“IF ONE IMAGINES . . . A BATTLEFIELD COVERED WITH THOUSANDS OF DEAD YOUTHS . . . AND THEN OUR INSTITUTIONS FOR IDIOTS AND THEIR CARE . . ., ONE IS MOST APPALLED BY . . . . THE SACRIFICE OF THE BEST OF HUMANITY WHILE THE BEST CARE IS LAVISHED ON LIFE OF NEGATIVE WORTH.” KARL BINDING AND ALFRED HOCHE, AUTHORIZATION OF THE DESTRUCTION OF LIFE UNWORTHY OF LIFE, LEIPZIG, 1920
“TO MY STARTLED DISMAY, I FOUND MYSELF UNDERSTANDING WHY SO MUCH OF THE GERMAN MEDICAL ESTABLISHMENT ACTED AS IT DID. I REALIZED THAT, GIVEN THE CIRCUMSTANCES, I MIGHT HAVE DONE THE SAME . . . . WHAT WE LEARN FROM HISTORY COMES FAR LESS IN STUDYING THE EVENTS THAN IN THE RECOGNITION OF HUMAN MOTIVATION—AND THE ETERNAL NATURE OF HUMAN FRAILTY.” DR. SHERWIN B. NULAND, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR AT THE NEW REPUBLIC, SEPTEMBER 2004 REVIEW OF DEADLY MEDICINE: CREATING THE MASTER RACE EXHIBITION.
Medical examination in Alsterdorf, an institution for mentally retarded persons in Hamburg, Germany, 1931.
Evangelische Stiftung Alsterdorf, Hamburg
Dr. Eugen Fischer
Director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Anthropology, Human Heredity, and Eugenics from 1927 to 1942, Fischer authored a 1913 study of the Mischlinge (racially mixed) children of Dutch men and Hottentot women in German southwest Africa. Fischer opposed “racial mixing,” arguing that “Negro blood” was of “lesser value” and that mixing it with “white blood” would bring about the demise of European culture. After 1933, Fischer adapted his institute’s activities to serve Nazi antisemitic policies. He taught courses for SS doctors, served as a judge on Berlin’s Hereditary Health Court, and provided hundreds of opinions on the paternity and “racial purity” of individuals, including the Mischlinge offspring of Jewish and non-Jewish German couples.
[POSTWAR CAREER] Fischer retired in 1942 as Director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Anthropology, Human Heredity, and Eugenics. After the war he worked to secure university teaching positions for many of his former students (including Otmar von Verschuer). As professor emeritus at the university of Freiburg, Fischer continued to lecture and publish articles in anthropological journals. He died in 1967.
Dr. Julius Hallervorden
A respected neuro-pathologist and head of the Histopathology Department of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Brain Research in Berlin, Hallervorden received hundreds of human brains extracted from “euthanasia” victims. Many were children killed at the Brandenburg-Görden clinic where, at least on one occasion, Hallervorden himself removed their brains. He later described these specimens to a colleague as “wonderful material . . . feebleminded, malformations, and early infantile disease.”
[POSTWAR CAREER] After the war Hallervorden held a neurological research position at the Max Planck Institute in Berlin. At the Brain Research Institute in Frankfurt, Hallervorden’s specimens, including brains from the “euthanasia” program, were used for research purposes until 1990, when they were buried in a Munich cemetery.
Dr. Fritz Lenz
A medically trained geneticist, after 1933 Lenz headed the Department of Racial Hygiene at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute in Berlin and sat on the “Committee of Experts for Population and Racial Policy,” which endorsed Nazi eugenic laws. As early as 1917, Lenz had envisioned Germany’s future in expanded eastern territories. Viewing Slavs as an undesirable, racial element that threatened to “overrun the superior [German] Volk,” Lenz advised the SS in 1940: “The resettlement of the eastern zone is… the most consequential task of racial policy. It will determine the racial character of the population living there for centuries to come.”
[POSTWAR CAREER] From 1946 to1957, Lenz was Director of the Institute for Human Genetics, University of Göttingen. He continued to publish into the 1970s. Lenz died in 1976.
Dr. Robert Ritter
The largest study of Gypsies was undertaken by Dr. Robert Ritter, a child psychologist and specialist in juvenile delinquency. Ritter and his team took physical measurements and blood samples and constructed detailed genealogies of Gypsies in jails, concentration camps, and their own encampments. Ritter’s index of the Gypsy population was later used by the SS to round up Gypsies for deportation to the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp.
[POSTWAR CAREER] After the war Ritter was employed as a psychiatrist for the Frankfurt Public Health Office. Accusations from Gypsy survivors prompted the city's public prosecutor to launch an inquiry into Ritter’s activities. The case was closed in 1950, after two years, on the grounds of insufficient evidence. Ritter died in 1951.
