Harriet S.MeyerMD, Contributing EditorJonathan D.EldredgeMLS, PhD, Journal Review EditorRobertHoganMD, adviser for new media
American understanding of the events and cataclysms that engulfed Europe in the 20th century, including the Holocaust, is generally meager and narrow. As living memory dies, and as the magnitude of those events continues to defy comprehension, many Americans, including physicians, remain notably unaffected.
Although perhaps shocked and incredulous about this period, they are also deluded by the belief that this horror was uniquely a Nazi problem or, perhaps, a European catastrophe, but nothing that Americans, ultimately, can truly relate to. Professor John Michalczyk, Director of Film Studies at Boston College, sharply and forcefully shatters that delusion with In The Shadow of the Reich: Nazi Medicine, a 1-hour documentary completed for the 50th anniversary of the Nuremberg Physicians Trial of 1946-1947. The film informs us that, in fact, America in the early 20th century also fell under National Socialism's shadow, and, in some ironic and incredible ways, reflected and even inspired racist theories with social practice and scientific study. The common ground—or quicksand—was the eugenics movement, a form of social Darwinism, which argued that undesirable biologic and even social behaviors could be eliminated genetically, primarily through sterilization.
Nazi MedicineIn the Shadow of the Reich: Nazi Medicine. JAMA. 1998;279(18):1496. doi:10.1001/jama.279.18.1496-JBK0513-5-1