Marginalization of Intelligentsia and Extermination of European Jewry in Nazi Germany

Paul Andreas Fischer
Marginalization of Intelligentsia and Extermination of European Jewry in Nazi Germany

The breakdown of academic institutions was felt throughout Germany. Despite Alfred Hitchcock’s assertion that “trading a few books” seemed well worth the military conquests made by Germans, the reality was that the nation was one in freefall and tatters, on a scale virtually unprecedented in the history of mankind. The elimination of the lower end of the “tail” on a natural bell curve through eugenics and euthanasia programs has been well publicized. However, the marginalization of the other tail, the intelligentsia, is less well understood. It will be necessary to work from the Nicosia and Huener anthology, Medical Ethics in Nazi Germany, in order to formulate a concise explanation for the exact method and procedure which resulted in a nation on the forefront of technological progress to become the mechanism for the most destructive killing machine in history.
This breakdown will be seen as responsibility for development of Nazi racial ideology, experimentation and opportunism as well as the consequences for breaches in scientific ethics, and the direct involvement of educated medical professionals in methodological killing as well as in development of the systems, social and scientific, which made this possible. Throughout, it will be analyzed through two lenses. Firstly, the crackdown on tobacco use and production in 1941-2 offers a pericope of cumulative radicalization and of the marginalization of those adequately qualified to hold academic posts in Nazi Germany while offering as well a tangible and previously underexplored explanation for why the final solution was not issued until 1942, and how during a wartime economy 10 percent of national insecticide production would be suicidally diverted to what Nazi leaders referred to as the Jewish problem. Then to expand from this, information will be offered on the destruction of medical and scientific institutions and the role leaders in medical and scientific professions played in using the threat of disenfranchisement to bully subordinates into compliance, use of cumulative radicalization to brainwash citizens to racial ideologies, and in the actual act of killing itself, from development of the newest techniques of mass murder and post-traumatic stress disorder minimization to the selection of prisoners to be killed.
The Final Solution to the Tobacco Question and Confluence to the Holocaust
It is not currently known exactly how much nicotine from tobacco was used during the war years, but one can assume it was substantial; in the post-war years of 1945-50 2,500 tons of nicotine-based insecticide was used worldwide[1]. While annual use of Zyklon B, the killing agent commercially sold as an insecticide, was almost thirteen times greater than the amount used to commit Holocaust, it has been shown that the purchases after 1941 (when gassing commenced) were made primarily at one time and constituted almost a quarter of national supply[2]. Hand picked land is about fifty times less efficient than that treated with insecticide, and that is the sort of prohibitive cost which could have hindered Nazi leaders from recognizing their racial goals early in the regime.
Battling tobacco was not new to the Nazi agenda, but before 1941 this policy had been couched in terms of anti-internationalist agendas. Hitler hoped to use the fact that Jewish Marxists in the professors’ rebellion of 1848 had advocated tobacco use, or at least fought religious anti-tobacco sentiments, as evidence of a Judeo-Bolshevik conspiracy. It also reinforced racial ideology as he described tobacco as “the wrath of the Red Man against the White Man, vengeance for having been given hard liquor.”[3]
Yet legal sanctions only began in 1938; until 1941 tobacco seemed to be safe against the prejudices of an academic system gone woefully and extensively awry. The Universal Tobacco Institute continued to operate, as did the hundreds of thousands of Germans the industry employed. Then, eerily close to the first testing of Zyklon B in concentration camps for victim gassing, a militant operation was launched to drive out the tobacco industry. “The Reich Institute for Tobacco Research in Forcheim, ear Karlsruhe, perfected methods to remove nicotine” during the war, which supplemented waste materials to be processed into insecticide for use by the agricultural industry.[4] This was carried out with military efficiency, and while it cannot be known precisely when the change occurred, with estimates variable throughout the war, it can be said with certainty that between 1938 and 1948 tobacco use dropped from almost 130,000 tonnes to just over 30,000 tonnes.[5] The industry would not recover to pre-war levels until 1965.
While the act of smoking had thus far been viewed perhaps as a form of “passive resistance”,[6] after this turning point it also became part of the Nazi’s ultimate ideological goal: racial purification. Convictions were never pressed against the seller of Zyklon B, the Degesch Administrative Board, and though all members were arrested for sometime, charges were dropped within weeks. The board members claimed to have no recollection of foreknowledge of the destination of the gas. Whether the same can be said for the anti-smoking campaigns which created such a surplus in the first place will unfortunately never be known. It can be known that there must have been someone with knowledge of the ideological value of the decision in order to move focus from the Physician’s League’s earlier role of spreading “biographical information about Jewish colleagues who were still practicing medicine” and cementing the scientific basis of the ideological claims of the party.[7]
However, the sudden prosecution of tobacco executives in Nazi Germany was not logically sound or based in science. Research consisted of handfuls of industrial workers who smoked “extremely heavy” amounts of tobacco correlated with data from questionnaires that were empirically useless, which can be seen repeated today in anti-smoking campaigns.[8] Fortunately, what prevented modern science in the USA from following the same path as German scientists did on this matter was adjustment of tobacco studies for levels of exercise in 1999 and demonstration over the years of the actual effect of air pollution and how much air pollution can be generated by a cigarette. This resulted from a rigorous and thorough adherence to the scientific method which was sadly missing in Nazi controlled institutions, which pursued ideological goals before establishing a firm causal to correlative experimental proof. In addition to shooting the anti-tobacco campaigns full of holes, such adherence also could have easily shown fallacies in the logic of racial and euthanasia programs, as the groups played important social roles previously and with rapid industrialization and the entourage of dangerous chemicals had begun to play a technological role that far outweighed what little sadistic gains were made from “experimentation” on murdered victims.
Ultimately the medical profession had the highest level of Nazi Party, SS, and SA membership among professions at the time. This involvement was spurred onwards by promises of job prospects and respect, but retained with the overwhelming death, first of eugenics then war and then industrial murder. It was encouraged at a young age, even in university with characters like Karl Astel who, a “vocal Anti-Semite and high-ranking SS officer, Astel was also a militant anti-smoker and teetotaler who banned smoking at the University of Jena and soon became known for snatching cigarettes from the mouths of students who dared to violate the ban.”[9] Turning a blind eye to the Hippocratic Oath and medical ethics became only too easy as more and more professionals felt they owed their sick success to the regime.

