Aired: March 29, 2014

The Doctors of Nazi Germany

Karl Brandt, Adolf Hitler’s personal physician, at the U.S. War Crimes Tribunal at Nuremberg

In the late 19th century, German medical practices were considered to be the best in the world. But by the start of World War II, German physicians were directly involved in the mass killings of the Holocaust. Theodore Reiff (Christopher Newport University) looks at the subversion of German doctors in the Nazi era. Also featured: The movie The Great Escape dramatizes the experience of American and European prisoners of war in Germany during World War II. But little known is that there were more than 400,000 German prisoners of war in 700 camps across America. Charles Ford (Norfolk State University) and Jeffrey Littlejohn (Sam Houston State University) look at the 4,000 German prisoners in Huntsville, Texas and efforts to “de-Nazify” them.

Later in the show: More than 20 years after Germans tore down the Berlin Wall, they are still negotiating how to deal with the stigmas of a formerly divided country. Jason James (University of Mary Washington) says there are still divisions within German culture—between the “good” former West Germans and the “bad” former East Germans—and both sides struggle with a problematic past that includes Nazi and Fascist associations that persist, even in a united country. Also featured: In the years leading up to World War I, Germany joined other world powers in colonizing parts of Africa. Christian Davis (James Madison University) says there’s a relationship between the racial subjugation that occurred in Germany’s African colonies and the rise of an anti-Semitic movement back home—a movement that would later form the ideological core of Nazism.

  • Doctors of Nazi Germany – web extra

    reiff centerThe Reiff Center studies ways to overcome genocide, human rights violations and conflict.

  • Nazi Doctors feature

    A new center dedicated to studying and preventing the horrors of genocide has recently been established at Christopher Newport University.  Producer Allison Quantz spoke with Theodore Rieff, a retired physician and medical educator for whom the new center was named.


1 Comment on “The Doctors of Nazi Germany”

  1. Ben Heltzel

    I found it appalling that Theodore Reiff compared the practices and policies of Nazi Germany to the idea set forth in the 1970’s that the government should encourage living wills as a cost saving measure.

    The living will and advanced directive concept- that people should be afforded the opportunity to choose how and what treatment they want to receive- should not be demonized. As a medical ethicist Dr. Reiff should focus more on the principles of autonomy instead of trying to make an outlandish insightful political remark that could affect the judgement of many Americans like me who would gladly choose not to spend their last days, months or years in an ICU filled with tubes and extremely expensive medication. Quality of life has to be a factor in end of life decisions and what that term “quality of life” means is extremely individual/personal.

    The fact that the last year of life is a significant financial strain on our health care system is known and living wills/advanced directives are one viable way to help confront those costs. I commend the law maker who voiced this obvious win win situation.

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