Dr. Ernst Rüdin
One of the major figures in German psychiatry, genetics, and eugenics in the first half of the 20th century, Rüdin began his career in psychiatry in Munich. He amassed a vast collection of patient genealogies and concluded that mental disorders were genetic and could be predicted and averted through sterilization. In 1931, he became the director of the government-funded Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Psychiatry in Munich. Believing one of the key dangers facing Germany was the growing number of mentally “unfit,” Rüdin helped draft the Nazi regime’s sterilization law “for the Prevention of Genetically Diseased Offspring”and wrote its official commentary.
[POSTWAR CAREER] Claiming that he was a scientist and not a politician, Rüdin was denazified and classified a nominal party member. The psychiatrist who helped develop the Nazi mass sterilization law died in retirement in 1952.
Dr. Otmar Von Verschuer
As the head of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute’s Department for Human Heredity, Verschuer, a physician and geneticist, examined hundreds of pairs of twins to study whether criminality, feeble-mindedness, tuberculosis, and cancer were inheritable. In 1927, he recommended the forced sterilization of the “mentally and morally subnormal.” Once a member of an ultra-nationalist paramilitary Freikorps unit of World War I veterans, Verschuer typified those academics whose interest in Germany’s “national regeneration” provided motivation for their research.
[POSTWAR CAREER] Verschuer was briefly interned by the Allies in 1946. In 1951 the famous specialist in twin research accepted a position at the University of Münster where he established one of West Germany’s largest genetic research centers. Verschuer retired in 1965 and died in 1969.
Dr. Ernst Wentzler
Wentzler’s pediatric clinic in Berlin served many wealthy families, as well as such high ranking Nazi officials as General Field Marshall Hermann Göring. Although Wentzler had developed methods to treat premature infants or children with severe birth defects (including an incubator dubbed the “Wentzler warmer”), he also supported ending the lives of the “incurably ill.” From 1939 to 1945, Wentzler served as a primary coordinator of the pediatric “euthanasia” program, evaluating patient forms and ordering the killing of several thousand children.
[POSTWAR CAREER] In August 1945 Wentzler left Berlin and returned to his hometown, where he continued his pediatric practice. He was questioned by the courts on numerous occasions regarding his role in the children’s “euthanasia” program but was never formally prosecuted. Wentzler died in 1973.
Dr. Carl Clauberg
Carl Clauberg conducted cruel experiments at Auschwitz in his mission to develop an efficient, inexpensive method of mass sterilization.
Instytut Pamieci Narodowej—Komisja Scigania Zbrodni przeciwko Narodowi Polskiemu, Warsaw/United States Holocaust Memorial Museum #UN433
Early in his career as a research gynecologist, Carl Clauberg studied treatments to help infertile women conceive. In 1943 and 1944, on the authorization of SS chief Heinrich Himmler, Clauberg conducted experiments at Auschwitz intended to develop a method of mass sterilization. Using some 700, mostly Jewish women as subjects, he injected toxins into the uterus causing severe pain and sometimes death. He also conducted experiments on women in Ravensbrück concentration camp.
[POSTWAR JUSTICE] Clauberg was arrested by Soviet authorities and was tried and sentenced to 25 years’ imprisonment for his crimes related to sterilization experiments in the camps. He was released in 1955 as part of a German-Soviet repatriation agreement. Re-arrested by German police, Clauberg died before his trial began in 1957.
“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 STERILIZATIONS ON A SINGLE DAY.”
PHYSICIAN CARL CLAUBERG TO SS CHIEF HEINRICH HIMMLER, JUNE 7, 1943
Dr. Paul Nitsche
A founding member of the German Racial Hygiene Society, the prominent psychiatrist Nitsche long combined the advocacy of treatment, including occupational and electroshock therapy, for “fitter” patients with support for “mercy death” for “incurables.” A member of the Nazi Party since May 1933, he served as deputy, then head, of the T-4 medical office, the division charged with selecting patients for transfer to T-4 facilities.
[POSTWAR JUSTICE] In 1947, Nitsche was placed on trial in Dresden by East German authorities for his crimes in the T-4 "euthanasia" program. The psychiatrist received the death penalty and was executed in 1948.
Dr. Josef Mengele
Holding two doctoral degrees, in anthropology and genetic medicine, Mengele worked in 1941 with the Genealogical Section of the SS Race and Resettlement Office in Posen, screening persons for hereditary and racial fitness. In 1942 he joined the Waffen SS and was wounded in combat. Posted to Auschwitz in 1943, Mengele took rotations with other SS doctors at the unloading ramps, dispatching Jews to the gas chambers. Mengele also conducted experiments using Jewish and Gypsy twin subjects. He either killed or ordered killed some of his subjects so that organs could be harvested for study.
[POSTWAR FLIGHT] Mengele was released from a U.S. detention center at the end of the war, and fled abroad. The anthropologist and geneticist who conducted research on twins and other captive subjects at Auschwitz remained in hiding in Argentina and Brazil until his death in 1979.
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