Nazism, Religion, and Human Experimentation

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Loue S. (2020) Nazism, Religion, and Human Experimentation. In: Case Studies in Society, Religion, and Bioethics. Springer, Cham


Multiple factors have been identified as contributing to the willingness of physicians and scientists to participate in the development and conduct of experiments carried out on Nazi concentration camp prisoners, including the economic challenges then facing physicians, the potential for increased status and power in the Nazi government, and their own hostility toward Jews and others deemed “not worth living.” They conducted these experiments against a backdrop of their societies’ longstanding anti-Semitic sentiments, the promulgation of anti-Jewish rhetoric by Christian authorities, and the incorporation into law of increasingly severe and restrictive anti-Jewish measures and, ultimately, embraced efforts to eradicate all Jews and evidence of Jewishness. This chapter argues that religion was relevant not only to the question of who was targeted by Nazi medical policy—Jews, conceived of by the Nazis as a race rather than a religion—but also to the question of who was doing the targeting—physicians who appear to have identified religiously primarily as Christians and who interpreted Nazi dogma as congruent with their religious beliefs and teachings.