Fascism and Medicine: Cure-all Against Sound Logic
The insistent role of fascism in the medical field had played into earlier euthanasia and eugenics programs which crippled the national understanding of many diseases by eliminating (to use statistical, and not qualitative language) the null values in society; “physicians, dentists, pharmacists – selected those destined for the gas chambers” which reinforced the random brutality of what occurred to those in charge as well as overwhelmed subordinates, and psychological sadism or mental illness did play a role, it is not necessary to look farther than the experiments of Mengele or others to see this. The lack of professional discernment for qualifications and ethics also enabled later reinforcement of racial ideology which evolved from old wives’ tales at the formation of the Reich into a pseudoscience by marginalizing the influence of doctors and professionals whose careers were staked in understanding these ailments or the impact of pollutants which are now known to cause them. With no small irony “the same academic research institutions that gave birth to modern medicine and medical science and medical education also fostered what was to become the greatest program of human destruction in the history of humankind.”[10]
This had already begun in 1936 with a nationwide eugenics and euthanasia program which resonated with calls for racial purification and touched on trends being tested in other nations with sterilization. A poster in support of the program read “We are not alone!” but left out the destruction to German society, starving babies, and industrial contamination which followed. While in other nations, intact academic institutions recognized the social and technological value of these populations, the defunct academic system in Germany allowed the same demagoguery to dominate in the medical system as had already consumed the political system. The two worked seamlessly to support each other and ensure that radicalization of the population occurred.
As Germany prepared for war, medical licenses or approbations were provided with increasingly lower levels of training and as a reward for party membership or loyalty. With the declaration of war doctors began to receive emergency medical licences, or notapprobations, and membership in the SS was admirable. They were deployed, medical professionals of all stripes, to select healthy prisoners, in which there was unanimous compliance. All that separated the doctors was unique sadism on the behalf of a few. This was an organization of death, and the mission and goal was the destruction of Germany’s foes. Compounded by the madness of murder perpetrated on a systemic scale, sadistic doctors found themselves with an open licence, not just in medicine, but in all matters life, death, and pain in between. Examples of torture include radiological scanning with lumbar punctures uniquely painful, “psychological” experiments in which prisoners were simply poisoned with sausages, and violently induced blindness and other disease.
Fortunately, the experimentation did not pan out for German scientists, and the pressure to produce increased. Rather than a return to the hypothesis or theorems being tested (or in practice in this case), which would have been necessitated by scientific method, this was pursued by an economical doubling down on the same old concepts previously rejected. Two things made this decision incontrovertible for Nazi leaders at the time: the coming declaration of war in 1938 and availability of nicotine-based insecticide. Without these catalysts, it is likely that the ivory tower would have provided the protection needed to ensure success in reversing the fundamental fallacies in logic which resulted in some of the greatest tragedies ever seen.
[1] Ujváry, István. “Nicotine and other insecticidal alkaloids.” In Nicotinoid Insecticides and the Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptor, pp. 29-69. Springer Japan, 1999, 2.
[2] Hayes, Peter. From cooperation to complicity: Degussa in the Third Reich. Cambridge University Press, 2007, 296.
[3] Nicosia, Francis R., and Jonathan Huener. “Medicine and Medical Ethics in Nazi Germany: Origins, Practices.” Legacies (2004), 51.
[4] Nicosia, Francis R., and Jonathan Huener. “Medicine and Medical Ethics in Nazi Germany: Origins, Practices.” Legacies (2004), 49.
[5] Forey, Barbara, Jan Hamling, John Hamling, Alison Thornton, and Peter Lee. “International Smoking Statistics Web Edition A Collection of Worldwide Historical Data Germany.” P N Lee Statistics and Computing Ltd. October 24, 2011. Accessed April 16, 2015, 10.
[6] Nicosia, Francis R., and Jonathan Huener. “Medicine and Medical Ethics in Nazi Germany: Origins, Practices.” Legacies (2004), 52.
[7] Nicosia, Francis R., and Jonathan Huener. “Medicine and Medical Ethics in Nazi Germany: Origins, Practices.” Legacies (2004), 79.
[8] Nicosia, Francis R., and Jonathan Huener. “Medicine and Medical Ethics in Nazi Germany: Origins, Practices.” Legacies (2004), 47.
[9] Nicosia, Francis R., and Jonathan Huener. “Medicine and Medical Ethics in Nazi Germany: Origins, Practices.” Legacies (2004), 50.
[10] Nicosia, Francis R., and Jonathan Huener. “Medicine and Medical Ethics in Nazi Germany: Origins, Practices.” Legacies (2004), 94.

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