“Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race,” a traveling exhibition from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, will open at Haggerty Art Gallery on Nov. 18.
The exhibit will focus on the role of biology and genetics in the Holocaust. Through actual documents – such as euthanasia forms and SS propaganda as well as photos – and profiles of physicians and scientists, “Deadly Medicine” illustrates the cold reality of ethnic cleansing.
The Nazi regime’s efforts to “purify” Germany by eliminating those deemed “genetically diseased” were supported by the scientific thinking of the day, according to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum website.
In order to make a so-called superior race, the Nazis first worked to rid the nation of the mentally handicapped and those who were viewed as a drain on public resources.
Policies of sterilization and constraints on marriage turned into the mass genocide of not only the mentally ill, but also minorities – most notably the Jews, but also the Roma, also known as gypsies, and others.
All sorts of scientists, from medically trained geneticists and anthropologists to physicians and psychiatrists, lent credence to and assisted with the ethnic cleansing.
The idea of creating a genetically superior race of humans, so influential in the 20th century, still persists today, although in a slightly different form.
As scientists all over the world attempt to cure diseases through genetic engineering, the issue of balancing science and ethics remains extremely important.
“‘Deadly Medicine’ touches on complex ethical issues we face today, such as how societies acquire and use scientific knowledge and how they balance the rights of the individual with the needs of the larger community,” said Exhibition Curator Susan Bachrach.
The exhibit will be on display through Jan. 15, 2012, and will be open during the week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and from noon to 5 p.m. on weekends.
Dr. Amy Fisher-Smith, associate professor of psychology at the University of Dallas, was approached by representatives of the Washington, D.C., museum nearly two years ago and asked if the university would be interested in hosting the display.
“I have some contacts there because I participated in a faculty seminar at the Catholic University of America,” she explained.
The University of Dallas has held related events leading up to the exhibition’s opening throughout this past semester, according to Fisher-Smith.
In September, a panel discussed “Bioethics in the Shadow of the Holocaust.” In October, “The theology department, in a nice segway for us, hosted a dialogue between a rabbi, Dr. [David] Novak, and a priest here on campus, [Fr. Roch Kereszty], to talk about the future of the relationship between the Jewish and Christian faiths,” Fisher-Smith said.
Just recently, UD screened “The Last Survivor,” a film documenting the stories of survivors from four different genocides: the Holocaust, Congo, Rwanda and Darfur. These pre-events promoted the “Deadly Medicine” exhibit and opened up ground for discussion of weighty topics, such as the massacre of entire ethnicities and modern-day eugenics.
“Deadly Medicine” is a traveling version of a celebrated exhibit – one that “should be part of every citizen’s experience,” according to The New York Times – that opened several years ago in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Admission will be free at UD and open to the public. When the same exhibition was on display in New York, it drew over 54,000 visitors.
“I don’t think we’ll get that,” Fisher-Smith said laughing. “But I really hope we have a strong showing.”