Background Information « top »
Burleigh, Michael, and Wolfang Wippermann. The Racial State: Germany, 1933-1945. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991. (DD 256.5 .B93 1991) [Find in a library near you (external link)]
Provides a general history of Nazi racial policies, with a particular emphasis on the Nazi goal of creating a “racial utopia.” Describes the regime’s murderous activities from euthanasia to the mass murder of Jews and Gypsies in the context of its racial policies.
Haas, François. “German Science and Black Racism--Roots of the Nazi Holocaust.” (external link) FASEB Journal 22, no. 2 (2008): 332-337. (Subject Files) [Find in a library near you (external link)]
Traces the origin of the concept of “racial hygiene” to the work of German physicians and scientists of the late 19th century. Shows how the spread of this idea, based on Social Darwinism, culminated in the Nazi T4 euthanasia program and the extermination camps.
Kater, Michael. Doctors Under Hitler. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1989. (R 510 .K37 1989) [Find in a library near you (external link)]
Chronicles the history of the medical profession’s relationship to the Nazi movement with an emphasis on the changes wrought in the profession due to Nazi racial and social goals. Demonstrates the complicity of many German doctors in the Nazi campaign to remove Jews from professional practice and the willingness of the German medical establishment to collaborate in the regime’s war crimes. Includes a bibliography and index.
Mosse, George L. Toward the Final Solution: A History of European Racism. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1985. (DS 145 .M677 1985) [Find in a library near you (external link)]
Traces the development of racist beliefs in Europe from the eighteenth through the twentieth century showing the intellectual roots of Nazi doctrines regarding racial hygiene and anti-Semitism. Includes reproductions of racist cartoons and illustrations, bibliographic references and an index.
Pross, Christian, and Götz Aly. The Value of the Human Being: Medicine in Germany 1918-1945. Berlin: Arztekammer Berlin, 1991. (R 509 .W472 1991) [Find in a library near you (external link)]
An exhibition catalogue providing an overview of the history of medicine in Weimar and Nazi Germany. Looks particularly at racial science, the treatment of the disabled, and medical experimentation. Copiously illustrated and accompanied by a useful chronology.
Weindling, Paul. Health, Race, and German Politics between National Unification and Nazism, 1870-1945. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993. (RA 418.3.G3 W45 1993) [Find in a library near you (external link)]
Examines the interplay between social Darwinist and eugenic ideas in German political goals for public health and welfare from the mid-nineteenth through the mid-twentieth century. Demonstrates how Germany’s scientific tradition in the treatment of social problems influenced the later more radical “solutions” developed for social and racial goals during the Nazi era. Includes illustrations, a bibliography, and an index.
Zmarzlik, Hans-Günter. “Social Darwinism in Germany, Seen as a Historical Problem.” In Origins of the Holocaust, edited by Michael R. Marrus, 3-42. Westport, CT: Meckler, 1989. (Reference D 810 .J4 N38 1989 v.2) [Find in a library near you (external link)]
Focuses on the influence of Darwinian concepts such as “survival of the fittest” upon turn of the century mainstream anthropological and scientific thought in Germany. Relates how the German scientific community applied these concepts to the social problems associated with poverty and disease in Germany. Includes bibliographic notes. Part of the multi-volume anthology titled The Nazi Holocaust.
Eugenics and Sterilization « top »
Adams, Mark B., editor. The Wellborn Science: Eugenics in Germany, France, Brazil, and Russia. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990. (HQ 751 .W46 1990) [Find in a library near you (external link)]
Compares the history of eugenics in the first half of the twentieth century in four disparate countries to highlight the international nature of the movement and the differing results it achieved depending on the political and scientific traditions of those countries. Includes bibliographic references and an index.
Biesold, Horst. Crying Hands: Eugenics and Deaf People in Nazi Germany. Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press, 1999. (HV 2748 .B5413 1999) [Find in a library near you (external link)]
Uses archival research, institutional studies, and interviews with survivors to describe how the ideas of the racial hygiene movement led to the persecution of deaf people in Nazi Germany. Explores the collaborative system behind the forced sterilization and euthanasia program focused on the deaf and other handicapped people. Includes a chapter on the history and fate of Jewish deaf people in Germany.
