Sunday, September 18, 2011

Deadly Medicine - Creating the Master Race

Currently at the Bernard Becker Medical Library at Washington University, a traveling exhibition, "Deadly Medicine - Creating the Master Race," is on display from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.  Eugenics – "the study and practice of improving humans through selective reproduction" as defined in the exhibit – is the focus, with particular attention on the atrocities committed in its name during the Holocaust.  It is a fascinating and deeply sad look at the effects genetics, medicine, and anthropology research have on the human population when science policies are misguided. 

The exhibit, which will remain in town until October 30th, 2011, allows the viewer to learn a lot of information about the origin of the eugenics movement as well as the policies that grew from it.  From either a desire to strengthen future generations' health and standing after WWI for Germany or prejudice and fear from rising immigration in the early 1900s for the United States, "positive" and negative eugenics arose, documented in the pamphlets, photos, and videos on display.  In "positive" eugenics, public education campaigns were used to endorse maternal health or promote marriage and children (for the racially fit).  "Ten commandments for choosing a mate" is a publication in the exhibit that exemplifies this.  Negative eugenics is in the form of sterilization.  A very interesting section focuses on eugenics in America, where we learn startling facts such as in 1933, 26 states had laws allowing sterilization based on eugenic reasons.  When we arrive at the Nazi eugenics section, the pictures and videos of Jewish people, institutionalized Germans, or those deemed to be "subnormal" being studied or gassed can get quite emotional.  It is rare for an exhibit to both increase our knowledge about a certain subject and move us on a deeper level, but this one certainly does both and is worth a visit. 

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