Exhibition Examines Role Of Scientists And Doctors In Holocaust

Holocaust, eugenics
This is a poster for the Nazi eugenics program. Printed in 1936, it proclaims, “We are not alone.” The column on the left shows the countries that already had forced sterilization for certain “social undesirables.” The columns on the bottom and right show countries considering eugenics programs.

Note the American flag on the left. Various U.S. states practiced compulsory sterilization as early as 1907, when Indiana instituted sterilization of “confirmed criminals, idiots, imbeciles, and rapists.” The law was overturned in 1921, only to be replaced in 1927 with a law requiring sterilization of the “Insane, feeble minded or epileptic.” That law stayed on the books until 1974. Many states had similar laws and this “social cleansing” program heavily influenced the Nazis.

The Nazis instituted their Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring in 1933, the same year Hitler came to power. Many scientists and doctors were quick to jump onto the Nazi bandwagon and began “studies” to prove how the Germanic peoples were superior to all other races. This gave a scholarly stamp of approval to the forced sterilization, and eventual killing, of millions of Jews, Gypsies, Slavs, and physically and mentally disabled.

This unseemly link between science and the Holocaust is being examined in a new exhibition at the National WWII Museum in New Orleans. “Deadly Medicine: Creating The Master Race” brings together posters, leaflets and photos of scientific examinations to show how the scientific community became complicit in the greatest crime of the 20th century.

It also shows how these ideas were sold to the German people. One picture in a high school textbook shows a German man bent under the weight of an alcoholic and a brutish-looking man, perhaps meant to portray a mentally disabled person, with the caption, “You are sharing the load! A hereditarily ill person costs 50,000 Reichsmarks on average up to the age of sixty.”

“Deadly Medicine: Creating The Master Race” runs until October 15, 2012.

[Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons]

Top ten things to do in Brussels, Belgium

BrusselsA couple of weeks ago I was chatting with some fellow travel writers and the conversation turned to Brussels. The general consensus seemed to be that Belgium’s capital isn’t worth visiting.

I disagree. While it can’t compete with London or Paris, it has its own charm and can easily fill up three or four days of a European tour. The mixture of Flemish and Walloon culture makes for a distinct city with an interesting history. A large immigrant population is livening things up too, with Ethiopian cafes, Asian restaurants, and a string of Congolese shops in the Matonge area.

Here are ten reasons not to skip Brussels.

Beer!
Belgian beer is justly famous for its variety and flavor. From the rich Trappist and Abbey beers to the more secular but equally tasty Lambics and Saisons, Belgium is a beer snob’s paradise. There are plenty of fine bars in Brussels serving up this lovely brew. A Gadling favorite is the centrally located Delerium Cafe, which sells more than 2000 varieties from around the world, and of course a huge selection of Belgian labels.

Chocolate!
Like Belgian beer, Belgian chocolate needs no introduction. Hey, it’s so good you can even snort it. Chocolate shops abound in Brussels and most cafes will serve you a piece along with your coffee.

Peeing statues!
Ah yes, the famous Manneken Pis. Has anyone gone to Brussels and not seen this? There are several stories about how this little guy came into being. The one I heard was that a sculptor’s son went missing back in the seventeenth century. A frantic search ensued and the sculptor swore he’d make a statue showing his son exactly as he found him. Take a look at this photo courtesy Jim Linwood to see what the kid was doing when he finally turned up. In the spirit of affirmative action, a female counterpart was erected in 1987 in Impasse de la Fidélité/Getrouwheidsgang (Fidelity Alley) showing a little girl squatting and doing her business. She’s called Jeanneke Pis.

Art Nouveau!
Brussels is justly famous for its many Art Nouveau buildings dating to the early part of the last century. The best way to savor the scene is to go to one of Brussels’ many Art Nouveau cafes where you can enjoy a coffee and a piece of Belgian chocolate while admiring the architecture. One of the greatest of Art Nouveau architects was Victor Horta whose house museum is a classic of the style.

%Gallery-149488%
Classic Films!
Belgium was an early innovator of film back during cinema’s infancy in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The best place to learn about this is the Musée du Cinéma/Filmmuseum, where you can see artifacts from the birth of motion pictures. The museum’s two cinemas show arthouse classics and silent films with live piano accompaniment.

Tanks and Swords!
The Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and of Military History is one of the best war museums I’ve ever visited, and I’ve probably visited too many. The land that now comprises Belgium has been fought over for centuries and this museum’s collection reflects that bloody past. It has an excellent tank collection from both world wars as well as an extensive armory of medieval weapons to slice, dice, chop, hack, and crush your enemies. Why is this cool? It just is.

