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"Deadly Medicine: German Doctors during the Nazi Regime"

In January the Ghetto Fighters' House, in cooperation with the Faculty of Medicine of the Technion, hosted a seminar on "Deadly Medicine" in which over 200 medical students participated. The seminar dealt with the lessons that doctors today need to learn from the actions taken by the medical profession during the Nazi Regime.

At the center of the discussion at the seminar was the recruitment of the medical field in Germany to the Nazi ideology, making doctors and medical professionals a central tool in implementing a euthanasia policy and later in the final solution against European Jewry, Roma, Homosexuals and other groups. 

Dr. Tessa Schloss, a general practitioner and head on Medicine and the Holocaust at the School of Medicine at the Technion, discussed ethics in medical institutions in Germany between 1933-1945. She has shown that, in contrast to the popular explanation that German doctors acted unethically, they actually had a code of ethics, though distorted, that was applicable to specific populations and correlated with the ideology in which they believed. Professor Israel Strauss, a psychiatrist by professions, is the director of community outreach at the Be'er Yaakov hospital, and a member of the Board of Ethics in the Medical Union, talked about the mentally ill during the Nazi period and described how the T4 program of forced euthanasia, named after the street address Tiergarten 4, where the program was centered, was implemented. Prof. Strauss showed how the program could not be done without the full cooperation of psychiatrists. In October 1939, immediately after the outbreak of WWII, Hitler sent out a secret decree that allowed doctors to euthanize patients who were not curable. Many people fit this criterion, including the mentally ill, people with chronic illnesses, and the mentally challenged. 

Dr. Omer Goldstein, one of the coordinators of the conference, is a gastroenterologist at Bnei Zion Hospital and together with Dr. Schloss, organized the course on the Holocaust and Medicine. He talked about the personality of Dr. Herta Oberheuser, who performed gruesome experiments in the Ravensbrück concentration camp.  Oberheuser was under the supervision of Dr. Karl Gebhardt and performed experiments in which she deliberately inflicting wounds. 

Professor Shmuel Reis, whose specialty is family medicine, is the academic director of the Education Center of Hadassah Hospital and also directs the department of professional development at the Galilee branch of the Bar Ilan Medical School. He discussed the importance of ethics education in the department of medicine and on the characteristics of the future doctor. 

During the panel session, the conference lecturers, Professor Shilo and other guests discussed present-day medical dilemmas like forced feeding and the criteria for abortions.

 

The audience participants, both students and guests, toured the temporary exhibition "Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race" that is currently on display at the Ghetto Fighters' House. The exhibit is on loan from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

The conference was made possible with the support of the vice-president of the Technion, Boaz Golani, and the Dean of the Medical Department, Professor Eliezer Shalev. The participants included second and third year medical students and many guests from the medical school faculties in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and from the Israel Medical Association Ethics Board. 

 

 

 

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