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Deadly Medicine

Visitors are exposed to the calculated logic of the Nazi Germany government at the “Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race” exhibit in the Wang Center, which showed how science was used to legitimize persecution and murder.

The exhibit, which opened on April 6 and continues until June 12, “contains historical photographs, artifacts and survivor testimony from the Holocaust, including explicit images of medical experimentation on children,” according to the Deadly Medicine page on the Stony Brook University web site. When visitors first enter the exhibit they’re met with a giant panel explaining the history of natural selection and biological superiority, introducing the concept of Darwinism in the context of Nazi Germany. Turning the corner, one can hear voices booming in German but cannot see the source.

A display of paper mache and plaster masks of men and women from all over Asia showed how scientists traveled the world in the 1920s to measure and document dominant features of different races, trying to find recurring traits. Small screens mounted on the walls play clips of Adolf Hitler speaking to a large audience, and several doctors standing behind him repeating the infamous salute of the Nazi Party.

The accompanying panels show images of doctors experimenting on children, the picture of two young boys with mouthpieces attached to their faces in order to test their lung capacity drawing the most attention.

A walk through the exhibition educates visitors about the Nazi party’s rise to power and the adoption of eugenic ideas in order to promote the “long-headed, fair ‘Nordics’ as ‘eugenically advantageous’ and the idea of an “Aryan master race,” according to the Deadly Medicine pamphlet.

Political pamphlets from the 1930s encouraged “clean marriage” and promoted the mass sterilization program. A poster of a large man of Nordic descent holding up two people with ape-like features on his shoulders prompted German citizens to realize the cost of caring for the mentally ill. The drawing advertised “You Are Sharing the Load! A hereditarily ill person costs 50,000 reichsmarks on average up to the age of sixty.”

Eugenic advocates in Germany started sterilizing and killing the mentally ill as a way of preventing them from reproducing and to save on the costs of special care and education. Some screens were devoted to playing clips of doctors experimenting gassing methods on emaciated people who were deemed mentally ill.

The following panels traced the research done by German scientists and doctors, who all examined citizens who suffered from certain hereditary conditions in order to find the genes that, if eliminated, could lead to the Aryan master race.

Giant floor-to-ceiling charts show how scientists made assertions in their research in order to connect racial hygiene to the elimination of people of Jewish descent. Large charts, made by the Nazi party, promoted certain marriages that would result in offspring of the Aryan race.

The Nazi party started promoting the duty of the German people to only marry the “hereditarily healthy” in order to create a “genetically and racially ‘fit’ nation,” according to the exhibit Eternal People, an example of the propaganda used during the Third Reich.

The end of the exhibit led to the source of the booming voices, a large screen that played interviews of survivors of experimentation and concentration camps. Men and women talked about how they could not scream as they were being tested and how they blame their inability to have children on the Nazi scientists.

The Deadly Medicine exhibit also showcases lectures by experts in history, medicine and ethics, made possibly by the Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care, and Bioethics.

The display is based on the Deadly Medicine exhibition that originally opened at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., and www.ushmm.org/deadlymedicine houses an online version of the exhibit.

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