Deadly Medicine: Exhibit brings USD a close view of the Holocaust

A USD student walks through “Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race,” a traveling exhibit from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum that will be on display on the second floor of the I.D. Weeks Library through Jan. 6, 2013.

(Photo By Travis Gulbrandson)

By Travis Gulbrandson

travis.gulbrandson@plaintalk.net

Through the end of the year, visitors to USD's I.D. Weeks Library will be able to get an up-close look at one of the darkest eras of modern history.

That's because until Jan. 6, 2013, a portion of the library's second floor will be home to "Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race," a traveling exhibit from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

The exhibit explains how Nazi leaders used science to legitimize persecution, murder and genocide.

"It's about eugenics, experimentation and ethical considerations," explained Danielle Loftus, technology/fine arts librarian.

The exhibit is located past the main stairway on the west side of the library. It consists of panels, which display a combination of photographs, videos, posters, documents and other printed material.

"I really respect the way they present these images," Loftus said. "It's for all levels of people. (But) because of the subject matter, you might not want to bring your five-year-old, because some of the videos and some of the images might be a little disturbing.

"But anybody of any level can understand the information," she said.

David Burrow, Ph.D., associate professor of history at USD, said the exhibit provides a variety of materials focusing on those victimized by the Third Reich.

"There are photographs of people who were victims of different policies of sterilization early on," he said. "There are pictures of infant children who were killed during the Nazi euthanasia program. There are the charts and propaganda materials that the Nazis distributed to convince people of their ideas of how to create a master race by having the right people marry and reproduce. There's a lot of that."

Loftus said that while some of the content is intense, it doesn't "hit the viewer over the head."

Burrow agreed, saying that some portions of the exhibit leave people to draw their own conclusions, which he finds "one of the most valuable ways to teach."

"You present people with accurate information and you tell them what you know, but the ultimate conclusions you leave up to the students," he said. "Certainly one of the things that I would draw out of this exhibit is how you can take the process of science to a chillingly logical conclusion – the idea that some people are better than others.

"But the root of this is the idea that some people should not live," he said.

"It's a very disturbing concept," Loftus said.

"What this exhibit shows you is why people could be persuaded to think that wasn't a disturbing concept," Burrow said.

"Deadly Medicine" came to USD as a result of an application filled out by Loftus, and is one of several traveling exhibits from the Holocaust museum.

"This is the one that I thought would be interesting for our population," she said.

Funds from a South Dakota Humanities Council grant has allowed the Holocaust education effort to be expanded by making it possible for two lectures to be delivered on the subject later this month.

The first – "Of Foxes and Poisonous Mushrooms" – is by Carol A. Leibiger, Ph.D, associate professor, University Libraries, and will take place Nov. 6 at 7 p.m. and Nov. 8 at 3 p.m. in the second-floor atrium of the library.

According to information provided by USD, Leibiger will discuss "how individual lives coalesced with the Nazi movement to produce support for anti-Semitist policies and the Final Solution, and how this support was expressed and nurtured pedagogically using children's books."

Burrow will give the second lecture – "Eugenics and the Nazi Conscience" – Nov. 13 at 3 p.m. and Nov. 15 at 11 a.m. and 7 p.m.

He said it comes from scholar Claudia Koontz's concept of the "Nazi conscience," which is about how the Nazi state tried "to get people inside the third Reich to think of this idea that some people were better than others, that it was a moral good for the 'better' people to expel and ultimately murder and expunge the people that were inferior.

"They tried to get people to feel that as a matter of conscience," he said.

Loftus said "Deadly Medicine" will take visitors between 45 minutes and an hour to visit if they go through all the materials – something many people have been doing since the exhibit opened Oct. 25.

"One of the staff members that works in the archives has come down to photograph this in the past couple of days, and every time that we're down here we see people walking around," she said.

A number of area schools and other groups have made plans to visit, as well.

"We've got lots and lots of interest," Loftus said.

For more information about "Deadly Medicine," visit http://blogs.usd.edu/library/entry/university_libraries_to_host_u.

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