cover image Cleansing the Fatherland: Nazi Medicine and Racial Hygiene

Cleansing the Fatherland: Nazi Medicine and Racial Hygiene

Gotz Aly, Gvtz Aly. Johns Hopkins University Press, $48.5 (312pp) ISBN 978-0-8018-4775-2

It's no wonder this book caused a flurry when first published in Germany. The authors, who are German, offer compelling evidence that the 350 doctors tried at Nuremberg in 1946-47 were not the so-called black sheep of the German medical profession, but rather a small part of a much larger group of doctors, university professors, scientists and researchers involved in medical crimes. The authors draw their chilling conclusions directly from the archives of mental institutions, hospitals and experimentation centers. An abundance of evidence, sometimes absorbing, sometimes overwhelming, demonstrates how the Nazis employed medicine to ``cleanse'' Germany of the ``sick, alien, and disturbing''-a goal firmly supported by the intelligentsia. By 1939, euthanasia was the method ordained by the Nazis to eliminate the infirm, mentally ill, socially or racially ``inferior'' and anyone unable to work. Hundreds of thousands, including children, were killed while medical professionals profitted. Dr. Hermann Voss, chief anatomist at the Reich University of Posen, turned a handsome profit on the sale of the skeletons and skulls of dead Poles. His diary is an illustration of Hannah Arendt's banality of evil, ``Yesterday, two wagons full of Polish ashes were taken away. Outside my office, the robinias are blooming beautifully, just as in Leipzig.'' Much of this information, which was available at the end of WWII, was suppressed because many of those involved in these heinous crimes still hold leading positions. Readers may be driven to examine their own beliefs concerning the benefits of doctor-assisted suicide, when confronted with a society that takes this seemingly benign idea and turns it into a great evil. (Sept.)