Professor's Documentary on Nazi Medicine to Air

(4-23-97) -- A documentary by Prof. John Michalczyk (Fine Arts) on Nazi medicine, and the ethical issues it raises, will have its broadcast premiere on Boston public television next week.

"In the Shadow of the Reich: Nazi Medicine," a one-hour program on the involvement of Nazi doctors in the death camps and racial cleansing campaigns of Hitler's Third Reich, airs on WGBH Channel 2 on Tuesday, April 29, at 10 p.m.

The broadcast of Michalczyk's documentary coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Nuremberg Physicians Trial, at which Nazi doctors were convicted of war crimes in connection with medical experimentation on human victims in the concentration camps.

The documentary, shot in the US and at the sites of the Auschwitz and Majdanek camps, follows the theme of a 1993 conference Michalczyk organized at Boston College, "Medicine, Ethics and the Third Reich," and which he later compiled into a book bearing the same name. Michalczyk used footage from the conference, including excerpts of interviews with scholars, doctors and Holocaust survivors, in the film.

"In the Shadow of the Reich" studies "the step-by-step process that led the medical profession on an unethical road from racial theory to sterilization and euthanasia of the 'unfit,' to a full-scale genocide of Jews, gypsies and homosexuals, among others," said Michalczyk.

"It shows that doctors always regarded on pedestals of society were not, under the Third Reich, the healers of society, but the victimizers," he said.

The film graphically documents the racial theories and eugenics principles that set the stage for the doctors' participation in sterilization, euthanasia, and inhuman and unethical experimentation, Michalczyk said. It also draws a contrast with doctors in the besieged Jewish ghettos who sacrificed their lives to assist the starving and dying.

In the process, the film provides an historical basis for contemplating current-day dilemmas in bioethics, including cloning and physician-assisted suicide.

"The documentary raises many bioethical issues that resonate loud and clear today, whenever economics and politics are put before the value and human rights of an individual," Michalczyk said.

After its airing on Boston television, the documentary will be shown on WNET Channel 13 in New York City on Monday, May 5, at 10 p.m.

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