Medicine and Medical Ethics in Nazi Germany: Origins, Practices, Legacies

By Francis R. Nicosia; Jonathan Huener | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION
Nazi Medicine in Historiographical Context

Francis R. Nicosia

Jonathan Huener

IN THE HISTORIOGRAPHY of the Third Reich and the Holocaust, the category of perpetrators of Nazi crimes against Jews and other victims has evolved and expanded considerably during the decades since the end of World War II. Gerald Reitlinger’s The Final Solution: The Attempt to Exterminate the Jews of Europe, 1939–1945,1 published in 1953 and based largely on the documents used by Allied prosecutors against major Nazi war criminals in Nuremberg in 1945 and 1946, naturally identified Hitler and top officials of the Nazi Party and the state during the Third Reich as the perpetrators of Nazi crimes. Raul Hilberg’s groundbreaking work The Destruction of the European Jews,2 published in 1961, was the first comprehensive history of the Holocaust based on the massive documentation available to Western scholars beginning in the 1950s. Its focus on the administrative and bureaucratic process of genocide came at a time when the trial of Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem and the subsequent publication of Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem3 focused attention on this quintessential SS bureaucrat.

These events expanded the definition of perpetrators to include those in the Nazi state apparatus who, like Eichmann, operated just below the top military, civilian, and SS officials named and prosecuted just after the war. This redefinition was followed by trials before a West German court in Frankfurt from 1963 to 1965 of SS personnel who had worked at Auschwitz during World War II. For almost twenty years thereafter, perpetrators of Nazi crimes were typically considered to be Hitler, his top military and civilian lieutenants, and some of their subordinates in

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