Organized Mass Murder | An exhibition by DGPPN looks back at medicine’s role in the time of National Socialism in Germany

It has been to Japan, Australia and Italy. An exhibition of old photos, text and documents looks back at the dark role medicine for people with mental illnesses had in the time of National Socialism in Germany. An exhibition now wants to create transparency, public awareness and also wants to apologize to the victims – if that is possible in any way, as Dr. Frank Schneider, former president of DGPPN (German Association for Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics) says.

Frank Schneider of DGPPN at the opening of the exhibtion in Cologne – together with Dr. Manfred Lรผtz (l.) and Peter Scharfe (r.) of Alexianer.

The perpetrators came from the middle of society, says Schneider. A few hundred thousand people were brought to compulsory sterilization and to death. Organized mass murder.

The exhibition now tries to give victims a name and a face. And also perpetrators are presented by photos. Oftentimes in private situations. “After war everything was denied,” Frank Schneider explains. Former perpetrators came back to power and their jobs.

Three years the DGPPN worked on the exhibition – searching in archives and documents. And being critical to itself and the whole medical profession.

The exhibition wants to give the victims a face.

In March 2019 the exhibition is presented at Alexianer Hospital for people with mental illnesses. A hospital that is also unsure of its own role during the regime. “We are not naive to think everything was fine here,” says executive director Peter Scharfe. Medical director Dr. Manfred Lรผtz says: “We as doctors should serve our patients.” In the time of National Socialism that principle was lost.