RACIAL HYGIENE: Medicine Under the Nazis by Robert N. Proctor

RACIAL HYGIENE: Medicine Under the Nazis

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Nazism called itself ""applied biology"" and, in its way, it was. This fascinating study (from a teacher at N.Y.C.'s New School) revises the idea of Nazis as insane fanatics who perverted science to their devious ends and makes the far more frightening proposition that they were rational, even eminent men, and that Nazi science was deeply rooted in ""normal"" science. Racial hygiene, the science that was both inspiration and rationale for National Socialism, was based on Social Darwinism and eugenics. The leaders of this new science--who were respected leaders in German medicine well before Nazism--felt they had found in genetics the opposite of the French Revolution: the provable, natural, and God-given inequality of men. The author shows how these ideas informed Nazism and how--aside from the wholesale emigration of Jews and the small group of resistant socialists--the medical establishment adopted Nazism, in part as an effort to regain a prestige and centrality lost through the bureaucratization and socialization of medicine. They were amply rewarded: medical science became the paramount social science. When the killings--""negative demography""--began, with retarded children, then psychiatric patients, there was no evidence of ""orders""--rather, doctors actually laid claim to the territory: ""The needle belongs in the hand of the doctor,"" as the head of the German Euthanasia Program put it. Even when the definition of ""lives not worth living"" was extended to ethnic and social minorities, there was no resistance. It was the medical authorities who defined Racial Hygiene, and thus labeled Jews a genetic disease that demanded a ""medical"" solution. A valuable, disturbing treatise on the darkest chapter of modern medicine.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1988
ISBN: 0674745787
Publisher: Harvard Univ, Press