cover image Karl Brandt: The Nazi Doctor: Medicine and Power in the Third Reich

Karl Brandt: The Nazi Doctor: Medicine and Power in the Third Reich

Ulf Schmidt, . . Continuum, $29.95 (480pp) ISBN 978-1-84725-031-5

Karl Brandt (1904–1948) was for a time the leading medical authority in the Nazi regime. He was responsible for the euthanasia program, in which tens of thousands of handicapped individuals were killed. But that Brandt (who also served for a time as Hitler’s physician) left the details up to subordinates didn’t help him after the war, at Nuremberg, where he was convicted and executed for his crimes. As British historian Schmidt (Justice at Nuremberg: Leo Alexander and the Nazi Doctors’ Trial ) shows, a belief in eugenics, combined with a dash of ambition, motivated Brandt. During the war, he saw it as “legitimate to sacrifice individual human lives in the name of science.” Outside of the diaries he wrote during the Nuremberg trials, which Schmidt had partial access to, Brandt left few writings, so Schmidt is forced to make informed guesses about the degree of Brandt’s involvement in certain projects, such as the gruesome medical experiments conducted on concentration camp inmates, as well as about some of his motivations. Schmidt concludes that whether Brandt backed the genocide of the Jews is almost impossible to know. There’s a lot to wade through, but readers who do will learn about a man of culture and science who turned medicine into a tool of murder. B&w illus., maps. (Aug.)