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

By Francis R. Nicosia; Jonathan Huener | Go to book overview
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Chapter Six
THE LEGACY OF NAZI MEDICINE
IN CONTEXT

Michael Burleigh

THERE IS NO IDEAL CONCLUSION in a collection such as this, but there are plenty of dilemmas associated with writing one. Should one merely summarize what has been so cogently expressed before by many of the leading scholars in their respective subdisciplines? But that is surely the proper function of an introduction, and Professors Nicosia and Huener have provided a splendid introduction already. Or should one expand on themes that have been alluded to in passing, or for which no room was found at the time of the book’s conception, but which may well seem necessary at its completion? Which elements of the complex of themes often all too facilely described under the rubric “Nazi medicine” is one supposed to emphasize?

As Robert Proctor suggests, there is the serious risk of missing the simultaneity of heinous criminality, whether murdering sick people or carrying out vile “medical” experiments on the living, with research that may have been pioneering in such fields as oncology. One suspects that the leading British cancer expert, Sir Richard Doll of the University of Oxford, can live with the shocking news that an otherwise obscure German scientist, Fritz Lickint, may have reached some of his conclusions about the relation between cigarette smoking and certain cancers a couple of decades earlier. Neither Lickint nor Franz Müller was the first to make such a connection, for in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, some doctors in Britain, France, and Germany had linked pipe smoking with certain cancers of the lips, mouth, and nose. Sir Richard studied in Frankfurt for a fortnight in the 1930s. He was

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