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Murderous Medicine

Murderous Medicine

5.0 3
by Naomi Baumslag, Edmund D. Pellegrino (Foreword by), E. D. Pellegrino (Foreword by)

More than 1.5 million concentration camp prisoners died of typhus, a preventable disease. Despite advances in public health measures to control and prevent typhus outbreaks, German doctors, fueled by their racist ideology and their medieval approach to the disease, used the disease as a form of biological warfare against Jews, Slavs, and gypsies. Jewish hospitals


More than 1.5 million concentration camp prisoners died of typhus, a preventable disease. Despite advances in public health measures to control and prevent typhus outbreaks, German doctors, fueled by their racist ideology and their medieval approach to the disease, used the disease as a form of biological warfare against Jews, Slavs, and gypsies. Jewish hospitals in ghettos were burned—along with patients and staff—if typhus was present. In concentration camps, even suspected typhus cases were killed in the gas chambers or through intracardiac injections. Typhus vaccines were tested on prisoners deliberately infected with typhus. Only a handful of doctors were ever prosecuted for their crimes.

Against all odds, Jewish health providers struggled to avoid the worst through innovative steps to save lives. Despite the removal of their equipment, drugs, and other resources, they organized health care and sanitary hygienic measures. Doctors were forced to conceal cases, falsify diagnoses and cause of death in order to save lives. This important study explores the role of the International Red Cross in typhus epidemics during and after World War I and World War II. It details the widespread complicity of foreign companies in the Nazi typhus research. Finally, the author stresses the importance of monitoring and holding accountable the medical profession, researchers, and drug companies that continue to invest in research on biological agents as weapons of war.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The case that the Third Reich engaged in biological warfare using typhus as an ethnic cleansing agent against Jews, gypsies, and Slavs is carefully constructed and fully documented here. Typhus can assume epidemic proportions when living conditions are unsanitary and nutrition is inadequate. Baumslag demonstrates that Nazi Germany deliberately sought to create environments that would engender typhus in the ethnic communities slated for liquidation, and then transported the lice-ridden inhabitants to extermination camps as a public health necessity. That contemporary medicine and public health measures were available to prevent typhus is attested to by the fact that in WW II only 104 cases of typhus were reported in all the Allied armed forces. In contrast, at least 1.5 million prisoners died of typhus as a direct consequence of murder, malpractice, or deliberate negligence by German doctors. Through silence, interest in profit taking, and desire to engage in human experimentation, the International Red Cross, the German pharmaceutical industry, and the German medical establishment, respectively, collaborated with Hitler's Final Solution….Recommended. All academic libraries." - Choice

"Baumslag's book is an impassioned plea for her fellow physicians to remain committed to the traditional medical ethics of the Hippocratic Oath. By exposing the immorality and inhumanity of Nazi doctors, the courageous resistance and dedication of Jewish doctors and the cowardly behavior of the International Red Cross, she hopes to keep alive the memory of an atrocity that we dare not repeat." - H-German

"Baumslag provides useful background information that helps provide the context within which the Nazi regime justified its despicable policies. Thus, Murderous Medicine provides a description of how anti-Semitism influenced the organization and delivery of public health and medical care in the ghettoes of Eastern Europe. It also describes some of the processes by which the Nazi doctors made their decisions to conduct human experiments….The extensive documentation will be helpful to students interested in expanding their knowledge of what must be the worst example of human depravity on record." - American Journal of Epidemiology

"In this book this terrible situation is systemically illuminated. It is written for a broad audience, and is an easily understandable presentation of the epidemiology, medical history and political use of typhus. The essential context and research on typhus is clearly presented. The author also describes the struggle of the Jewish prisoner-doctors against the typhus and their exploitation throughout the Nazi occupation. The analytical distance that Naomi Baumslag, a respected pediatrician from Georgetown University Medical School brings is admirable as is her dedication to human rights and engaging the role of medicine and the political use of public health." - German Medical Journal

"A MUST READ FOR ALL….Naomi paints a grim but very real picture of the pathetic conditions of Jews during the Holocaust. The prisoners were kept in pathetic, unsanitary and overcrowded conditions facilitating the spread of typhus… They were then killed under the garb of preventing further infection to other inmates. The horrendous acts of Nazis thus got passed of as acts of great benevolence, even as international agencies like the Red Cross kept watching helplessly." - Anil Aggrawal's Internet Journal of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology

"[W]e would do well to pay attention yet again to the lessons of history." - The New England Journal of Medicine

