Life Unworthy of Life: Racial Phobia and Mass Murder in Hitler's Germany

Life Unworthy of Life: Racial Phobia and Mass Murder in Hitler's Germany

Life Unworthy of Life: Racial Phobia and Mass Murder in Hitler's Germany

Life Unworthy of Life: Racial Phobia and Mass Murder in Hitler's Germany

Synopsis

In this path-breaking work of intellectual and cultural history, Glass argues that the answers lie in the rise of a particular ethos of public health and sanitation that emerged from the German medical establishment and filtered down to the common people. Building his argument on a trove of documentary evidence, including the records of the German medical community and of other professional groups, he traces the development in the years following WWI of theories of racial hygiene that singled out the Jews as an infectious disease, and that determined them as "life unworthy of life" in the works of Nazi propagandists and German scientists.

Excerpt

German society, particularly the professions, enthusiastically pursued genocide because of a culturewide phobia against touching Jewish flesh, a perception forged by the biological and medical sciences and by a firm belief in the absolute necessity of maintaining racial purity. Ghettos (way stations on the ultimate journey to the death camps) had been established primarily in Poland, with the specific intent of concentrating and segregating Jews. However, in the ghettoes themselves hundreds of thousands of Jews perished from disease, hunger, and physical and psychological brutalization. Ghettoization in Poland and elsewhere had been provoked by the German fear of the Jewish body and the belief that Jewish flesh and blood polluted the health of the German volk, its genes, and its cultures.

A great number of Germans, in addition to members of the Nazi Party, participated in and supported murderous actions, accepted race ideology as truth, and contributed--as nurses, engineers, physicians, industrialists, research scientists, land use specialists--to the logistics of concentration, transport, ghettoization, and murder of Jewish adults, children, and infants. Race ideology dominated the thinking and action of the entire society. Anti-Semitism, embraced and elaborated by Nazism, was generalized throughout the culture, defining the Jew as a threatening, dangerous, and poisonous Other. While sporadic resistance to the isolation of the Jewish population and the killing in the death camps occasionally appeared within Germany, it never impeded any of the regime's genocidal aims. Race ideology . . .

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