Most when remembering the holocaust will think of six million Jews but apparently this was only the final chapter in the story. What ended in the 1940s in the gas chambers of Auschwitz, Belsen and Treblinka had much more humble beginnings in the 1930s in nursing homes, geriatric hospitals and psychiatric institutions all over Germany.
I have previously written about lessons we can learn from the grisly history of the Nazi doctors.
Dr Leo Alexander, a psychiatrist who worked for the Office of the Chief of Counsel for war Crimes at Nuremberg, described the process whereby doctors were instrumental in the euthanasia programme as follows:
'The beginnings at first were merely a subtle shift in emphasis in the basic attitude of the physicians. It started with the attitude, basic in the euthanasia movement that there is such a thing as a life not worthy to be lived. This attitude in its early stages concerned itself merely with the severely and chronically sick. Gradually the sphere of those to be included in this category was enlarged to encompass the socially unproductive, the ideologically unwanted, the racially unwanted and finally all non-Germans.'
With the advantage of hindsight we are understandably amazed that the German people and especially the German medical profession were fooled into accepting it. The judgement of the War Crimes Tribunal in 1949 as to how they were fooled was as follows.
'Had the profession taken a strong stand against the mass killing of sick Germans before the war, it is conceivable that the entire idea and technique of death factories for genocide would not have materialized...but far from opposing the Nazi state militantly, part of the medical profession co-operated consciously and even willingly, while the remainder acquiesced in silence. Therefore our regretful but inevitable judgement must be that the responsibility for the inhumane perpetrations of Dr Brandt (pictured above)...and others, rests in large measure upon the bulk of the medical profession; because the profession without vigorous protest, permitted itself to be ruled by such men.' (War Crimes Tribunal. 'Doctors of Infamy'. 1948)
Six million Jewish men, women and chlidren...'Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it'(George Santayana)
In June 1947 the British Medical Association published a statement on ‘War Crimes and Medicine’ which it later submitted to the General Assembly of the World Medical Association in September1947.
The statement included the following:
‘The evidence given in the trials of medical war criminals has shocked the medical profession of the world. These trials have shown that the doctors who were guilty of these crimes against humanity lacked both the moral and professional conscience that is to be expected of members of this honourable profession. They departed from the traditional medical ethic which maintains the value and sanctity of every individual human being.’ (emphasis mine)
The statement majors, as one might expect, on the atrocities carried out by German doctors during the Nazi holocaust, but returns again and again to general principles about respect for life:
‘The doctors who took part in these deeds did not become criminals in a moment. Their amoral methods were the result of training and conditioning to regard science as an instrument in the hands of the State to be applied in any way desired by its rulers. It is to be assumed that initially they did not realize that the ideas of those who held political power would lead to the denial of the fundamental values on which Medicine is based. Whatever the causes such crimes must never be allowed to recur. Research in medicine as well as its practice must never be separated from eternal moral values. Doctors must be quick to point out to their fellow members of society the likely consequences of policies that degrade or deny fundamental human rights.’ (emphasis mine)
But most interesting is the document's conclusion:
‘Although there have been many changes in Medicine, the spirit of the Hippocratic Oath cannot change and can be reaffirmed by the profession. It enjoins…The duty of curing, the greatest crime being co-operation in the destruction of life by murder, suicide and abortion.’ (emphasis mine)
The BMA was once strongly opposed to abortion. But it has chosen to discard its own ethics. A vigorously pro-abortion position has now been wholeheartedly embraced and is ardently defended by its present leadership.
Seven million British unborn babies who would now be men, women and children...'Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it'.