Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Ottawa Exhibition - Deadly Medicine: Creating The Master Race


The Canadian War Museum announced the opening of the special exhibition, Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race. The exhibition, organized and circulated by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, examines how eugenics — the belief that humanity can be improved by encouraging some people to have children, while preventing others from doing so — was seized upon by the Nazis to further their vision of creating a master race.

“This exhibition provides visitors with an opportunity to explore the origins and rationale for Nazi Germany’s racial policies and to understand how such policies contributed to the Holocaust,” stated Mark O’Neill, the War Museum’s Director General.

The study of eugenics was embraced in Germany by a Nazi dictatorship determined to build a master race and to rid German society of people it deemed inferior or perceived as threats to the German nation. Nazis considered Jews the prime threat to “Aryan racial purity”. Through a powerful collection of artifacts, powerful images and moving personal testimonies, Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race explores every aspect in the development of Nazi eugenics: the use of callipers and eye-colour charts to measure “human value”; the forced sterilization of the mentally ill and the disabled; the killings of infants, children, and adults under the guise of euthanasia or mercy killing; and medical experimentation on those deemed inferior.

The exhibition culminates with the targeting and murder of approximately six million Jews in the Holocaust. Many others also became victims of persecution and murder during the Nazis’ campaign to “cleanse” German society of individuals they viewed as threats to the nation’s “health”. Throughout, the exhibition highlights the central role played by public health workers, doctors, research scientists and other professionals in the implementation of Nazi eugenic policies.

Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race, is a special exhibition organized and circulated by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. It is sponsored in part by The Samberg Family Foundation, the Dorot Foundation, the Viterbi Family Foundation of the Jewish Community Foundation of San Diego, and the Rosenbluth Family — Al, Sylvia, Bill and Jerry. Additional support was provided by the Takiff Family Foundation and the David Berg Foundation.

Deadly Medicine, a special exhibition created by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., allows visitors to explore in greater detail the nature of the Nazi regime and provides wider context for the Canadian experience of the Second World War.

In the early decades of the twentieth century, eugenics promised a better society, with supporters claiming it would reduce the incidence of physical and mental infirmity and help eliminate poverty and crime. Drawing on wide public support, some parts of the United States, two Canadian provinces, and a number of European countries introduced laws authorizing the forced sterilization of many thousands of people considered physically and mentally unfit.

The exhibition explores Nazism’s roots in biology and genetics, and examines the role played by German physicians, scientists, public health officials, academic experts, and others in the Nazi racial eugenics program that culminated in the Holocaust. Deadly Medicine chronicles how, during the Second World War, the Nazi leadership — in its zeal to find biological solutions for social problems — worked with individuals in professions traditionally charged with healing and the public good to legitimize persecution, murder and, ultimately, genocide.

Deadly Medicine begins with an examination of the promotion and implementation of the ideas of eugenics, also known as “racial hygiene”, in Germany during the period of social, economic and political crisis following the First World War. The exhibition shows that these ideas, part of an international phenomenon, helped inform public health policies in many countries, including the United States and Canada. From 1933 to 1945, Germany’s Nazi party, with the support of much of the German scientific and medical community, absorbed eugenic ideas into its ideology based on a nationalism that combined territorial expansion with claims of biological superiority— an “Aryan master race”.

An increasingly radicalized Nazi racial hygiene program shifted from simply controlling reproduction and marriage to justifying and perpetrating the murder of those regarded as biological threats to the nation’s well-being. Driven by virulent anti-Semitism, the Nazi regime expanded this programme of mass killing from those deemed biologically unfit to those deemed “racially” unfit. As the Second World War raged, this culminated in an attempt to eliminate all of Europe’s Jews, six million of whom ultimately perished 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.

The exhibition was first shown at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, from April 2004 to May 2006, and has been exhibited at the following museums: the Science Museum of Minnesota, with the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, University of Minnesota (St. Paul, MN); The Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage (Beachwood, OH); the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Global Health Odyssey in the Tom Harkin Global Communications Center, with The William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum (Atlanta, GA); The Andy Warhol Museum (Pittsburgh, PA); and the Deutsches Hygiene-Museum (Dresden, Germany).

Deadly Medicine can be seen until November 11, 2008 at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa. -- www.civilization.ca