Bock, Gisela. “Sterilization and ‘Medical’ Massacres in National Socialist Germany: Ethics, Politics, and the Law.” In Medicine and Modernity: Public Health and Medical Care in Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Germany, edited by Manfred Berg and Geoffrey Cocks, 149-172. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997. (RA 418.3 .G3 M43 1997) [Find in a library near you (external link)]
Examines the historical and legal approach to the Nazi forced sterilization program and how changing political and economic conditions allowed for radicalization of Nazi racial and medical goals to include euthanasia and human experimentation. Part of a collection of essays drawn from a conference on German medical history held at the German Historical Institute in Washington, DC.
Kühl, Stefan. The Nazi Connection: Eugenics, American Racism, and German National Socialism. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994. (HQ 755.5 .U5 K84 1994) [Find in a library near you (external link)]
Outlines the connections between the American and German eugenics movements. Examines the influence of American eugenicists upon the Nazi approach to racial hygiene that lead to the practice of forced sterilization in Germany.
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race. Washington, DC: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 2004. (HQ 755.5 .G3 U55 2004) [Find in a library near you (external link)]
Companion book to the exhibition by the same name held at the United States Holocaust Museum from April 22, 2004 to October 16, 2005. Features numerous photographs, original documents, and drawings from the exhibition. Includes essays describing the history of the German eugenics movement, its influence on the Nazi medical establishment, and how its racial and social views contributed to the Holocaust. Provides a chronology, a guide to further reading, and an index.
Weiss, Sheila Faith. Race Hygiene and National Efficiency: The Eugenics of Wilhelm Schallmayer. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987. (HM 106 .W45 1987) [Find in a library near you (external link)]
Traces the early history of German eugenics through the career of Wilhelm Schallmayer (1857-1919) who along with Alfred Ploetz served as one of the cofounders of the German racial hygiene movement. Includes bibliographic references and an index.
Medical Killing « top »
Aly, Götz, Peter Chroust, and Christian Pross. Cleansing the Fatherland: Nazi Medicine and Racial Hygiene. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994. (R 853 .H8 A42 1994) [Find in a library near you (external link)]
Offers an introduction to the history of medicine under the Nazis that supplements a detailed account of the practice of euthanasia at the hospitals and psychiatric clinics of Nazi Germany. Includes information from primary sources, such as diary entries and letters from doctors involved in euthanasia and medical experiments. Provides many illustrations and photographs as well as bibliographic references.
Benedict, Susan. “Caring While Killing: Nursing in the ‘Euthanasia’ Centers.” In Experience and Expression: Women, the Nazis, and the Holocaust, edited by Elizabeth R. Baer and Myrna Goldenberg, 95-110. Detroit, MI: Wayne State University Press, 2003. (D 804.47 .E86 2003) [Find in a library near you (external link)]
Uses the postwar trial testimony of nurses involved in the euthanasia program at the Meseritz-Obrawalde psychiatric hospital to highlight the matter of fact approach of many perpetrators to medical killing. Includes bibliographic references.
Burleigh, Michael. Death and Deliverance: “Euthanasia” in Germany c. 1900-1945. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994. (R 726 .B87 1994) [Find in a library near you (external link)]
Provides background on the historical development of euthanasia and eugenics in Germany with an emphasis on the Weimar and pre-war Nazi eras. Explores the Nazi perception of an economic benefit to killing disabled people and shows how the Nazis used propaganda to sway public opinion against those with disabilities.
Caplan, Arthur L., editor. When Medicine Went Mad: Bioethics and the Holocaust. Totowa, NJ: Humana Press, 1992. (R 853 .H8 W54 1992) [Find in a library near you (external link)]
A collection of eighteen essays from a 1989 conference on medical ethics and the Holocaust. Focuses particularly on the implications of Nazi medical practices for contemporary controversies regarding eugenics, euthanasia, and medical experimentation. See especially the section titled, “Medical Killing and Euthanasia: Then and Now.”
Friedlander, Henry. The Origins of Nazi Genocide: From Euthanasia to the Final Solution. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995. (DD 256.5 .F739 1995) [Find in a library near you (external link)]
Traces the mass exterminations of the Holocaust back to the first secretive murder of a handicapped child in a Nazi-run medical clinic. Details the development and expansion of the T4 program and examines how the killing methods of euthanasia later evolved into the “Final Solution.”
