Learning from the past: medicine and the Holocaust.

Shmuel P. Reis*, Hedy S. Wald

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debate

9 Scopus citations
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)110-111
Number of pages2
Issue number9684
StatePublished - 11 Jul 2009

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
“The time is not far distant when I shall be able to say that one doctor, with, perhaps, ten assistants can probably effect several hundred, if not one thousand sterilisations on a single day.” So said physician Carl Clauberg to Heinrich Himmler on June 7, 1943. During the Third Reich, the language, goals, and means of implementing a racial hygiene ideology to ensure the annihilation of “inferior races”—including the search for a rapid mass sterilisation method—were supplied by physicians and scientists. The collaboration between Josef Mengele and Otmar von Verschuer, for example, illustrates how Nazi medicine extended from the individual to the institutional level. In his infamous Auschwitz twin studies, Mengele sent tissue specimens from his victims, who had been killed for the sake of correlating clinical and experimental data with histopathological findings, to his mentor von Verschuer, Director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Anthropology, Human Genetics, and Eugenics in Berlin. Von Verschuer, clearly stating the location of the study, applied for and obtained funding from Deutsche Froschungsgemeinschaft, the main German research fund. Mengele's acts did not exist in isolation: they were part of a circle of involvement that encompassed a national scientific funding agency, a major research institution, and a university professor.

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