The article, "Doctors, Pregnancy, Childbirth and Abortion during the Third Reich," which appeared in the March issue of the Israel Medical Association Journal, shows that Hitler facilitated and promoted abortion and sterilization for "inferior genetic stock" while simultaneously practicing "positive eugenics" by prohibiting most abortions and sterilizations of "Aryan" German women. This practice reflected the same reasoning behind Margaret Sanger's famous slogan "more from the fit, less from the unfit".
In 1942 and 1943, the Nazis implemented mandatory abortion programs in some ghettos. "The punishment for giving birth and for delivering the infant was death for the whole family and for the Jewish doctor or midwife," writes Chelouche. In the concentration camps, however, "pregnant women were usually sent to their immediate deaths upon arrival just because they were pregnant."
I know exactly what a feminist would say: See! An abortion might have saved that Jew's life!
Chelouche's also notes that the German sterilization program led easily to a program of mass murder of unwanted groups. "During the five and a half years preceding the outbreak of the Second World War, about 320,000 German persons with 'lives unworthy of life' were sterilized under the terms of the sterilization law," she writes.
"The victims of this sterilization program were asylum inmates, ethnic majorities, servants, prostitutes, unmarried mothers, unskilled workers and others. This sterilization campaign was a direct prelude to mass murder: the prohibition against bearing 'unworthy children' was expanded into the 'euthanasia' programs, beginning with the murder of some 5000 children, and then into the infamous T4 'euthanasia' program in which some 350,000 German adults were killed under the disguise of euthanasia."
Chelouche concludes with a profound question: "Who can confront the Holocaust and not be put on alert to evaluate scientific paradigms and the implications for public policy that flow from them, so that what we, as medical professionals and as human beings, want and identify as good, will be for the sake of respecting and saving human life? They too asked and answered the question: who shall live and who shall die? Then and now the subject at hand is killing, letting die, helping to die, and using the dead. Then and now the goal is to produce healthier human beings."
Dr. Tessa Chelouche is a physician with Clalit Health Services, in the Shomron District in Israel, and is affiliated with the Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel Aviv University, Ramat Aviv, Israel.
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Doctors, Pregnancy, Childbirth and Abortion during the Third Reich
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