Gallagher, Hugh Gregory. By Trust Betrayed: Patients, Physicians, and the License to Kill in the Third Reich. Arlington, VA: Vandamere Press, 1995. (R 726 .G35 1995) [Find in a library near you (external link)]
Focuses on the T4 program of medical killing, examining its origins, implementation, and changes in light of public protest. Reviews the response of the legal community and the Christian churches to the program, and analyzes the doctors’ motives for participating in medical killing.
Heberer, Patricia. “Targeting the ‘Unfit’ and Radical Public Health Strategies in Nazi Germany.” In Deaf People in Hitler’s Europe, edited by Donna Ryan and Stan Schuchman, 49-70. Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press, 2002. (HV 2746 .D43 2002) [Find in a library near you (external link)]
Surveys the history of the German medical establishment’s eugenic goals from the sterilization program of the tumultuous interwar wars down to the radicalization of those goals in the murderous T4 and 14f13 euthanasia programs active from 1939 to 1945. Part of a collection of essays and supporting materials drawn from the 1998 conference at Gallaudet University on “Deaf People in Hitler’s Europe, 1933-1945.”
Lifton, Robert Jay. The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide. New York: Basic Books, 1986. (DD 256.8 .M45 L54 1986) [Find in a library near you (external link)]
Explores the psychology of the doctors involved in the Nazi programs of forced sterilization, euthanasia, medical experimentation, and mass killing. Describes the indispensable role physicians and scientists played in developing and carrying out the Holocaust, and examines the process by which they became socialized to killing.
Müller-Hill, Benno. Murderous Science: Elimination by Scientific Selection of Jews, Gypsies, and Others in Germany, 1933-1945. Plainview, NY: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, 1998. (D 804 .G4 M7713 1998) [Find in a library near you (external link)]
Discusses the scientific roots of racism and racial hygiene in Nazi Germany and how these beliefs lead from the sterilization and killing of mental patients to the Holocaust. Includes interviews with the students, assistants and relatives of many of the Nazi scientists involved.
Nicosia, Francis R., and Jonathan Huener. Medicine and Medical Ethics in Nazi Germany: Origins, Practices, Legacies. New York: Berghahn Books, 2002. (R 510 .M385 2002) [Find in a library near you (external link)]
A collection of essays examining the lack of ethical constraint in the medical profession during the Nazi era that allowed for the flourishing of the forced sterilization and euthanasia programs and the further Nazi atrocities associated with medical killing and human experimentation in the camps. Includes photographs, bibliographic references, and an index.
Proctor, Robert. Racial Hygiene: Medicine under the Nazis. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1988. (RA 418 .G3 P76 1988) [Find in a library near you (external link)]
Examines the complicity of the medical profession in the Nazi programs of forced sterilization and euthanasia. Explores the connections between German eugenic theorists, the proponents of racial hygiene, and Nazi medical doctors, all of whom helped the Nazis justify the Holocaust.
Film and Video « top »
Aviram, Nitzan. Healing by Killing [videorecording]. New York: New Yorker Films Video, 1999. (Video Collection) [Find in a library near you (external link)]
Analyzes the role of doctors in the origins of the Holocaust. Shows how the Nazis’ mass killings grew out of the German medical establishment’s willing implementation of euthanasia and other practices with seemingly legitimate ends.
Burleigh, Michael. Selling Murder: The Killing Films of the Third Reich [videorecording]. London: Domino Films, 1991. (Video Collection) [Find in a library near you (external link)]
Looks at the methods by which Nazi Germany worked to eliminate the weak and purify the Aryan race by killing or sterilizing mentally and physically disabled people. Shows excerpts from Nazi propaganda films intended to justify and gain public support for their actions by reason of mercy, cost, or natural selection.
Cohen, Peter. Homo Sapiens 1900 [videorecording]. New York, NY: First Run/Icarus Films, 1999. (Video Collection) [Find in a library near you (external link)]
Examines the history of eugenics, racial hygiene, and the ideas of the “new man,” as developed in the early 20th century in Germany and the Soviet Union. In Germany, race hygiene focused on the body, on corporal beauty, and the ideal form, while in the Soviet Union, eugenic interest focused on the brain and intellect.
Michalczyk, John J. In the Shadow of the Reich: Nazi Medicine [videorecording]. New York: First Run Features, 2003. (DVD Collection) [Find in a library near you (external link)]
Outlines the racial theories and eugenics principles that set the stage for German doctors’ participation in the Nazis’ sterilization and euthanasia programs and later, in the victim selections and medical experiments at the death camps.
