Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race

Exhibit Chronicling Nazi Medicine Opens February 28, 2014

Cruelty in the name of science, as practiced by Germany’s Nazi regime, is the subject of an exhibition produced by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., and hosted by the Health Sciences and Human Services Library at the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB).

The exhibition — “Deadly Medicine” — which includes reproductions of photographs and documents, films, and survivor testimony, traces how the persecution of groups deemed biologically inferior led to the near annihilation of European Jewry in the 20th century. It also challenges viewers to reflect on the present-day interest in genetic manipulation that promotes the possibility of human perfection.

“’Deadly Medicine’ explores the Holocaust’s roots in then-contemporary scientific and pseudo-scientific thought,” explains exhibition curator Susan Bachrach. “At the same time, it touches on complex ethical issues we face today, such as how societies acquire and use scientific knowledge and how they balance the rights of the individual with the needs of the larger community.”

A key part of the exhibition focuses on Eugenics; a pseudo-scientific belief asserting that Charles Darwin’s theories of “survival of the fittest” could be applied to humans. Eugenics supporters believed that through careful controls on marriage and reproduction, a nation’s genetic health could be improved.

“This exhibit is a stark reminder of the dangerous turns that scientific research can take when it proceeds without careful ethical reflection, says University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law Professor Leslie Meltzer Henry, a bioethics scholar. “As we think about scientific progress in the future, and how to prevent atrocities like the ones depicted in the exhibit, our conversations should be guided by thoughtful attention to medical ethics and legal protections for human research subjects.”

The Nazi regime was founded on the conviction that “inferior” races, including the so-called Jewish race, and individuals had to be eliminated from German society so that the fittest “Aryans” could thrive. By the end of World War II, six million Jews had been murdered. Millions of others also became victims of persecution and murder through Nazi “racial hygiene” programs designed to cleanse Germany of “biological threats” to the nation’s “health,” including “foreign-blooded” Roma and Sinti (Gypsies) persons diagnosed as “hereditarily ill,” and homosexuals.

“Deadly Medicine” will be on display at UMB’s Health Sciences and Human Services Library, Feb. 28 – April 30. The library is located at 601 West Lombard St., Baltimore, 21201.

An opening reception will be held March 3, from 5pm-6:30 pm. The exhibition is open to the public at no charge.

If you are interested in bringing a group to view the exhibit or for further questions, contact Aphrodite Bodycomb, (410)-706-8853.

This exhibition is made possible through the support of The David Berg Foundation, The Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation, The Lester Robbins and Sheila Johnson Robbins Traveling and Temporary Exhibitions Fund established in 1990, and The Dorot Foundation.

Visit the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum online exhibit

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