Wednesday, June 17, 2009

See Phil run. Run Phil, run!

So, on my recent hiatus from school, I have decided that I needed to do something productive. I have begun running in the mornings. There is a nice track circling a soccer field down the street that opens at seven in the morning. Being a track, it will be very easy to keep up with any progress that I make.

The Jewish Museum in Berlin recently had a special exhibit titled, "Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race", which dealt with eugenics and medical experimentation. It was very interesting. Eugenics was very popular at the turn of the century and research was conducted in many places, including Japan, England, United States, and various other countries around the globe. There was generally not an emphasis on a superior race in the field of eugenics, but it is obvious how these types of studies could lead to such beliefs. Typically there was more of a desire to remove disease and genetic abnormalities from a society. German research into eugenics had been going on for over thirty years before it was adopted as a policy by the Nazi regime. Of course, the Nazis considered the Nordic race superior, and people involved in German eugenics tended to follow along with this idea as it became more and more accepted. The exhibit started out with an introduction to the concepts and history of eugenics. Lots of studies were conducted to find out which illnesses and mental/physical handicaps were genetically inherited. Identical twins were often the subject of research, because the fact that they are genetically identical led to the hypothesis that if one twin was handicapped in some form, then the other should be as well. From there, the exhibit led into the the era when the Nazis began to adopt aspects of this research. The idea was that the impure and unable were hindering society, and that they would wipe out the foundations of a strong nation. The Nazis even blamed them for Germany's defeat during the first world war. People were in a position where these ideas seemed to make sense. Hitler knew that his ideas wouldn't be as accepted during peace time, so it wasn't until the second war that he enacted so many annihilation policies. The infamous Aktion T4, where buses took children and other patients of mental and handicapped hospitals to "special treatment" centers, was just one such program resulting from these policies. In these centers patients were gassed, injected, experimented on, and the bodies were either dismembered so parts could be shipped to researchers, or simply burnt. False letters of failed treatment and consolation were sent to the families. Strong opposition from the Catholic church ultimately brought the T4 program to an end. The exhibit showed photos and documented several patient cases. At the end of the exhibit, there was a justice section that showed what happened to many of the prominent leaders of the wartime eugenics programs, as well as doctors, anthropologists, psychologists, professors, and military figures that were involved with these atrocities during the second world war.

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