Museum Web Resources « top »
Exhibitions: Deadly Medicine
Online component to the Museum’s special exhibition that explores the history of the German eugenics movement and its influence upon Nazi racial and social goals.
Holocaust Encyclopedia: Euthanasia Program
Summarizes the Nazi efforts to systematically kill the institutionalized mentally and physically handicapped. Describes the program’s history, the selection process, and the collaboration of medical personnel. Includes victim statistics, photographs, personal stories, a map, historical film footage, and a list of related links.
Library: Bibliography on Medical Experiments
An annotated online bibliography of works concerned with medical experimentation in the Nazi concentration camps with an emphasis on those experiments perpetrated by doctors in Auschwitz. Includes selected personal narratives from survivors of criminal Nazi medical experiments.
Library: Bibliography on People with Disabilities
Annotated online bibliography of works pertaining to the history of the disabled in Nazi Germany with an emphasis on their persecution by the Nazi regime. Explores the literature on the Nazi forced sterilization and euthanasia programs.
Special Focus: Nazi Persecution of the Disabled
Briefly summarizes the Nazis’ treatment of the disabled during the 1930s and 1940s. Includes interviews (in both audio and text formats) with Robert Wagemann, who narrowly escaped being killed as a child for his disability, and Patricia Heberer, a Museum historian speaking about the history of the Nazi euthanasia program. Also provides related photographs, historical film footage, and links to additional sources of information on the disabled during the Holocaust.
Additional Resources « top »
Ask at the reference desk to see the following subject files containing newspaper and periodical articles:
To search library catalogs or other electronic search tools for materials on Nazi racial science, use the following Library of Congress subject headings to retrieve the most relevant citations:
- Insane, Killing of the--Germany
- Involuntary Sterilization
- National socialism and medicine
- People with mental disabilities--Germany
- Science and state--Germany
Josef Mengele was an SS physician, infamous for his inhumane medical experimentation upon concentration camp prisoners at Auschwitz.
Born on March 16, 1911, in Günzburg, near Ulm, he was the eldest son of Karl Mengele, a prosperous manufacturer of farming implements. In 1935, Mengele earned a Ph.D. in physical anthropology from the University of Munich. In January 1937, at the Institute for Hereditary Biology and Racial Hygiene in Frankfurt, he became the assistant of Dr. Otmar von Verschuer, a leading scientific figure widely known for his research with twins.
In 1937 Mengele joined the Nazi Party. The following year, the same year in which he received his medical degree, he joined the SS. In June 1940, Mengele was drafted into the army, and thereafter volunteered into the medical service of the Waffen-SS (Armed SS). Although documentation is scant and often contradictory regarding Mengele's activities between this time and early 1943, it is clear that he first functioned as a medical expert for the Race and Settlement Main Office [Rasse- und Siedlungshauptamt, or RuSHA] in summer 1940 at the Central Immigration Office [Einwandererstelle] North-East in Posen (today Poznan) and thereafter served as a medical officer with the SS Division “Wiking” (SS Pioneer Battalion V), with which he saw action on the Eastern Front.
Wounded while on campaign, Mengele returned to Germany in January 1943, and began work at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute (KWI) for Anthropology, Human Genetics, and Eugenics, directed by his former mentor von Verschuer. In April of 1943, he received a promotion to the rank of SS captain; this advancement shortly preceded Mengele's transfer to Auschwitz, on May 30, 1943.
During his infamous tenure at the concentration camp, Josef Mengele was not the only physician at Auschwitz, nor was he, as common wisdom often maintains, the highest-ranking physician at the camp; this “distinction” belonged to SS captain Dr. Eduard Wirths, whose position as garrison physician made him responsible in all medical matters for the entire camp complex. Mengele began his career at Auschwitz in the spring of 1943 as the medical officer responsible for Birkenau's “Gypsy camp”; several weeks after its liquidation, Mengele undertook a new position as Chief Camp Physician of Auschwitz II (i.e., Birkenau), in November 1943, still under Wirths' jurisdiction.
