[Skip to Content]
[Skip to Content Landing]
August 1, 1990

Doctors Under Hitler

JAMA. 1990;264(5):633. doi:10.1001/jama.1990.03450050095036

As living memory of the Third Reich slowly dies, interest in permanently chronicling this unprecedented period becomes an imperative. Fortunately, a flurry of recent academic studies, specifically focusing on the health professions, has analyzed elements of the most catastrophic corruption of the medical profession in modern Western history.1,2

Michael Kater, a well-credentialed historian of the Nazi period, has pains-takingly and systematically analyzed the circumstances, people, and forces that changed and motivated German medicine from 1933 to 1945. Previously, hundreds of years of anti-Semitism and xenophobia had created a receptive soil in which racist social and political policy was later able to supplant a highly developed scientific tradition. Rassenkunde, or race hygiene (also referred to as "eugenics"), was a hallmark of the National Socialist doctrine. Nazi leaders adroitly cultivated these theories, originally created by physician-scientists, in the universities and schools of medicine. They also exploited physicians' innate elitism, idealism (the