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Medicine and Medical Ethics in Nazi Germany

Medicine and Medical Ethics in Nazi Germany: Origins, Practices, Legacies

Francis R. Nicosia
Jonathan Huener
Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 180
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  • Book Info
    Medicine and Medical Ethics in Nazi Germany
    Book Description:

    The participation of German physicians in medical experiments on innocent people and mass murder is one of the most disturbing aspects of the Nazi era and the Holocaust. Six distinguished historians working in this field are addressing the critical issues raised by these murderous experiments, such as the place of the Holocaust in the larger context of eugenic and racial research, the motivation and roles of the German medical establishment, and the impact and legacy of the eugenics movements and Nazi medical practice on physicians and medicine since World War II.

    Based on the authors' original scholarship, these essays offer an excellent and very accessible introduction to an important and controversial subject. They are also particularly relevant in light of current controversies over the nature and application of research in human genetics and biotechnology.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-692-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vi-viii)
  4. Introduction: Nazi Medicine in Historiographical Context
    (pp. 1-12)
    Francis R. Nicosia and Jonathan Huener

    In the historiography of the Third Reich and the Holocaust, the category of perpetrators of Nazi crimes against Jews and other victims has evolved and expanded considerably during the decades since the end of World War II. Gerald Reitlinger’sThe Final Solution: The Attempt to Exterminate the Jews of Europe, 1939–1945,¹ published in 1953 and based largely on the documents used by Allied prosecutors against major Nazi war criminals in Nuremberg in 1945 and 1946, naturally identified Hitler and top officials of the Nazi Party and the state during the Third Reich as the perpetrators of Nazi crimes. Raul...

  5. Chapter One The Ideology of Elimination: American and German Eugenics, 1900–1945
    (pp. 13-39)
    Garland E. Allen

    Recent Theological Metaphors of the Human Genome Project as the “Holy Grail” of modern biology and literary references to our “fate being no longer in the stars but in our genes” reveal a pervasive belief, widespread in our high tech society, that much of who we are and what we do as human beings is controlled by the genes we inherit from our parents. In the past fifteen years our understanding of the genetic and molecular basis of many clinically definable physiological traits—cystic fibrosis, the various thalassemias, lipid and carbohydrate storage diseases, chronic granulomatous disease, and more than eight...

  6. Chapter Two The Nazi Campaign against Tobacco: Science in a Totalitarian State
    (pp. 40-58)
    Robert N. Proctor

    In my recent book,The Nazi War on Cancer, I explored the curious and heretofore unnoticed fact that the Nazis launched the world’s most aggressive anticancer campaign, encompassing bans on carcinogens in food and water, restrictions on the use of asbestos and other carcinogens in the workplace, and novel dietary and chemical therapeutics.¹ I was interested to learn why soybeans were declared “Nazi beans,” and how Germany became the first nation to recognize lung cancer and mesothelioma as compensable, asbestos-induced occupational diseases. I looked at the rhetoric of cancer research. It includes the use of reversible metaphors such as “cancer...

  7. Chapter Three Physicians as Killers in Nazi Germany: Hadamar, Treblinka, and Auschwitz
    (pp. 59-76)
    Henry Friedlander

    In this essay I deal with physicians who personally committed crimes, not with their mentors, those physicians and scientists who furnished the ideological framework and provided the necessary cover for these crimes, and who can be consideredSchreibtischtäter(bureaucratic, or desk killers). To repeat: I am here concerned with physicians who murdered human beings, thus leaving out those who committed lesser crimes such as, for example, compulsory sterilization, although most graduated from the lesser to the larger crime.

    Various myths have been created to explain the role of physicians in Nazi killing operations. Some authors dealing with Nazi medical crimes have...

  8. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  9. Chapter Four Criminal Physicians in the Third Reich: Toward a Group Portrait
    (pp. 77-92)
    Michael H. Kater

    What is the meaning of “criminal”? TheOxford Universal Dictionarydefines this adjective as “of the nature of or involving a crime, or a grave offense.”¹ How can this definition be applied to a professional group such as German physicians between 1933 and 1945? If we accept that the offense be in violation of our currently adopted value system, then we are talking less about crimes in a wider, universal sense, than about those generated specifically and exclusively by physicians as a corporate group.

    After targeting physicians in the Third Reich as our group of doctors, and employing profession-specific criteria,...

  10. Chapter Five Pathology of Memory: German Medical Science and the Crimes of the Third Reich
    (pp. 93-111)
    William E. Seidelman

    A major development in medicine in the last century was the clinical and pathological elucidation of neuropsychiatric disorders affecting memory and behavior. The singular condition associated with impaired memory is known by the eponym for the German psychiatrist who first described the clinical and pathological entity, Dr. Alois Alzheimer.¹ Alzheimer’s description and definition of dementia occurred within the context of a dynamic intellectual environment comprising the psychiatrists, neurologists, pathologists, universities, hospitals, clinics, and research institutes of Germany. Alzheimer, his specific discovery, the general study of brain disorders and dementia, and the establishment of new psychiatric diagnoses were part of this...

  11. Chapter Six The Legacy of Nazi Medicine in Context
    (pp. 112-127)
    Michael Burleigh

    There is no ideal conclusion in a collection such as this, but there are plenty of dilemmas associated with writing one. Should one merely summarize what has been so cogently expressed before by many of the leading scholars in their respective subdisciplines? But that is surely the proper function of an introduction, and Professors Nicosia and Huener have provided a splendid introduction already. Or should one expand on themes that have been alluded to in passing, or for which no room was found at the time of the book’s conception, but which may well seem necessary at its completion? Which...

  12. Appendix
    (pp. 128-139)
  13. Contributors
    (pp. 140-141)
  14. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 142-150)
  15. Index
    (pp. 151-160)