Fine Art!
Museums are the best way to stay dry when the Belgian weather gets wet, which it does frequently. Brussels has several art galleries and museums. The most prominent are the Royal Museums of Fine Arts. Together they boast some twenty thousand paintings, sculptures and drawings. They include the Ancient Art Museum, the Modern Art Museum, the Wiertz Museum, the Meunier Museum, and the Museé Magritte Museum.

The Historic Center!
Much of medieval Brussels was leveled to make way for new construction in the nineteenth century. Luckily, a classic core survives around La Grand Place/Grote Markt, where centuries-old mansions and churches still survive. This is the most photogenic part of Brussels and while it can get overrun with tourists, it’s still worth a look. A little further out, visit the Basilique du Sacré Coeur/Basiliek van het Heilig Hart, an Art Deco basilica that’s the fifth biggest church in the world, and La Cambre Abbey, a 12th century abbey.

Comics!
Besides film, beer, and chocolate, the Belgians have always been big into comics. At the Belgian Comic Strip Center you can learn all about this with a variety of comics on display and a big gift shop if you want to bring some home. Belgium’s most famous comic artist was Hergé, creator of Tintin, who of course has his own museum.

Day trips!
Belgium is a small country with a good rail system. This makes it a good base for day trips. The lovely countryside is dotted with several castles and rustic villages. Regular trains go to several historic cities such as Antwerp (one hour), Ghent (30 minutes), Bruges (one hour), and Liege (one hour). For more information on day trips, click here.

So head on over to Brussels. You won’t be sorry!

Albania’s National Museum faces up to Communist past

AlbaniaA new wing of Albania’s National Museum in Tirana opened yesterday that’s dedicated to the abuses of its former Communist government.

Under the harsh rule of Enver Hoxha, shown here in a photo courtesy Forrásjelölés Hasonló, some 100,000 Albanians were executed or sent to prison or forced labor camps, this in a country of only three million people. Torture and intimidation were rife and a network of informers made everyone paranoid.

For a disturbing look at the surreal daily life in this regime, read The Country Where No One Ever Dies by Albanian author Ornela Vorpsi. The last days of Communist rule are seen through the eyes of an adolescent girl whose main dream is simply to be left alone.

That was the dream of a lot of Albanians. The new wing to the museum displays photographs and artifacts documenting the torture and extermination of dissidents. People lived in fear of disappearing into a jail or camp. Hopefully this exhibition will go a small way towards helping Albania come to terms with its past and heal some open wounds.

Visible evidence of the old regime is everywhere in Albania. While Tirana is undergoing a beautification program and the countless statues of Hoxha have been pulled down, thousands of bunkers still litter the country’s beaches, fields, and neighborhoods. The paranoid regime put up an estimated 700,000 of the ugly things despite needing roads and adequate housing for its citizens. One set of them can be seen in the photo below courtesy the Concrete Mushrooms Project.

Albania

Met returns Tutankhamun artifacts to Egypt


New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art is returning 19 artifacts from King Tutankhamun’s tomb to Egypt. This is another success in Egypt’s ongoing battle to bring home its heritage. Antiquities chief Zahi Hawass is spearheading the drive and says he’s repatriated more than 5,000 artifacts. These include a fragment of Egyptian sculpture the Met discovered last year had actually been stolen, and other items from collections all over Europe and North America.

According to the Met’s press release, the artifacts made their way into the museum’s collection in the years following the tomb’s discovery by Howard Carter in 1922. Carter and the Egyptian authorities had agreed that all of his finds were Egyptian property, and the objects should never have been allowed to be sold or bequeathed to the Met. After Carter’s death, his own home was found to be decorated with loot from the tomb. Most of the Met’s artifacts are fragments that were used as scientific samples, but the collection includes a bronze dog and a sphinx bracelet.

The objects will join the exhibition Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs at Discovery Times Square Exposition before going on display at the Met for six months. After that, they’ll finally join King Tut’s other treasures in Cairo, like the scarab bracelet in the above photo.

[Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons]

Smithsonian opens up its attic

The Smithsonian is often called “America’s attic.” This October, America’s attic will be opening up its attic to give visitors a behind-the-scenes look at how it operates.

October is American Archives Month and and the Smithsonian will be celebrating by hosting a free Archives Fair on October 22 at the National Mall in Washington, DC. Experts working with the Smithsonian’s collections will be talking about the institution’s hidden treasures and giving tips on how to preserve your old mementos. You can even make an appointment and have your heirlooms examined by an expert.

If you can’t make it to DC, check out the Smithsonian Collections blog, which will be running a 31-day blogathon throughout October. Curators will post about how they preserve and restore the objects in the world’s biggest museum.

[Image courtesy ultraclay! via Gadling’s flickr pool]