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Nazi Medicine: From Encouraging Birth Rates to Oppression and Murder

In 1924, Adolph Hitler wrote in his book Mein Kampf (My Struggle): “The national state . . . must declare the child to be the most precious treasure of the people. It must see to it that only the healthy beget children. . . “

Two items in the archives of artifacts at the Ghetto Fighters’ House testify to this statement. The first is a cross-shaped badge dated December 16, 1938, which was distributed on Mother’s Day in Germany and which bears the signature of Hitler. The second is the Honor Cross of German Motherhood, which was awarded, from 1939 onwards, to mothers with at least four children. In addition to encouraging childbirth, which also reflected the growing need for soldiers, the Nazi regime implemented Hitler’s vision in other ways.  Many German mothers who had been deemed “genetically flawed” were not only barred from receiving such awards, they quickly became victims of cruel sterilization experiments. These measures precisely echoed Hitler’s words,  “The state must act as the guardian of a millennial future in the face of which the wishes and the selfishness of the individual must appear as nothing. . . . It must put the most modern medical means in the service of this knowledge.”

 

The deadly and tragic connection between the state, medicine, and modernity is at the core of the new exhibition at the Ghetto Fighters’ House, “Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race.” The exhibition, on loan from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., vividly depicts one of the darkest episodes in the history of mankind: the manner in which the Nazi regime succeeded in recruiting top doctors and scientists in the service of its needs driven by legitimizing racial ideology, and doctrines such as “the master race” and the “thousand-year Reich” as well as the honors and recognition it gave to their murderous projects. 

The growth of medical research in the first half of the twentieth century across the world, the treatment of genetic diseases, and the moral issues related to eugenics programs presented fruitful fields for German doctors.  But this was not enough. The Nazi regime also wanted to recruit public opinion to this end—in addition to their satanic propaganda against German Jews, the Nazis implemented a similar campaign against German citizens whom they defined as “anti-social” and a burden to the taxpayer.  Thus, thousands of physically handicapped, mentally ill, and mentally backward individuals became the first victims of Nazi medical murders that were carried out under the name of “euthanasia.” This had taken place before the outbreak of WWII.

With the occupation of Poland, and later of Soviet territories, the last moral barriers collapsed for German doctors and scientists. They proceeded to implement the same “procedures” against millions of Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, and all those deemed unworthy of living in the eyes of the Nazi regime.

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