck dies in 1983, aged 76, after a healthy and independent life. She is buried near where her daughter Vivian was laid to rest.

The Mascot of National Socialism

Name: Carin Göring, née Fock, married 1. von Kantzow
Born: 1888 in Stockholm
Died: 1931 in Stockholm

Swedish noblewoman who leaves everything for a new life with Hermann Göring. 

On a stormy night in 1920, Carin von Kantzow meets the love of her life, Hermann Göring, at Rockelsta Castle in Södermanland. Three years later, Carin is divorced and marries Hermann in Munich. At the same time, Hermann becomes acquainted with Adolf Hitler and joins the Nazi party.

Carin and her husband share the same political beliefs and anti-Semitic views. She sees Hitler as a saviour and a genius. Carin, in turn, embodies a female ideal for the Nazi party to revere. She is a respectable member of society, a lady completely devoted to the Nazi ideology. Hitler is said to have called her “the mascot of National Socialism”.

After the failed coup in Munich in 1923, the Görings spend several years in Sweden. Carin is struggling with both her own tuberculosis and her husband’s morphine addiction. But then the circumstances change. The Nazis are voted into the German parliament in 1928. Hermann becomes a parliamentarian. Carin Göring is the sophisticated, charming hostess that reinforces the Nazis’ credibility.

To Hermann’s despair, Carin dies of a heart attack in 1931. But her influence doesn’t end. To the Nazi party she is almost revered like a saint and the party continues to see her as a female role model.

The State Institute for Racial Biology

When the State Institute for Racial Biology is founded by the Swedish Parliament in 1921, all political parties are unanimously in favour. Dr Herman Lundborg becomes the appointed director when the institute opens at Uppsala University the following year. The purpose is to conduct research on eugenics, racial hygiene, genetics and hereditary traits in various human populations.

“The Swedish people are more favoured by nature than most others. The culture is in high standing, the human material is of good stock, the Germanic (Nordic) element is stronger than in any other country. We cannot be grateful enough for these benefits”
Herman Lundborg, Swedish folk types (published in Swedish in 1919) 

Lundborg is convinced that there are superior and inferior races, or peoples. He has long tried to prove that the Sámi are a “degenerated race” destined to die off. His work is praised by politicians and intellectuals both in Sweden and abroad.

The Sterilisation Issue in Sweden

In 1922 the psychiatrist Alfred Petrén submits a motion for parliament. He proposes an investigation into the sterilization of “the retarded, the insane, those suffering from falling sickness [i.e. epileptics] and moral offenders”. The motion is welcomed.

Most of those who voice their opinion on the issue, support compulsory sterilisation – including those who advocate women’s rights. The debaters seem rather impatient. Their arguments vary from protecting future generations to showing compassion for those who otherwise will to grow up in misery or be interned.

“The outrageous circumstances, in the poor relief facilities and the nursing homes, show that measures must be taken to prevent the reproduction of the retarded.”
Morgonbris (magazine of the Swedish Social Democratic Women’s Association) 1929  

The Parliament adopted the Act of 1934 on the sterilization of certain insane people, those retarded or other persons suffering from mental impairment. The law is repealed 1976. While the law was in force, approximately 63,000 people are sterilized. As many as half of these might have been coerced.

More about 2 20s (2 tjugotal)