The Doctors of the Nazi Leaders

24/10/2016

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Dominik Groß

Institute of Medical History, Theory and Ethics

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+49 241 80 88095

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They were the personal doctors and with that also the confidantes of Adolf Hitler, Heinrich Himmler, Hermann Göring and important gauleiters. Men like Theodor Morell, Karl Brandt, Hugo Blaschke and Felix Kersten played an important part as physicians in the Third Reich. How they contributed, in which roles and with which consequences – that will all be analyzed and discussed on October 27 and 28, 2016 at the Centre Charlemagne in Aachen as part of the symposium titled "The Doctors of the Nazi Leaders – Careers and Networks." The Institute of Medical History, Theory and Ethics is thereby hosting the first national symposium on the personal and accompanying doctors of the Nazi leaders.

 

Prominent speakers, among them Aachen's Jens Westemeier – who caused a stir with his book about SS-Hauptsturmführer Jauß –, will address diverse groups of practitioners: from general practitioners to consulting physicians to dentists, as long as they were involved in the direct care of leading National Socialists. "These groups of persons have not been systematically investigated in Germany yet," explains Professor Dominik Groß, director of the Institute of Medical History, Theory and Ethics at RWTH Aachen. He, along with his collegue at the institute, Dr. Mathias Schmidt, is responsible for organizing the symposium.

Committing crimes in a state of supposed delusion

Once again, Aachen scholars are trailblazers with respect to coming to terms with Nazi Germany's past as far as medical history is concerned. "The family, personal and accompanying doctors are worthwile objects of study: There is reason to expect farreaching assertions with regard to their career strategies and establishment of networks. Furthermore, their diagnoses of the past and the subsequent disease mongering in later times, have quite often been used as an explanation or even exculpation strategy," explains Groß. Depending on whose account one listens to, Hitler was either schizophrenic, or he was suffering from consequential damages of the First World War, drug abuse or late complications from a hypnosis session gone wrong. "In this way, the Crimes of Nazi Germany are reframed as events that happened in an alleged state of delusion. Holding the perpetrators personally accountable is made difficult by such interpretation of their diminished capacity due to medical reasons. It also paints a different, and decidedly rosy, picture of the role – or collective guilt – of the German people," emphazises the RWTH expert.

His department will look further at the topic after the symposium: It was awarded funding for the first official national project to account for the involvement of the dental profession in the Third Reich. Work on it started approximately a month ago.

Source: Press and Communications