YSU HOLOCAUST PROGRAM Author explains Nazi genocide
The educator described the science behind mass murder.
By D.A. WILKINSON
VINDICATOR RELIGION EDITOR
YOUNGSTOWN -- Killing Jews, Gypsies and disabled Germans was a bid for racial purity aided by idiotic scientists, according to an educator and author.
Dr. Henry Friedlander said only those three groups were targeted for what he described as "mass murder on the assembly line."
Friedlander's "Origins of Nazi Genocide" was the focus Monday of the fourth annual Holocaust program sponsored at Youngstown State University by YSU's history department and Judaic/Holocaust Studies and the Youngstown Zionist District.
Friedlander recently retired from Brooklyn College, where he was a professor of Jewish studies for 30 years. He's the author of "The Origins of Nazi Genocide: From Euthanasia to the Final Solution."
Gene pool: The Nazi leaders, said Friedlander, wanted to, "cleanse the gene pool of the German nation."
The leaders gave the notion of blood purity a mythical sense. It was up to the doctors and scientists to legitimize the activities, said Friedlander.
They used cutting-edge science at the time, including eugenics, a science that deals with the improvements of hereditary qualities in a race, and euthanasia, the killing of the hopelessly sick or injured.
The scientific community at that time believed that the size of a person's head equaled the size of his brain, that men were smarter than women, and that whites were superior.
"Even cutting-edge scientists can be idiots," he said.
The first attempt at purity was to drive the Jews out of Germany, which didn't work, the speaker said. The Nazis then turned to killing those they deemed unworthy of life.
Killings begin: The scholar noted that the killings didn't begin until the war was under way, when it might go unnoticed. Still, diaries and other material showed that the German people became aware of the murders.
Friedlander ended his talk with a story about a doctor who spent his time teaching. He was called up for a brief period -- to serve at Auschwitz, a concentration camp where he decided who died.
In his journal for his first day at the death camp, he used an obscenity -- rendered in Latin -- to describe it. The next day he wrote of the food.
Within two days, the man had adjusted to the work, Friedlander said. When his service was done, the man returned to teaching.
"Can you understand a man like that? I can't," Friedlander said.
Honored: Also during the program, the educator, and his late wife, Sybil Milton, were awarded the Janusz Korczak Humanitarian Award. Among other activities, they co-edited several volumes of the Simon Wiesenthal Center Annual and Archives of the Holocaust.
The Joseph Hill Award for Jewish Studies went to James Bartek and Joseph DiBlasio, who are in the master's program in YSU's history department.