2012 | Out of the Ashes: Jewish Approaches to Medical Dilemmas Born out of the Holocaust

On Sunday, October 21, this year’s Fuld Family Medical Ethics Society conference will present participants with the contemporary relevance of ethical challenges that arose during the Holocaust. Participatns will be presented with issues that rose during the actual regime as well as issues that are a product of the Holocaust. The conference will be opened by Michael A. Grodin, M.D., of Boston University who is a leading expert in bioethics as well as medicine and the Holocaust. It will be followed by a plenary on human experimentation which will consist of a firsthand account by a survivor of Mengele’s twin experiments, Irene Hizme, and a discussion of the Halakhic and ethical viewpoints by Rabbi Moshe D. Tendler, Ph.D. There will be two sets of breakout session that will be covering topics such as trans-generational trauma of survivors and the Jewish attitude on life through the lens of the mentally disabled. Participants will be privileged to hear from leading experts in the fields of Halacha and medicine such as David Pelcovitz, Ph.D, Rabbi Edward Reichman, M.D., and Rabbi Michael Taubes. The conference will present the ethical and Halachic views towards complex and relevant issues that have come out of the Holocaust.

9:30 AM-10:30 AM Keynote Address: Medical Ethics in the Shadow of the Holocaust: The Nazi Doctors, Racial Hygiene, Murder and Genocide

Presenter: Michael Grodin, M.D.

How was it possible? How could the Nazi doctors have conceptualized, organized, supervised and participated in the sterilization and euthanasia programs and ultimately the murders and genocide of the “Final Solution”? How has this history impacted on contemporary medicine and bioethics? What is the importance of the study of Medicine and the Holocaust for Jewish Medical Ethics?

10:30 AM-12:00 PM Plenary: Human Experimentation

Presenters: Rabbi Moshe Tendler, Ph.D., Irene Hizme
Moderators: Edward Burns, M.D.

At this plenary session, participants will be exposed to a personal and contemporary halakhic perspective on human experimentation in light of the tragedies of the Holocaust and Nazi experimentations.

1:10 PM-2:00 PM; 2:10 PM-3:00 PM Breakout Sessions


Breakout 1: Medical Halakhic Dilemmas Faced During the Holocaust

Presenter: Edward Reichman, M.D.
Moderator: Chani Herzig

In this session we will discuss the wide range of medical halakhic issues that the Jews faced during this trying and tragic time in our history. Topics will include the obligation of pru urvu, the halakhic impact of the forced sterilization program, end of life decisions, issues of kavod hamet, cremation and the luz bone.

Breakout 2: The Nuremberg Laws and Code in the Light of 21st Century Medical Ethics

Presenter: Harry Ostrer, M.D.
Moderator: Deena Miller

Human genetics and its twin, eugenics, gained footholds in the United States, Germany and other Western societies in the late 19th and early 20th centuries with both positive (promoting fertility) and negative (forced sterilization) eugenics promoted. Under the Nazis, eugenics took a murderous form with extermination of mental defectives, Jews, Roma, homosexuals and others. Nuremberg was the site in which the racial laws of 1935 defined Jewishness and the code of 1947 defined the importance of informed consent, quality of science and protection from suffering and injury. Here, we will review the two facets of Nuremberg in light of population genetic research that identifies Jewish people and medical genetic research that identifies genetic diseases and susceptibilities.

Breakout 3: Trauma and Resilience in the Second and Third Generation after the Holocaust

Presenter: David Pelkovitz, Ph.D.
Moderator: Chanokh Berenson

Psychologists working with the children and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors have referred to the struggles of these families as ‘the scar without a wound.’ The majority of survivors’ children and grandchildren reflect the resilience of their parents. However, this presentation will feature literature which considers the lingering presence of the holocaust in familial and intrapsychic dynamics, even seven decades after the war. Two modes of communication about the holocaust will be discussed; An almost obsessive re-telling of Holocaust stories from survivor to child versus an all-consuming silence.  The silence, although meant to be protective, at times lead to a pattern of adaptation which failed to allow second and third generations to integrate the trauma of the holocaust productively. The presentation will focus on the observations made in research and clinical experience about the sources of resilience and post traumatic growth in the second generation after the holocaust. Case examples, Jewish and psychological perspectives will inform the presentation.

Breakout 4: The Halakhic Status of People with Special Needs; A Response to Nazi Euthanasia

Presenter: Rabbi Michael Taubes
Moderator: Simcha Weissman

In their pursuit of cleansing the human race, the Nazi’s genocidal policies extended to all people with special needs. In this session we will discuss Jewish attitudes towards the value of life as well as our communal obligation to provide for the education and inclusion of special needs individuals.

Breakout 5: Nazi Medicine: Its role in the Gassing Process and the Ongoing Implications of their Pseudo-scientific Work.

Presenter: Michael Berenbaum, Ph.D
Moderator: Chumie Yagod

The participation of medical professionals in Nazi genocidal policies was crucial to the successful execution of millions. In this session, Michael Berenbaum will explore the role of physicians in the Holocaust. He will present physician organization of both prisoner experimentation and the murder of handicapped. Additionally, physician creation and operation of gas chambers and the subsequent expansion of the crematoria and gas chambers, will be discussed. The role of the physician will be traced back to the so-called “euthanasia” program. This session will also consider, the implications of this participation for contemporary medical ethics, including the ethical issue raised by the use of Nazi experimental results in contemporary science.

Breakout 6: Nazi Physicians, Genetic Research, and the “Mission” of Racial Eugenics

Presenter: Dieter Kuntz, Ph.D.
Moderator: Ora Laufer

This lecture analyzes the motivations of physicians and scientists who collaborated with the Nazi regime in designing, promoting, and enacting the Third Reich’s racial hygiene policies. The focus is on psychiatrists, geneticists, and anthropologists who sought to cleanse the nation’s gene pool of undesirable and “inferior” genetic influences in order to construct—or biologically engineer—a racially “pure” community, the Volksgemeinschaft.

Breakout 7: The Status of Concentration Camps in Halakhah

Presenter: Rabbi Jeremy Wieder
Moderator: Moshe Wasserman

This lecture will analyze the halakhic issues of concentration camps with respect to their status as graveyards, the prohibition of deriving benefit from the deceased and/or their ashes, as well as the commandment to bury the dead.

For speaker biographies, click here
For a printable schedule, click here.