"Baumslag documents the complicity by German and Austrian doctors in human experiments and genocide through the exploration of typhus and biological warfare." - SciTech Book News

"Murderous Medicine is thorough, profusely and admirably illustrated and tackles the medical issues clearly." - The Jerusalem Post

"Murderous Medicine is an important book, a valuable contribution to the literature about Nazi medicine (the qualification is deliberate, as the Nazis' medicine and experiments were neither; they were bestial and torturous, ethically and morally bankrupt). The book should occupy a place on the shelf….Murderous Medicine forces us to remember, and hopefully to reflect….Today's headlines and newscasts remind us that we still have much to remember and learn. That is why this book is important. We are all responsible." - JAMA Journal of the American Medical Association

"[T]hose who continue to ponder Nazi medical atrocities and want to reflect on the moral failures of Nazi doctors, pharmaceutical companies, and humanitarian organizations will find this book useful." - JCI The Journal of Clinical Investigation

"In Murderous Medicine Naomi Baumslag documents the complicity of Nazi doctors and pharmaceutical companies in murderous medical experiments related to epidemic typhus to further Jewish genocide….Baumslag argues that doctors pressured Nazi officials to proceed swiftly to quarantine and ghettoization to further the eradication of the disease - not typhus, but the Jews themselves. Typhus prevention rituals, including shaving and gassing, were used under the subterfuge of providing health care. Several million Jews were murdered as a direct consequence. Underlining the point that the goal was to kill Jews, she notes, with all their barbaric and unethical experiments the German researchers were unable to control typhus and get rid of lice. Jews were left in a diseased environment and doomed to die. It is an important story, and one well worth documenting." - Journal of Clinical Medicine

"Baumslag explores in impressive detail how typhus was characterised by Nazis as a Jewish plague." - The Lancet

Product Details

ABC-CLIO, Incorporated
Publication date:
Edition description:
New Edition
Product dimensions:
6.14(w) x 9.21(h) x 0.69(d)

What People are Saying About This

Edmund Pellegrino
"The central message here is the betrayal of the medical profession of its trust as a healing profession. Evil can never be done so that good may come of it. How often is that dictum violated with the Nazis and the other twentieth century physicians who have allowed arguments, from survival, patriotism, or exigency to drown out the voice of ethics."
Solon Beinfeld
"Baumslag offers a wide range of disturbing material dealing with the perversion and abandonment of medical and humanitarian ideals on the part of those sworn to uphold them: in the first instance the German medical and scientific community but also international organizations like the Red Cross. Written with passionate anger for those who betrayed their calling, Baumslag is equally passionate in her praise for those in the ghettoes and in camps who struggled to do all they could to protect inmates. At the same time, she gives the general reader a lively and informative introduction to the complex interrelation of war and disease."

Meet the Author

Naomi Baumslag, M.D., M.P.H., is a Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at the Georgetown University Medical School.

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Murderous Medicine 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
TaniaHeller More than 1 year ago
This powerful book by Naomi Baumslag is a strong reminder of the Nazi atrocities and the horrific medical experimentation perpetrated during World War II. It is an important read for all medical students and doctors. This book will also be useful to anyone concerned with humanitarianism, human rights and the ethical practice of medicine.
Guest More than 1 year ago
MURDEROUS MEDICINE advances contemporary scholarship on Nazi doctors (Lifton, Proctor et al.), offering a groundbreaking and thorough investigation of the dangerous - and preventable - disease, typhus. Through deception, complicity, inhumanity and a disregard for professional standards, Nazi medical personnel created the conditions for typhus and perpetuated epidemics in the ghettos and camps. As a result, 1.5 million prisoners died of the disease. The book is profusely illustrated and referenced with examples of Dr. Baumslag's impressive research in international archives.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a book which will appeal to those interested in medicine, the holocaust, social issues or just a very good read. Baumslag writes in a clear, lucid style and her research is meticulous. This is an IMPORTANT book that I believe every physician and medical student, every healthcare worker and policy maker should read. But for the rest of us, it is a thought provoking subject which will stay with us for a long time after we put it down. It is a page turner that spells out facts of which I was unaware: how typhus was spread around the world, when its cause was known, when treatment was available and how this knowledge was used or ignored and why. It tells of financial influences on doctors and treatment. It names international companies and nations and reveals their roles during the holocaust. Baumslag has found documentation to support these revelations, which are sometimes jaw-dropping. For me, this was a very moving book, which has changed how I look at doctors, diseases and current social and political issues.