The Anatomy of Murder: Ethical Transgressions and Anatomical Science during the Third Reich | BERGHAHN BOOKS
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The Anatomy of Murder: Ethical Transgressions and Anatomical Science during the Third Reich

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The Anatomy of Murder

Ethical Transgressions and Anatomical Science during the Third Reich

Sabine Hildebrandt
Foreword by William E. Seidelman

390 pages, 6 tables, bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-78533-067-4 $145.00/£107.00 / Hb / Published (January 2016)

ISBN  978-1-78533-732-1 $34.95/£27.95 / Pb / Published (August 2017)

eISBN 978-1-78533-068-1 eBook

View CartYour country: - edit Request a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format)Recommend to your LibraryAvailable in GOBI®


“Real progress in uncovering the atrocities [of the anatomical malpractices by Nazi doctors] was made only after 2000 – more than fifty years after the end of the war. Dr Hildebrandt’s own research has played an important role in developing international awareness on the subject.” • Indian Journal of Medical Ethics

The Anatomy of Murder itself is comprehensive, fully documented in scores of primary and secondary sources, and carefully places its findings in the context of previous historical research on the history of medicine in Germany before, during and after the Third Reich. There are extensive chapter notes and bibliographies to many archival and published sources.” German History Review

“…an essential contribution to the history of medicine under National Socialism as well as a precise analysis of developments of the history of anatomical science and its practitioners since 1933.” • H-Net

“Based on her research in archives in Europe and North America, Hildebrandt offers a learned and well-rounded account of the manifold facets of the field, including a discussion of the ethical transgressions of coerced human-subject research, the killing of concentration camp prisoners and inmates of mental asylums, and the compilation, uses, and application of knowledge within the most inhumane contexts… an important and eye-opening book that will become standard literature for Holocaust studies programs, as well as for courses on medical ethics and the history of medicine and science during the twentieth century.” • Central European History

“With this book Sabine Hildebrandt submits an important piece of work to the public, a work that is always absorbing, and needs to be taken very, very seriously. It truly presents a milestone in the research and reappraisal of one of the darkest chapters in the history of medicine. On the basis of thorough new research and a meticulous collection of existing data, it analyzes concisely, objectively, and consistently the position and development of the medical discipline of anatomy during the Third Reich…It would be more than appropriate to include this important book as a standard text in the medical curriculum on the history of medicine. Also, this work can be recommended warmly and without reservations to the general public.” • Annals of Anatomy

“This important and well-written… book is the first comprehensive treatise to tackle the daunting and controversial topic of human atrocities that occurred in Germany during World War II from the perspective of the anatomists and their respective institutions. Much of the information presented in the book is from recently acquired data… This book will appeal not only to those involved in anatomy but to any person interested in gaining insight into the relationship between anatomists and the NS government during the Third Reich.” • Clinical Anatomy

The Anatomy of Murder is a careful dissection of a slice of medical history. It also prompts a meditation on medicine’s privileged status as an institution and its close relationship with structures of power and oppression. The crimes of Nazi anatomists are not unique; they are echoed by medicine’s many abuses, which often lie at the intersection of the pursuit and application of medical knowledge and the state’s drive for control over people’s lives. The Anatomy of Murder trips us up with that idea. And it’s a good thing it does.” • Medical Humanities

“This study is written with considerable knowledge, energy, and engagement. It contains much that is fresh and new in terms of research and has the advantage of an insider’s understanding: the author deploys her expertise as a practitioner-historian to good effect.” • Paul Weindling, Oxford Brookes University

“Like many other professions, the discipline of anatomy has, in terms of its history with National Socialism, been characterized by dereliction, denial, and duplicity. Sabine Hildebrandt carefully distinguishes between fact and apparent fiction in this first definitive history of the science and practice of anatomy in Nazi Germany. It is comprehensive and fully documented, carefully placing its findings in the context of previous research.” • Geoffrey Cocks, Albion College


Of the many medical specializations to transform themselves during the rise of National Socialism, anatomy has received relatively little attention from historians. While politics and racial laws drove many anatomists from the profession, most who remained joined the Nazi party, and some helped to develop the scientific basis for its racialist dogma. As historian and anatomist Sabine Hildebrandt reveals, however, their complicity with the Nazi state went beyond the merely ideological. They progressed through gradual stages of ethical transgression, turning increasingly to victims of the regime for body procurement, as the traditional model of working with bodies of the deceased gave way, in some cases, to a new paradigm of experimentation with the “future dead.”

Sabine Hildebrandt is an Assistant Professor in the Division of General Pediatrics, Department of Medicine, at Boston Children’s Hospital and a Lecturer on Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Her research focuses on the history and ethics of anatomy, and she is an internationally recognized expert on anatomy in National Socialist Germany.

Subject: History: World War IIGenocide History
Area: Germany


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