Scrapbookpages Blog

December 23, 2010

Judging a book by its cover: Murderous Medicine by Naomi Baumslag

Filed under: Buchenwald, Holocaust — Tags: , — furtherglory @ 8:20 am

On July 11, 2010, a reader of my blog made a comment in which he provided a link to a book review of a book entitled “Murderous Medicine,” by Naomi Baumslag.

In his comment, the reader quoted the first paragraph of the book review:

In Murderous medicine Naomi Baumslag documents the complicity of Nazi doctors and pharmaceutical companies in murderous medical experiments related to epidemic typhus to further Jewish genocide. On the book’s cover is a picture of the shaved heads of newly dead men, frozen in snow, with snow caps as skull caps, reminiscent of the Jewish yarmulke. Eyes and mouths are closed, forever blinded and silenced about the conditions of their deaths. Perhaps only pictures can capture the essence of Nazi medical atrocities; but pictures also limit these atrocities, which are almost too numerous to catalog.  

I should have immediately clicked on the link in the comment to see the photo of the frozen men “with snow caps, reminiscent of the Jewish yarmulke,” but I didn’t.  I finally got around to reading the book review today and I saw the book’s cover, which is shown below.

Cover of book "Murderous Medicine" by Naomi Baumslag

(Click on the photo to enlarge)

Wow! This is an amazing photo. As a person with a life long interest in photography, I can’t help but wonder how this photo was made.  More importantly, why was this photo chosen for a scholarly book about Nazi medicine?  This photo screams FAKE, FAKE, FAKE.  Why would anyone believe anything in a book with this FAKE photo on the cover?

Notice that the men in the photo have apparently died while standing up.  Assuming that the men were around 6 feet tall, they are standing up in 5 feet of snow.  I lived through two winters in Germany, years ago, and I never saw that much snow.  The men must have been frozen solid before they died, otherwise they would have fallen down when they died.

Notice that the men have their heads bowed so that we can get a good look at their “snow caps.”  Remarkably, the snow fell on their heads in only one spot so that little round caps were perfectly formed.  Did the Nazi doctors put little cookie cutters on the heads of the prisoners so that a perfectly round yarmulke would be formed.  How come no snow fell on the front of their bowed heads?

The dead men all have their eyes closed.  When a person dies, the eyes are normally wide open.  Did the Nazis somehow wade through 5 feet of snow and close the eyes of the frozen men?  Their eyes would have been frozen open; did the Nazis pour a little warm water over their faces so that their frozen eyes could be closed?

One of the experiments done at Dachau by Dr. Sigmund Rasher was an experiment to determine the best way to warm up the body of a person who had been exposed to the cold.  He wanted to find the best way of reviving a Luftwaffe pilot who had been shot down into the freezing cold ocean.  However, the full title of Naomi Baumslag’s book is “Murderous medicine: Nazi doctors, human experimentation, and Typhus”   What does the book cover have to do with Typhus?  Can you get typhus from standing in 5 feet of snow?

This quote is from the second paragraph of the book review:

The primary purpose of the book, subtitled Nazi doctors, human experimentation, and Typhus, is to explain how epidemic typhus served in the extermination of Jews. It shows, for example, how Nazi officials used typhus prevention as a convenient strategy to deceive inmates into believing they were being treated when in fact they were being gassed. Jews were labeled disease carriers and a public health risk to justify the creation of ghettos. Containing typhus epidemics provided a rationale for quarantine, ghettoization, and “delousing baths” or “disinfection.” Delousing baths were camouflage for gas chambers. But ghettoization, of course, fueled rather than contained the epidemic, and this, in turn, reinforced the “prevention” strategy, i.e. disinfection. German and Austrian doctors favored overcrowded and unsanitary conditions to permit the epidemic to flourish, killing as many people as possible. But why concentrate on typhus in the Jewish genocide?

What an interesting thesis!  The Nazis used typhus in their planned genocide of the Jews!  Who knew?

Actually, one of the experiments done by the Nazi doctors at Buchenwald was an experiment to develop a vaccine for typhus.  The experiment failed and many of the subjects died.  The doctors who failed to develop a vaccine for typhus were prosecuted as criminals in the Doctors Trial at Nuremberg.  I wonder how Baumslag explained this in her book.  I guess I’ll have to buy the book and read it.  No, wait a minute, I would rather spend my time learning how to make a fake photo like the one on the cover of the book.

I previously blogged about another fake picture on a book cover here.  I also blogged about the frozen Russian General at Mauthausen here.


  1. The photo does have photo credits in the book and on the back cover flap.It was never photo artwork It was a photo taken by a known Austrian photographer Catherine Stukhard of a sculpture by Ewa Kaja titled Gegange(Gone)Mauthausen Memorial 1998
    It is a real photo taken in winter of a very special sculpture.

    Comment by Naomi Baumslag MD MPH — January 2, 2011 @ 11:40 am

    • Thanks for giving us this information. I am familiar with the sculptures at Mauthausen, but I didn’t see that one. I was there after 1998 and I must have missed it.

      Comment by furtherglory — January 2, 2011 @ 12:48 pm

  2. Does the photo have a credit?

    It doesn’t look to me that it is claiming to be a real photodocument, rather a piece of artwork or something.

    Comment by little grey rabbit — December 23, 2010 @ 5:49 pm

    • I don’t think it is claiming to be a real photo; it is obviously photo artwork. My point is that it is inappropriate for a serious book. The book is about medical experiments done in the concentration camps. There are many stories about prisoners being left outside all night and water poured over them so that they would freeze to death. This artwork represents the stories along that line. It would be appropriate for a book that denies the exaggeration of the medical experiments and pokes fun at the exaggerated stories.

      Comment by furtherglory — December 24, 2010 @ 5:30 am

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