The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s traveling exhibition “Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race” examines how Nazi leadership, in collaboration with individuals in professions traditionally charged with healing and the public good, used science to help legitimize persecution, murder and ultimately, genocide.
The exhibition was presented by the Central Michigan University College of Medicine and displayed at CMU’s Museum of Cultural and Natural History May 14 through July 1, 2014.
“History shows how trained professionals can take a wrong path — horrendously wrong — if the welfare of patients is not central to a physician’s work,” said Deborah Biggs, associate dean of administration and finance and who teaches the Art in Medicine course for the College of Medicine. “I’ve walked through this exhibit, and it’s powerful, startling. It takes time to process the story.”
The “Deadly Medicine” exhibition traces the Holocaust’s roots from then-contemporary science and pseudo-science of eugenics theory. Supporters of eugenics spanned the globe, embracing the theory that the survival of the fittest could be applied to humans with controls on marriage and reproduction.
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. The Nazi state committed itself to implementing a uniquely racist and anti-Semitic variation of eugenics to build what it considered to be a superior race.
By the end of World War II, 6 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 persons diagnosed as “hereditarily ill” and homosexuals. In German-occupied territories, Poles and others belonging to ethnic groups deemed inferior also were murdered.
This exhibition was made possible by The Lerner Foundation and Eric F. and Lore Ross, with additional support from the Lester Robbins and Sheila Johnson Robbins Traveling and Special Exhibitions Fund established in 1990.