United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

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Dr. Susan Bachrach, curator
“Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race” shows how the Nazi Regime under Adolf Hitler aimed to change the genetic make-up of the population through measures known as “racial hygiene”...

Transcript >>

  From 1933 to 1945, Nazi Germany’s government led by Adolf Hitler promoted a nationalism that combined territorial expansion with claims of biological superiority—an “Aryan master race”—and virulent antisemitism. Driven by a racist ideology legitimized by German scientists, the Nazis attempted to eliminate all of Europe’s Jews, ultimately killing six million in the Holocaust. Many others also became victims of persecution and murder in the Nazis’ campaign to cleanse German society of individuals viewed as threats to the “health” of the nation.

To understand how Nazi racial science led ultimately to the Holocaust, read the exhibition narrative and examine some key artifacts that illustrate how eugenics proponents and physicians offered biological solutions to social problems.

SCIENCE AS SALVATION   Weimar Eugenics, 1919–1933  

THE BIOLOGICAL STATE   Nazi Racial Hygiene, 1933–1939  

FINAL SOLUTIONS   Murderous Racial Hygiene, 1939–1945  

  Examine key artifacts


"Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race" shows how the Nazi regime under Adolf Hitler aimed to change the genetic makeup of the population through measures known as "racial hygiene" or "eugenics," and the role that scientists in the biomedical fields -- especially anthropologists, psychiatrists, and geneticists, these were all medically trained experts -- the role they played in legitimizing these policies and helping to implement them. They had embraced these ideas before Hitler took power in 1933 and they would welcome the regime because of its support of eugenics and its support of their research. When Nazi racial hygiene was implemented, the categories of persons and groups regarded as biologically threatening to the health of the nation were greatly expanded to include Jews, Roma (Gypsies), and other minorities. Ultimately, Nazi racial hygiene policies culminated in the Holocaust. Under cover of World War II, and using the war as a pretext, Nazi racial hygiene was radicalized and there was a shift from controlling reproduction and marriage to simply eliminating persons regarded as biological threats. This exhibition should provoke us into thinking about questions today: the relationship between the needs and rights of individuals as weighed against the larger concerns of the society. Scientists dreamed of perfecting human beings by changing the genetic makeup of the population, and so this does offer a cautionary note in that regard and it certainly also speaks to the importance of always respecting the value of the individual and the human dignity of the individual.