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Nazi Medicine and the Nuremberg Trials: From Medical War Crimes to Informed Consent

BMJ 2005; 331 doi: (Published 11 August 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;331:408
  1. Boleslav L Lichterman, Centre for the History of Medicine (
  1. Russian Academy of Medical Sciences, Moscow

    Paul Weindling is a renowned expert on medicine in Nazi Germany. His new book is the third in “an informal trilogy on German medical atrocities.” The preceding two were Health, Race and German Politics between National Unification and Nazism 1870-1945 (published in 1989) and Epidemics and Genocide in Eastern Europe (published in 2000).

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    Palgrave Macmillan, £60, pp 496 ISBN 1 4039 3911 X

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    The current book is in three parts. The first gives an outline of coercive experimentation in Nazi Germany, which Weindling divides into four overlapping phases.

    The first phase (1939-41), which he calls the neurological, was linked to the euthanasia programme (code named T4) that provided a testing ground for the killing techniques that would later be used in the “final solution.” Hitler's decree authorising euthanasia coincided with Germany's invasion of Poland. The programme targeted the elimination of adult patients in mental institutions and resulted in the execution—chiefly by gassing—of more than 70 000 people.

    The second phase, from 1939 to 1944, was the large scale experiments on sterilisation and human reproduction (a direct continuation of the 1933 Sterilisation Law, which was administered through the genetic health courts). About 400 000 people with …

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