Furthest Right

From horror, knowledge: how Nazi science helps us today

As I discovered when researching a history of the Nazis at war, much of what scientists did under the Third Reich was regarded as “normal science”, subject to standard protocols of peer review in conferences and journals. The infamous Dr Josef Mengele regarded himself as a normal scientist, held seminars to discuss his experiments, got research funds from the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute in Berlin, and reported regularly to his teacher, the eminent scientist Otmar von Verschuer, on his progress.

Mengele’s research at Auschwitz, in particular, shows how the system worked. His experiments there were intended to be a contribution to his second doctorate, the Habilitation, which all German academics needed to qualify for a university professorship. Under Verschuer’s guidance, he selected twins from the trainloads of Jews who arrived and injected them with chemicals to see if they reacted differently from one another. He collected prisoners with physical abnormalities, such as heterochromia — having a different colour in each eye — to investigate if their condition was hereditary. He treated gypsy and other children for starvation-related diseases, using vitamins and sulphonamides, to see if there were hereditary differences in their response to the therapy.

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The answer springs from the fact that medicine was both dominant in the world of science under the Third Reich, and closely allied to the Nazi project. By 1939, almost half of all students at German universities were studying medicine; the others were spread across the whole range of other subjects. The Nazis poured resources into medicine, increasing doctors’ pay, setting up new health care facilities for “Aryan” citizens, creating large numbers of new jobs in the rapidly expanding armed forces and opening new institutes for “racial hygiene” at many universities. By 1939, around two thirds of all German doctors had some connection or other with the Nazi Party.

The Telegraph

We learn through tragedy.

A man finds a new plant, eats it, and dies in horror as his liver disintegrates.

We pass on that knowledge so others may live.

Similarly, we torture lab animals to death every day for our learning.

Similarly, the Nazis mutilated and killed their lab subjects.

The article goes off track here:

What underpinned this behaviour was a widespread belief that some people were less than human, relegated to a lower plane of existence by their inherited degeneracy — or their race. For German doctors, a camp inmate was either a racially inferior subhuman, a vicious criminal, a traitor to the German cause, or more than one of the above. Such beings had no right to life or wellbeing — indeed, it was logical that they should be sacrificed in the interests of the survival and triumph of the German race, just as that race had to be strengthened by the elimination of the inferior, degenerate elements within it. After all, German medical science had uncovered the causes of several major diseases and contributed massively to improving the health of the population over the previous decades. Surely, therefore, it was justified in eliminating negative influences as well?

Yes, the Nazis were anti-Semites, but this author is anti-German — notice how he switched from “Nazi” to “German” in the above paragraph? If you switched from “Black Panthers” to “African-Americans” in the same way, your career would be over.

I don’t support the Holocaust or Nazis. But I also don’t support this idiot’s oppressive “human rights versus science” argument. Doctors perform experiments because they know that no human has a “right” to life. Rights are abstractions, little white lies we tell each other, and have no origin in nature. We sacrifice some so that others may live.

Those firemen who ran into the burning World Trade Center and got exterminated when it fell — did we allow that because they were less than human? No: it’s how the cookie crumbles. Life is full of horror, but from it we can take learning, and make life better.

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