Course Syllabus

Ethical and Scientific Legacy

of the Nazi Medical Crimes

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Semester & Location:

Fall 2021 - DIS Copenhagen

Type & Credits:

Elective Course - 3 credits

Major Disciplines:

Ethics, History, Public Health



Faculty Members:

Torben Jørgensen, 

Program Coordinator:

Sanne Rasmussen, 

Time & Place:

Mondays and Thursdays 14:50-16:10 in F24-306

Description of Course

In this course we trace the intellectual roots of Nazi medicine, such as the concept of racial hygiene, which influenced global medical medical thinking much before the Nazis came to power in Germany. We address the ethics of using knowledge and concepts left to us by the Nazis and other totalitarian regimes (Imperial Japan; The Soviet Union), such as much of our knowledge of the condition and treatment of hypothermia, which came about after inhumane experiments. We delve into case studies, covering some of the reasoning and motivations of doctors and nurses to accept and implement the Nazi (and other totalitarian) medical thinking, and discuss more contemporary examples of members of the medical professions who transgress against the ethics and norms of their field.

Learning Objectives

  • acquire a general understanding of how democratic Weimar became Nazi Germany
  • acquire an understanding of the living conditions in a totalitarian state
  • gain an understanding of the global impact of eugenics on the medical professions
  • gain an insight into the personal dynamics behind the motivation of doctors and nurses for entering into perverted medicine
  • gain knowledge of the arguments pertaining to the debate over use/non-use of the results of unethical research


Torben Jørgensen

Phone: +45 26 54 44 04


Cand. mag. in History, U. of Copenhagen; with the Danish Center for Holocaust and genocide research (2000-2003); with the Danish Institute for International Studies (2003-2005); Project Manager at the Danish Jewish Museum (2007-2008).


R.J. Lifton, The Nazi Doctors

P.J. Weidling, Nazi Medicine and the Nuremberg Trial

G. Aly et al, Cleansing the Fatherland

U. Schmidt, Karl Brandt

E. Scheffer, Asbergers Children

M. Kravetz, Woman Doctors in Weimar and nazi Germany

S. Kühl, the nazi Connection: Eugenics, American Rascism and German national Socialism

F.R. Nicosia et al, Medicine and Medical Ethics in Nazi Germany

Hal Gold, Unit 731 Testemony

M.S. Bryant, nazi Euthanasia on Trial

A. Pasternak, Inhuman Research

Academic Regulations  

Please make sure to read the Academic Regulations on the DIS website. There you will find regulations on: 


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Course Summary:

Date Details Due