Day 27: Deadly Medicine – Creating the Master Race
Since my friend Maggie works as a biologist in the next building over she agreed to meet me at this exhibit when she got off work. The exhibit was at the Taubman Science Library – which was nice and empty since it is U of M’s spring break.
The first part of the exhibit was on the idea of eugenics.
For those of you who don’t know, eugenics is the pseudo-science of race. Back in the day it was defined as, “the study and practice of improving humans through selective reproduction.”
In the United States eugenics was linked to the idea of social Darwinism (social welfare interfered with natural selection- the poor should starve).
Where eugenics really found a home, however, was in Germany. Hitler and the Nazi regime loved eugenics. It was the perfect justification for their “final solution.” It was interesting when the exhibit explained that German doctors supported eugenics and Nazis as a way to eliminate Jewish doctors from the over-crowded medical profession.
As a 20th century historian there was nothing here that was all that surprising or new to me. It was a fascinating exhibit and had a lot of interesting pictures; interesting and disturbing pictures.
One thing I did learn was that the Nazi’s were waiting to implement their “euthanasia” policy until after the war started because they knew there would be a public outcry. The first group that they targeted were children, mostly non-Jewish, who were born with physical and mental disabilities. That’s messed up.
I always find pictures of Nazi’s outside of their uniform’s doing Nazi things particularly disturbing. It somehow drives home the fact that they were just normal people. In their uniform it’s easier to think that they were different from me, but to see pictures of people who committed some of the worst atrocities of all time laughing and drinking and looking happy is just so very creepy.
I think Maggie, as a scientist, was extra horrified. She said that she was shocked at the end of the exhibit where they talked about how many of the scientists who committed horrible atrocities went on to have long careers, sometimes based on research and samples they collected under Nazi rule.
Neither of us realized that Mengele, the most famous Nazi “scientist,” was free in exile in South America until his death in 1979.
I liked this exhibit, though I don’t know if I necessarily enjoyed it, and I do recommend it. It’s on loan from the Holocaust Museum in DC and will be at the library for another few weeks.
Tomorrow I’m taking the day off to grade midterms but Katie is going to a seminar on hip pain. I’m looking forward to reading about that one.