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“Purifying the Body of the Nation...”

 

The Heidelberg-based pediatrician Prof. Dr. Johann Duken, a member of the National Socialist Party and the SS since 1933, reported “inferior” children to the Eichberg “Children’s Ward” Reich Committee. It is clear from the exchange of letters with the parents of sick children that he knew of and approved their relocation and murder, usually at Hadamar. During the war, British planes dropped handbills in Heidelberg, warning children against allowing their children to be treated in the University’s Paediatric Clinic. Documents prove that these ill children were starved and refused treatment. After the end of the Second World War, Duken was categorised as politically “exonerated”; he had suffered severe radiation damage, which influenced his classification. The third edition of the “Honorary Book of Radiologists of All Nations” (Berlin 1992) honoured Duken’s “human warmth, selflessness, and prodigal goodness.”

 

Dr. Kurt Blome, honorary member of the German Radiological Society since 1940, had made very valuable contributions to the organisation of continuing medical education and fighting widespread diseases such as cancer and tuberculosis. As the Deputy Reich Physicians’ Leader, Blome aggressively represented the racial-biological policies of the National Socialist state. As late as March 1944, he published a reminder to his colleagues in the German Physicians’ Journal regarding their obligation to “report deformed newborns” to the “Reich Committee for the Scientific Registration of Hereditary and Congenital Illnesses.” These “children’s wards” however did not facilitate research or the alleviation of suffering; instead, they organised the killing of children with congenital defects or mental underdevelopment (“euthanasia” practiced on children).  The term “children’s ward” was meant to deceive the public with its connotations of competent therapy and gain the trust of parents.

 

The highly qualified radiologist Dr. Friedrich Berner was a member of the National Socialist Party and the SS, as was his Frankfurt-based superior, Prof. Dr. Hans Holfelder. Both were outstanding practitioners of radiological medicine and published several important professional articles in their field. Berner led a team of trained physicians who viewed and evaluated the new small-format images taken by the SS Röntgensturmbann, the X-ray unit of the Waffen-SS medical services. SS-Hauptsturmführer Berner interrupted his professional career as a radiologist from May to December 1941 to take over the medical direction of the Hadamar killing facility. In 1942–43, Berner followed Holfelder, his previous superior, and his SS Röntgensturmbann into occupied Poland in order to screen for tuberculosis infections among the local population.

 

Johann Duken, Institute for the History of Medicine at the Charité University Medical Clinic in Berlin

“Euthanasia” experts, sitting on a park bench, Lake Starnberg (September 1941) Federal Archives, B 162 Image-00680

Hadamar Cemetery. Beginning in 1942, the corpses of the victims were buried in mass graves in a newly created institutional cemetery. (in: Tobias, Jim G. & Nicola Schlichting (eds.): nurinst 2012. Beiträge zur deutschen und jüdischen Geschichte. Schwerpunktthema: Gesundheit, medizinische Versorgung, Rehabilitation, Nuremberg 2012, p. 106)

Smoke from the crematoria ovens above the Hadamar gassing facility, 1941 (in: Tobias, Jim G. & Nicola Schlichting (eds.): nurinst 2012. Beiträge zur deutschen und jüdischen Geschichte. Schwerpunktthema: Gesundheit, medizinische Versorgung, Rehabilitation, Nuremberg 2012, p. 101)

Protect your child, trust your physician (1940–44)

Federal Archives, B 162 Image-102-14973

German Historical Museum, Berlin. “This man with a hereditary illness, over the course of his life, will cost the national community 60,000 Reichsmark. This is also your money, national comrade. Read ‘A New Nation’, the monthly publication from the Race Policy Office of the National Socialist Party.”

 

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