NYMC Observes Yom Hashoah, Remembering Those Lost During the Holocaust
Taking a look at how the world of Nazi medicine played a role in treatment of Jews during the Holocaust
Members of the New York Medical College (NYMC) and Touro College and University System community came together to observe Yom Hashoah virtually this year on April 7 with a powerful presentation led by Tessa Chelouche, M.D., a family physician in Israel and scholar of medical history. Dr. Chelouche’s presentation, "Hitler and Hippocrates: Medicine during the Third Reich,” delved into the role Nazi physicians and the medical community abroad played in the killing of millions of Jews in the Holocaust.
Edward C. Halperin, M.D., M.A., chancellor and chief executive officer, offered opening remarks reflecting on recent anti-Semitic attacks and the rise in white supremacy ideologies in the United States. “For the last several years, America hasn’t seemed so safe,” Dr. Halperin said.
The presentation, which Dr. Chelouche conducted from Israel, focused on the teachings of Nazi Doctor Rudolf Ramm, who preached his version of medical ethics, which included ideas that referred to Jews as inferior beings and even “germs.” Ramm’s teachings were taught at all 28 medical schools in Nazi Germany, Dr. Chelouche said, as Nazis tried to form physicians that were loyal to their code.
Dr. Chelouche noted that 50 percent of doctors in Germany at the time were part of the Nazi party by choice and that Nazi doctors should not be thought of as unwilling participants in the ideologies of Nazi medicine, which was anti-Semitic by nature, saying, “[Nazi Doctors] were not pawns but pioneers.”
Dr. Chelouche concluded by saying that those in the medical field must keep an eye on ethical dilemmas and think about how the profession can be abused as it was during the Holocaust. “It’s easy to say that they were crazy, they were barbaric, they did terrible things. ‘That’s not us.’ What’s difficult is to go into it and to see why they did what they did,” she said.
Rabbi Moshe D. Krupka, M.S., executive vice president of the Touro College and University System, closed out the event with a prayer and echoed sentiments by Dr. Halperin and Dr. Chelouche. “It’s important for us to find that inner strength to find our voice and to be able to take action so that the words ‘never again’ are not merely a catchy slogan but rather a call to action,” he said.
The event was moderated by Marie T. Ascher, M.S., M.P.H., the Lillian Hetrick Huber Endowed Director of the Health Sciences Library, with the candle lighting by Anne Bayefsky, M.A., L.L.B., director, Touro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust and remarks by Stacy Gallin, D.M.H., founding director, Maimonides Institute for Medicine, Ethics and the Holocaust, visiting assistant professor, Medical Ethics Program at NYMC, and co-chair, Department of Bioethics and the Holocaust, UNESCO Chair of Bioethics at Haifa.