Sherwin Miller Museum Displaying Exhibit Offering Look into Nazi Eugenics

Jan 10, 2018

Nazi geneticist Otmar von Verschuer's research led him to recommend forced sterilization of the "mentally and morally subnormal" in 1927. This and other photos are part of the traveling exhibition "Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race."
Credit United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

A traveling exhibition in the area for the first time aims to show how the Nazis used science to justify the Holocaust.

"Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race" is at the Sherwin Miller Museum of Jewish Art. While the collection comes from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, most of the materials in it were produced by the Nazis themselves.

"They were very good at documenting themselves because they felt they were doing what was right for the world, and they wanted to share and show how they were going to make the world better," said Sherwin Miller Museum Director of Collections and Exhibitions Mickel Yantz.

"Deadly Medicine" focuses on the Nazis’ practice and normalization of eugenics in the pursuit of what they considered a superior race. Yantz said there are themes that haven’t gone away.

"That idea of other races or other faiths are a burden upon the society as today and that looking down upon them because of a different belief system is still something that echoes through a lot of the politics, a lot of the rhetoric that we see, either online or just through casual conversation in many communities still," Yantz said.

A Nazi-era high school biology textbook page reproduced in the exhibit told readers how much a "hereditarily ill" person cost them each day. A poster told Germans the Jews they had largely confined to ghettos at the time were responsible for the spread of parasites.

The Nazis used a combination of science and propaganda to justify human experimentation and murder of Jews and other people they considered to be inferior. Sherwin Miller Museum Director of Holocaust Education Jesse Ulrich said there are lessons from the exhibit we can use as modern science continues to advance.

"As we map the human genome and move on to more complicated genetics, like ‘Who gets to decide what is a positive trait, what is a negative trait?’ And where does the slippery slope start on what you change about a person and who gets to control that?" Ulrich said.

"Deadly Medicine" is on display through March 4. The museum is at 2021 E 71st St. in Tulsa.