George Santayana famously remarked: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." The fields of research ethics and human subjects protections were built from the ashes of the Holocaust, and PRIM&R's mission has been to help ensure that "never again" means "never again."
It was toward this end that PRIM&R held an event at the Francis A. Countway Library on the campus of Harvard Medical School on Wednesday, May 18, in conjunction with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum's traveling exhibition, Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race. This powerful exhibition examines Nazi Germany's campaign to "cleanse" German society of individuals viewed as threats to the nation's health. Enlisting the help of physicians and geneticists, psychiatrists, and medically trained anthropologists, the Nazis developed racial health policies that began with the mass sterilization of genetically diseased people, and ended with the near annihilation of European Jewry, more than six million by the time the war ended.
The evening began with self-guided tours of the exhibition, followed by conversations with three extraordinary Holocaust survivors, Marika Barnett, Marion Katz, and Fred Manasse, who each shared their story. The moving event ended with a powerful lecture by Michael A. Grodin, MD, who is the director of the Project on Medicine and the Holocaust and senior faculty at the Elie Wiesel Center for Judaic Studies and the Division of Religious and Theological Studies at Boston University where he is also a professor of bioethics, human rights, family medicine and psychiatry. Dr. Grodin is one of the foremost authorities in the world on these topics and wrote several books and articles, including one called The Nazi Doctors and The Nuremberg Code: Human Rights in Human Experimentation.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank Marika, Marion, and Fred for sharing their stories of loss, courage, survival, and hope with us. All who heard these three remarkable individuals were inspired and humbled. We'd also like to thank Dr. Grodin for his impressive and stirring lecture. The attendees at this unique gathering left with a deeper understanding of why the work they do matters and with a renewed commitment to ensuring that ethics is always at the forefront of that work.
If you are interested in seeing this exhibition for yourself, please review the Traveling Exhibitions section of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum website. Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race is scheduled to be in the following cities:
- February 20, 2011 through August 7, 2011
Museum of Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX
- August 9, 2011 through October 30, 2011
Washington University in St. Louis Bernard Becker Medical Library, St. Louis, MO
- September 15, 2011 through January 7, 2012
Museum of Jewish Heritage—A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, New York, NY
- February 3, 2012 through April 13, 2012
University of Michigan Taubman Health Sciences Library, Ann Arbor, MI
Additionally, we encourage you to consider hosting a PRIM&R Regional Connections event in conjunction with Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race. PRIM&R can help with both some funding and some technical assistance (please contact Jen Levine-Fried if you'd like to find out more about PRIM&R Regional Connections) in planning the event, so please consider making sure that those in your city or region "remember the past."
Images © United States Holocaust Memorial Museum