Posted on March 19th, 2014 by Rachel
On March 13, I attended a program at the University of Maryland’s Health Sciences Library in conjunction with a traveling exhibition that the Library is hosting, Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race. This exhibit, created by the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, has been traveling throughout the country for several years. The exhibition explores the rise of eugenics in Nazi Germany and how the quest to create a master race resulted in a public campaign to rid society of “undesirables” including those with mental and physical disabilities as well as individuals who were considered members of inferior races, such as Jews.
The exhibition’s curator, Susan Bachrach, gave a lecture to a crowd of medical students, University of Maryland administrators and professors, and community members. Dr. Bachrach’s riveting talk included background on the history of the eugenics movement, both in Weimar Germany as well as in other countries including the US. Many in the audience were unaware of the fact that forced sterilization was legal in several states in the US in the first half of the 20th century. While Maryland did not have such a law, in one notable 1927 Supreme Court case, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote the majority opinion upholding Virginia’s law in the 1927 case against Carrie Buck. (For more on this case, check out www.uvm.edu/~lkaelber/eugenics/VA/VA.html.)
Although the exhibit is difficult to view from the point of view of its deeply disturbing content and imagery, the subject matter is incredibly important and relevant for contemporary audiences especially in light of current debates on medical ethics. Dr. Bachrach’s lecture included video testimony from Holocaust survivors including siblings who were sent to Auschwitz where they were subjected to the notorious Dr. Mengele’s experiments on twins. Following this emotional testimony, it was hard to look at a photograph of Dr. Mengele in which he looks like a “normal” doctor going about his business. We so often think of the perpetuators of the Holocaust as evil monsters and it is difficult to grapple with the fact that their appearance does not always conform to this characterization.
The USHMM has created a virtual exhibit on their website that features more information as well as images.
The JMM and BJC are co-sponsoring a teacher training workshop taking place at the University of Maryland’s Health Sciences Library on April 2. The program is open to educators of all backgrounds.
Deadly Medicine is on view through April 30.
A blog post by Assistant Director Deborah Cardin. To read more posts from Deborah, click here.
Posted on July 21st, 2011 by Rachel
A blog post by summer intern Codi Lamb.
On Tuesday, July 19, 2011, Deb Weiner, the JMM’s Research Historian and Family History Coordinator, held a genealogy workshop where the summer interns and some of the volunteers and staff were in attendance. The topic of discussion was what some of the best research methods are today to discover history about your family. The main focus was searching for Jewish families in Maryland since that is primarily what is done at the JMM.
A problem that can often arise is when you have family that has changed their name. Well to account for those issues a system called the Soundex Code was implemented to take these factors into consideration. Essentially this program was made to search for names in archival documents with the thought that people can possibly be related even if the spelling is slightly different. Amazingly this method of searching was patented in 1918 and 1922 by Robert C. Russell and Margaret K. Odell. Even more fascinating was getting to see the results of the Soundex Code when the interns and Deb Weiner took a field trip to the Hebrew Fellowship and Herring Run cemeteries.
These gravestones feature useful historical information that can be used when doing family research. On Jewish headstones in particular, there is often Hebrew that will tell who the parents of the deceased are. The information that is displayed on the stones are more than just historical, they tell you about the person that was laid to rest there.
While helping Deb search for the gravestones that needed to be photographed to help with a person’s family research, we came across of row of stones that were just children. Most were under the age of 11. While looking there was one that once had a ceramic photograph on the front of a child who died at the age of seven. Today that picture was found lying on the ground in three pieces. Not everything can remain in pristine condition and thankfully for those stones and items such as that photograph, there is an organization to help repair damaged plots. The Jewish Cemetery Association of Greater Baltimore is a non-profit group branched from The Associated that hires caretakers to help with the upkeep and repair of Jewish cemeteries (By the way, I am sure they are always happy to have volunteers if you are willing).
Finally before leaving the Herring Run cemetery I noticed that there were multiple stones on some of the graves and one of the interns kindly reminded me how people will often leave stones instead of flowers because the stones will last forever. Seeing those stones and the work that is being done to preserve the plots warms my heart. That’s because I know that even though some of these people may have been gone for many decades, they are certainly not forgotten by their loved ones or the Jewish community.