October 16, 2006

US Holocaust Museum Travels to Germany

From Spiegel Online:

The Nazis may have taken it to murderous extremes, but eugenics existed long before Hitler's 1933 rise to power. A new exhibition in Dresden -- originally shown at the US Holocaust Museum in Washington -- looks at the pseudo-scientific foundations of racism.

In the 1920s, visitors to the German Hygiene Museum in Dresden were greeted with a state-of-the-art exhibit: a transparent man, arms uplifted to the heavens. In an era of economic and political turmoil, the futuristic "Glass Man" was a powerful symbol of a healthy, pure German future. Physical health was part of it; there were exhibits on the circulation system, germs and nutrition.

But that wasn't all. The museum also advocated a scientific approach to a problem gaining increasing attention in early 20th century Germany: racial hygiene -- a scientific look at race which ultimately informed the Nazis views on Aryan racial purity. When the Nazis took power in 1933, the Glass Man began appearing on propaganda posters and pamphlets promoting the "Eternal People."
It's an episode in its history that the museum -- founded in 1912 -- has largely kept silent about. Germany itself, in fact, has done little to take a comprehensive look at its fascination with eugenics early last century. Until Thursday, that is.

In an unusual collaboration, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum opened its first-ever exhibition outside the US at the Hygiene Museum. Entitled "Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race," the show chronicles the history of Nazi race science and eugenics from pseudo-scientific roots to its ultimate, murderous conclusion. And in a conscious echo of the past, the first thing visitors see when they cross the threshold is the Glass Man, now a symbol of something entirely different.
Click here to see some photos from the exhibit.