Greeted by angry German voices, more than 130 CU Anschutz students, teachers, faculty and other Aurora community members filled the Fulginiti Pavilion on March 22 for the opening of “Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race.” Nazi artifacts and propaganda posters lined the walls, as the noise from the exhibit’s propaganda videos filled the air.
The traveling exhibit from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) in Washington, D.C., spreads the USHMM’s message to remember and learn from the Holocaust and confront genocide and anti-Semitism.
The exhibit explores the roles of doctors and scientists in furthering the Nazi agenda and comes to the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus as part of the University’s annual Holocaust Remembrance Week activities. Free and open to the public, the exhibit runs through May 22.
‘We have to own it’
“I’m Jewish, and I’ve heard and learned about the Holocaust since a very young age,” said Mayla Boguslav, second-year computation bioscience student in the Graduate School. “But I didn’t understand the impact that doctors, scientists and researchers had on the movement.”
Complementing the opening of the exhibit, Matthew Wynia, MD, director of the CU Anschutz Center for Bioethics and Humanities, told a story about how German healers and doctors turned into cold-blooded killers, using exhibit pieces of Nazi propaganda posters as visual aids.
“There are people who own this history in ways that I never will, because I’m not Jewish, and I’m not German,” said Wynia, as he emphasized the story’s importance. “But if there’s one thing I’ve learned from my work with the Holocaust museum over the years, it’s that we have to all own this history. This isn’t just Jewish history; it’s the history of our profession, and we all have to own it to learn from it, to never repeat it.”
Wynia walked a captivated audience through the history of how medical and scientific leaders within the Nazi party perverted public health, biosciences and economics to further its agenda. The bottom line was their aim to create the “master race” through the tools of eugenics, an internationally-supported idea at the time. The Nazi leadership included many prominent German physicians and scientists of the era, Wynia said.
In fact, doctors designed and tested the gas chambers that were ultimately used to kill millions. They “euthanized” first infants and children and later institutionalized adults based on hypothesized “genetic defects,” which were often traits with no actual genetic basis but that were deemed socially undesirable. Doctors trained in “racial hygiene” saw it as their duty to choose those who were “fit” to contribute to the German gene pool, Wynia said.
“The medicalization of the death process really makes it clear how healers became killers,” he said. “Certain people came to be seen not merely as sub-human animals, but as pathogens, a true danger to the state. It was the doctors’ jobs to ‘protect’ the German community from these pathogens.”
Holocaust Remembrance Week
The exhibit opening was a kick-off to the Center’s annual set of events in commemoration of Holocaust Remembrance Week, which runs April 9 – 13. Full of educational programming and panel discussions, the activities will span all four CU campuses for its second year. Each event is free and open to the public.
“This event really highlights how we can all play a part in preventing this from happening again, regardless of what we’re studying,” Boguslav said. “It’s really special that our school provides us with events like this.”
Holocaust Remembrance Week
- Monday, April 9, at noon – Panel discussion at CU Boulder Law School – Room 205.
- Monday, April 9, at 7 p.m. – Panel discussion at CU Boulder Eaton Humanities Building – Room 130.
- Tuesday, April 10, at noon – Presentation and panel: Children’s Hospital Colorado Grand Rounds in Education II South auditorium.
- Tuesday, April 10, from 5 – 7:30 p.m. – “Deadly Medicine” exhibit and panel discussion at the Fulginiti Pavilion
- Wednesday, April 11, at noon – Presentation at UCHealth Schroffel Conference Center
- Wednesday, April 11, at 1:30 p.m. – Panel discussion at the Fulginiti Pavilion
- Thursday, April 12, at noon – Presentation at CU Colorado Springs
- Friday, April 13, at noon – Panel discussion at CU Denver, 1250 14th, Room 470