Creating the Master Race

A scientist files index cards containing information on genetic health
A scientist files index cards containing information on genetic health. During the Nazi Regime, these were used to determine genetic defects and family racial background.
© Getty Images, New York City

In 1933 the Nazi state made a racial philosophy the guiding principle of its health and population policy. In the period up to 1945, 400,000 people were forcibly sterilized, and in Germany and Austria alone, more than 210,000 disabled and mentally ill people were murdered. Furthermore, large numbers of psychiatric patients died as the result of medical experiments. The purpose of these measures and killings was to create a genetically healthy "Aryan" race in Germany, free of Ballastexistenzen (burdensome existences).

This policy had its roots in Social Darwinist ideas that had found their way into the modern scientific fields of eugenics and "racial hygiene" before the First World War. With the start of the Second World War, economic motives also played a role, expediting the decision to launch a "euthanasia" program. Its radical measures included a centrally coordinated campaign of murder targeting the mentally ill and mentally handicapped. Labeled Operation T4, it was carried out between January 1940 and August 1941 in six killing centers within the territory of the Reich. The campaign became the model for the murder of millions of European Jews, which began shortly afterward.

"Deadly Medicine" was first shown at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. The survey exhibition in Berlin has been expanded to include important focuses and case histories from Berlin and Brandenburg. Featuring documents, letters and photographs, it is the first exhibition to present the life story of a "euthanasia" victim in detail.

You can find additional information on the exhibition in the article "Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race" by Dr. Margret Kampmeyer, project director of the special exhibition. It is presented here with the kind permission of Museumsjournal (1/2009).

Deadly Medicine
Creating the
Master Race

13 March to 19 July 2009
Jewish Museum Berlin

Logo of the Unites States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C.