Approximately 30 physicians served at Auschwitz during the period in which Mengele was assigned to the camp. As a requisite feature of their “rounds,” medical staff performed “selections” of prisoners on the ramp, determining from among the mass of humanity arriving at Auschwitz who would be retained for work and who would perish immediately in the gas chambers. Known as the “Angel of Death,” or sometimes as the “White Angel,” for his coldly cruel demeanor on the ramp, Mengele is associated more closely with this “selection duty” than any other medical officer at Auschwitz, although by most accounts he performed this task no more often than any of his colleagues. Undoubtedly, this association is partially explained by his postwar notoriety, but the ubiquitous image of Mengele at the ramp in so many survivors' accounts has also to do with the fact that Mengele often appeared “off-duty” in the selection area whenever trainloads of new prisoners arrived at Auschwitz, searching for twins.
Mengele had become interested in utilizing twins for medical research through Verschuer, famous for experimenting with identical and fraternal twins in order to trace the genetic origins of various diseases. During the 1930s, twin research was seen as an ideal tool in weighing the variant factors of human heredity and environment. Mengele, with his mentor, had performed a number of legitimate research protocols using twins as test subjects throughout the 1930s. Now, at Auschwitz, with full license to maim or kill his subjects, Mengele performed a broad range of agonizing and often lethal experiments with Jewish and Roma (“Gypsy”) twins, most of them children.
He had a wide variety of other research interests, including a fascination with heterochromia, a condition in which an individual's two irises differ in coloration. Throughout his stay in Auschwitz, Mengele collected the eyes of his murdered victims, in part to furnish “research material” to colleague Karin Magnussen, a KWI researcher of eye pigmentation. He himself also conducted several experiments in an attempt to unlock the secret of artificially changing eye color. Less famously, he zealously documented in camp inmates the progression of the disease Noma, a type of gangrene which destroys the mucous membrane of the mouth and other tissues.
Mengele firmly endorsed the doctrine of National Socialist racial theory and engaged in a wide spectrum of experiments which aimed to illustrate the lack of resistance among Jews or Roma to various diseases. He also attempted to demonstrate the “degeneration” of Jewish and “Gypsy” blood through the documentation of physical oddities and the collection and harvesting of tissue samples and body parts. Many of his “test subjects” died as a result of the experimentation or were murdered in order to facilitate post-mortem examination.
Like most “scientists” at work in the concentration camp environment, Mengele enlisted the aid of trained medical professionals among the prisoner population to perform the more grisly, or mundane, tasks and to carry out autopsies upon his dead victims. We owe much of our early knowledge of Mengele's activities at Auschwitz to Dr. Miklos Nyiszli, a prisoner-physician who assisted Mengele under duress, and then published his experiences, initially in his native Hungarian, in 1946. (His Auschwitz: A Doctor's Eyewitness Account appeared in English in 1960.)
Josef Mengele had hoped to use the “research” he had garnered in Auschwitz in order to produce his Habilitation, a second, post-doctoral, dissertation required for admission to a university faculty as a professor in German-speaking lands. He never accomplished this objective. Instead, in January 1945, as the Soviet Army advanced through western Poland, Mengele fled Auschwitz. He spent the next few weeks at the Gross-Rosen concentration camp, until its evacuation, and then made his way west, to evade capture by Soviet forces.
In the immediate postwar, Mengele found himself in US custody. Unaware that Mengele's name already stood on a list of wanted war criminals, however, US officials quickly released him. From the summer of 1945 until spring 1949, the physician, under false papers, worked as a farmhand near Rosenheim, Bavaria. At that time, his prosperous family aided his emigration to South America. Mengele settled in Argentina.
As his crimes had been well documented before the International Military Tribunal (IMT) and other postwar courts, West German authorities issued a warrant for Mengele's arrest in 1959, and a request for extradition in 1960. Alarmed by the capture of Adolf Eichmann in Buenos Aires in that same year, Mengele moved to Paraguay and then to Brazil, spending the last years of his life near Sao Pãolo. In declining health, Mengele suffered a stroke while swimming at a vacation resort near Bertioga, Brazil, on February 7, 1979, and drowned. He was buried in a suburb of Sao Pãolo under the fictive name “Wolfgang Gerhard.”
In 1985, German police, working on evidence they had recently confiscated from a Mengele family friend in Günzburg, located Mengele's grave and exhumed his corpse. Brazilian forensic experts thereafter positively identified the remains as Josef Mengele. In 1992, DNA evidence confirmed this conclusion. Mengele had eluded his captors for 34 years.
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