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356Help: Arriving at the notorious Polish concentration camp

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  • Jan Niechwiadowicz
    Mar 1, 2008
      Dear Group,

      I would not normally raise alerts about German camps in occupied
      Poland during WWII wrongly being called Polish here. Generally over
      at the Polish Media Issues group we are able to get a positive reply
      from the media responsible.

      Sadly in the following case the organisation is refusing to accept
      its wording is wrong hence I am calling on the Polonia at large to
      express their views on this article and hopefully support us in
      getting this corrected.

      The article is generally very good and the Germans are clearly
      mentioned BUT it still wrongly refers to the camps.

      If you have time please express your views by writing to


      Jan Niechwiadowicz, Moderator Polish Media Issues Yahoo Group

      Reply from Editor: The Auschwitz concentration camp was in occupied
      Poland. Because there were concentration camps all over Europe
      during WWII, the reference was to locate this particular
      concentration camp among the many. If the writer had been describing
      a particular camp in occupied Austria, she might have described it
      as an Austrian camp. Also, the notoriety of Auschwitz as a Nazi
      concentration camp -- undoubtedly the best-known concentration camp
      by name -- and context of the story erases even the slightest
      possibility there would be confusion about who was running the camp.

      Originally Article:


      At the dawn of the Nazi era, a prominent Minneapolis physician sent a
      letter to Adolf Hitler, praising his "plan to stamp out mental
      inferiority among the German people."

      At the time, Dr. Charles Dight was an influential public leader, a
      former city alderman who had founded the Minnesota Eugenics Society.
      As such, he believed that the "feebleminded" were unfit to have
      children. He didn't hide his admiration for the German chancellor.

      "I trust you will accept my sincere wish that your efforts along that
      line will be a great success," he wrote on Aug. 1, 1933, "and will
      advance the eugenics movement in other nations as well as in

      Dight died before he could see where that movement would lead.

      The lure of eugenics -- the idea that science could improve on
      humanity by weeding out "undesirable traits" -- is the focus
      of "Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race," an exhibit opening
      tomorrow at the Science Museum of Minnesota.

      The traveling collection of books, artifacts, posters, historic
      newsreels and interviews with survivors was produced by the U.S.
      Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., and runs through May 4
      in St. Paul.

      It explores how highly educated people on both sides of the Atlantic,
      such as Dight, were swept up in the eugenics movement of the early
      20th century. In the United States, that led to forced sterilizations
      in mental institutions, including thousands of Minnesotans.

      In Nazi Germany, mass sterilization was just the beginning.

      "This exhibition was designed to answer one of the big 'how was the
      Holocaust possible' questions," said Susan Bachrach, curator of the
      exhibition at the Holocaust Museum. "One of the answers has to do
      with the role of physicians and scientists."

      "Deadly Medicine" documents how doctors ended up committing barbaric
      acts in the name of science.

      Today, people such as Margot de Wilde of Plymouth still bear the
      scars. This week, she will share her story at an exhibit preview for
      local teachers.

      Surviving Nazi experiments

      De Wilde, now 86, fled her native Berlin in the early 1930s, just as
      the Nazis were coming to power.

      Her parents, who were Jewish, thought the family would be safer in
      Amsterdam. That changed when Germany occupied Holland in World War

      De Wilde, 21, was arrested with her first husband, Lodewyk Meyer, and
      his family while trying to escape to Switzerland. By the summer of
      1943, she was on a cattle car to Auschwitz.

      Arriving at the notorious Polish concentration camp, she heard
      someone call for young married women to step forward. She did.

      De Wilde ended up in a barracks for women used in medical
      experiments. She never saw the doctors, who sent other prisoners to
      do their work.

      "You were just called by number down to the room," she said. "They
      took X-rays and then inserted fluids into the vaginal area, and we
      didn't know what it was. We thought either artificial insemination or
      sterilization. And this was indeed the sterilization." To this day,
      she has no idea what the fluid was.

      "It didn't hurt," she remembers. "But I never had children. So it
      must have worked." She witnessed even more brutal experiments, where
      many women died.

      The Germans, she later learned, were searching for ways to sterilize
      mass numbers of people. Somehow, she knew she would survive. Her
      husband did not.

      Breeding better humans

      The idea of eugenics in the early 1900s was that science
      could "improve the human race," said Stephen Feinstein, director of
      the University of Minnesota Center for Holocaust and Genocide
      Studies, which is sponsoring the exhibit. The assumption was that
      certain people were fitter than others by birth, and if well matched,
      would produce the fittest children.

      The theory had a certain rational appeal, said Bachrach. "If you
      could breed better animals, why couldn't you breed better human

      But scientists quickly turned to the flip side: What about the "least
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