Cleansing the Fatherland: Nazi Medicine and Racial Hygiene

Cleansing the Fatherland: Nazi Medicine and Racial Hygiene

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by Gotz Aly, Peter Chroust, Christian Pross
     
 

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"The chapters in this volume painfully drive home the point that certainly as far as Germany is concerned, the lessons of the Third Reich have not yet been learned... These significant attempts by younger recruits to the larger medical establishment to change things through eye-opening reflection and analysis, however uncomfortable, need support." — Michael H.

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Overview

"The chapters in this volume painfully drive home the point that certainly as far as Germany is concerned, the lessons of the Third Reich have not yet been learned... These significant attempts by younger recruits to the larger medical establishment to change things through eye-opening reflection and analysis, however uncomfortable, need support." — Michael H. Kater, author of Doctors under Hitler, in the foreword.

The infamous Nuremberg Doctors' Trials of 1946-47 revealed horrifying crimes — ranging from grotesque medical experiments on humans to mass murder — committed by physicians and other health care workers in Nazi Germany. But far more common, argue the authors of Cleansing the Fatherland, were the doctors who profited professionally and financially from the killings but were never called to task — and, indeed, were actively shielded by colleagues in postwar German medical organizations.

The authors examine the role of German physicians in such infamous operations as the "T 4" euthanasia program (code-named for the Berlin address of its headquarters at Number 4 Tiergartenstrasse). They also reveal details of countless lesser known killings — all ordered by doctors and all in the name of public health. Maladjusted adolescents, the handicapped, foreign laborers too illto work, even German civilians who suffered mental breakdowns after air raids were "selected for treatment." (One physician who persisted in speaking of "killings" was officially reprimanded for his "negative attitude.")

The book also includes original documents — never before published in English — that give unique and chilling insight into the everydayworkings of Nazi medicine. Among them:

� Minutes from a 1940 meeting of the Conference of German Mayors, at which a Nazi official gives the assembled politicians detailed instructions for the secret burial of murdered mental patients.

� A pre-Nazi era questionnaire sent by the head of a state mental institution to parents of disabled children. (Sample question: "Would you agree to a painless shortening of your child's life after an expert had determined him incurably imbecilic?" Sample answer: "Yes, but I would prefer not to know.")

� The diary of Dr. Hermann Voss, chief anatomist at the Reichs University of Posen (and later a highly respected physician in postwar Germany), who delights in the flowers blooming outside his window and worries that the overstock of Polish cadavers from his Gestapo suppliers might cause his crematory oven to break down.

� Letters of Dr. Friedrich Mennecke, director of the notorious Eichberg Clinic, who writes with cloying sentimentality to the wife he calls "mommy" and comments offhandedly about visiting concentration camps to select "patients" for death.

Today, as reports of mass death in Europe are once again cast in terms of public hygiene, and as euthanasia is advocated — even applauded — on U.S. television, the relevance of what Michael H.Kater here calls "the lessons of the Third Reich" is perhaps greater than ever. Against this background, Cleansing the Fatherland sends a stark message that is difficult to ignore.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
It's no wonder this book caused a flurry when first published in Germany. The authors, who are German, offer compelling evidence that the 350 doctors tried at Nuremberg in 1946-47 were not the so-called black sheep of the German medical profession, but rather a small part of a much larger group of doctors, university professors, scientists and researchers involved in medical crimes. The authors draw their chilling conclusions directly from the archives of mental institutions, hospitals and experimentation centers. An abundance of evidence, sometimes absorbing, sometimes overwhelming, demonstrates how the Nazis employed medicine to ``cleanse'' Germany of the ``sick, alien, and disturbing''-a goal firmly supported by the intelligentsia. By 1939, euthanasia was the method ordained by the Nazis to eliminate the infirm, mentally ill, socially or racially ``inferior'' and anyone unable to work. Hundreds of thousands, including children, were killed while medical professionals profitted. Dr. Hermann Voss, chief anatomist at the Reich University of Posen, turned a handsome profit on the sale of the skeletons and skulls of dead Poles. His diary is an illustration of Hannah Arendt's banality of evil, ``Yesterday, two wagons full of Polish ashes were taken away. Outside my office, the robinias are blooming beautifully, just as in Leipzig.'' Much of this information, which was available at the end of WWII, was suppressed because many of those involved in these heinous crimes still hold leading positions. Readers may be driven to examine their own beliefs concerning the benefits of doctor-assisted suicide, when confronted with a society that takes this seemingly benign idea and turns it into a great evil. (Sept.)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780801847752
Publisher:
Johns Hopkins University Press
Publication date:
09/01/1994
Pages:
312
Product dimensions:
6.24(w) x 9.27(h) x 1.02(d)

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