USD displays the 'History of the Holocaust' through national exhibit
By Kristen Johnson, Multimedia Journalist/ Weekend Anchor - bio | email
VERMILLION, S.D. (KTIV) -
The horrors of the Holocaust have been well documented in history books. However, some of the very experiments that led up to Third Reich's reign of terror, were also being performed,at the same time, in America. That information is part of a new exhibit, called "Deadly Medicine," at the University of South Dakota.
The idea of a supreme race is often associated with Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. However, decades before the Holocaust, scientists were enamored with the idea of natural selection.
"The thought was some inheritable diseases could be eliminated from the human population if people who had those diseases didn't reproduce," explained Dr. David Burrow, USD Professor and European Historian.
Eugenics became a scientific buzz word. In America, that meant restricting immigration from parts of Europe and Asia. Health officials touted a new way to deal with mentally ill and physically disabled so that they could be returned to society without fear of reproducing.
"In the United States, up until the 1920's they would have been sterilized," said Burrow
In Nazi Germany, the claim was, the cost of putting people in asylums and hospitals had become so burdensome, that sterilization was the solution to deal with those they considered, "less valuable members of society." Then, dreams of the perfect human race were taken to a new and disturbing level.
"If you just get rid of the people that you think are inferior, the life of the superior people will be better," explained Burrow.
From sterilization to euthanasia, the Nazis began killing babies with birth defects and children they deemed incurably ill, like six-year-old Alfred Wodel.
"The euthanasia program involved a great deal of deception. People were brought into hospitals, parents were often told that their parents had died during the course of an operation," Burrow explained.
What was considered incurably ill?
"Huntington's, Chorea, Crohn's disease. People who were determined to have low IQ by their exams fell under that as incurable," Burrow answered.
They measured kids to determine whether they were fit to live. The killings grew to open up space in hospitals for wounded Nazi soldiers returning from war.
"It brings up a lot of feelings about as a parent and how could people do these things, and how could they think the way they did," said Danielle DeJager-Loftus, a USD Asst. Library Professor who brought the exhibit to the school. It's part of a national tour from the United States Holocaust Museum.
As visitors wind through rows of propaganda posters and video they come face to face with the most powerful images of the Holocaust, playing out like a movie. We know the ending.
You can take your own tour of the exhibit, "Deadly Medicine," during the University's regular library hours through January 6th.
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