A look into the Nazi regime’s genocide of millions of Jews and other minorities through "racial hygiene" is illustrated in the latest exhibition at The Andy Warhol Museum. Contemporary ethical issues such as applied genetic research and medically-assisted suicide are evoked through this historic tale of "science as salvation" during the Holocaust. Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race presents a look into the murder of six million Jews in the name of applied biology. Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race will be presented at The Andy Warhol Museum from December 17 through March 18, 2007. The exhibition explores both the then-contemporary scientific and pseudo-scientific thought of human genetic makeup that lie at the root of the Holocaust.
Early theories of “eugenics” arose from Charles Darwin’s “survival of the fittest,” and its application to humans in eliminating those seen as “inferior” to the population. Heightened awareness about the spread of crime, social unrest and disease during the late 19th and early 20th centuries led to many proponents of this theory, including leaders and citizens in the United States. To many, eugenics seemed to offer a solution - in the name of science.
The theory that was once proposed to improve public health and reduce human suffering was exploited by the Nazi regime in justifying the mass murder of Jews and other minorities. The seemingly positive aspects of eugenics such as measures to increase the birth rate paralleled the mass sterilization of the “feebleminded,” mentally ill, and others with alleged genetic defects. The exhibition portrays a radicalized form of eugenics and its pivotal role in the racist ideology the Holocaust was built upon, as seen in a chilling statement by Adolf Hitler in the 1925 Mein Kampf.
“The national state…must set race in the center of all life. It must take care to keep it pure. It must declare the child to be the most precious treasure of the people. It must see to it that only the healthy beget children…The state must act as the guardian of a millennial future in the face of which the wishes and the selfishness of the individual must appear as nothing…It must put the most modern medical means in the service of this knowledge.” –Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf (1925)
Under cover of war, Hitler authorized the “euthanasia” murders of infants and of institutionalized Germans judged incurable, a secret program which provided a model for the mass murder of Europe’s Jews. Other Nazi programs that aimed to rid Germany of biological threats to the nation’s health targeted “foreign-blooded” Sinti and Roma (Gypsies), Slavs, and homosexuals. Many German scientists and physicians legitimized and, in varying degrees, helped implement Nazi eugenic and “euthanasia” programs.
Deadly Medicine presents a history of the Nazi biological state through more than 50 artifacts, survivor testimony and almost 200 photographs and photographic reproductions. The exhibition includes such chilling images as those of blind German children examining plaster head models to recognize different races, as well as rare film footage of the “glass man,” joined by the model of a “glass woman,” showcased in Nazi Germany as the embodiment of superior genetics. The exhibition draws on 40 archival sources from around the world.
"Deadly Medicine offers vivid and chilling evidence of man's ability to countermand the clarity and precision of science and law in the service of political expediency and totalitarian philosophy which has, as its end point, the purification and perfection of humanity. However, let us not delude ourselves into thinking that such behavior was limited to a discrete period in modern history. Current events show that such racist thinking and its attendant nefarious butchery are happening at this moment. The presentation at The Warhol will attempt to show that in the ‘pursuit of perfection’ whether in art, science, or human endeavor can often lead to horrendous consequences. We must never forget this,” stated Thomas Sokolowski, director of The Andy Warhol Museum.