U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum Historian Presents WSU Common Reading Program Lecture Nov. 5 in Pullman

PULLMAN, Wash.—Washington State University’s Common Reading Program welcomes its next guest lecturer, Patricia Heberer, to present “Giving a Face to Faceless Victims: Profiles of Disabled Victims of the Nazi ‘Euthanasia’ Program” at 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 5, in Todd Hall 116. The public is welcome to the lecture, co-sponsored by the WSU Department of History.

Heberer has been a historian since 1994 at the Centre for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) in Washington, D.C.  She is a specialist on medical crimes and eugenics policies in Nazi Germany.

She indicates her lecture will explore the victims of Aktion T4, the name used for Nazi Germany’s “Euthanasia Programme” during which physicians killed 70,000-275,000 Germans judged to be incurably sick from 1939 to 1941, extended unofficially through 1945. These included physically or mentally handicapped people killed by medication, starvation, or in gas chambers. T4 is said by some to be the precursor practice that evolved to the Holocaust of Jews in Europe.

“Dr. Heberer’s lecture will relate well with the topics of research ethics and the effacement of those used as research subjects, as raised in this year’s Common Reading book, ‘The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,’” says Karen Weathermon, co-director of the program. “In the book, which is being used in first-year classes by thousands of WSU freshman in first-year classes this year, Ms. Lacks’ daughter Elsie died at the Crownsville Hospital for the Negro Insane, likely after having been subjected to gruesome experimentation.”

In an abstract describing her presentation, Heberer asks, “Who were the victims of Nazi ‘euthanasia’ policy?  Until recently, relatively little research has attempted to reconstruct the lives and fates of T4 victims.  Scholarly preoccupation with the over-arching killing apparatus has helped to overshadow the individual identities of these individuals. Lack of adequate documentation has heretofore presented a major obstacle: many patient files have been lost or destroyed, while German privacy laws have ensured that the bulk of these records remained inaccessible to researchers…from what economic, educational, and social backgrounds did these persons stem?   Which kind of illnesses and conditions most often warranted inclusion in the killing operation?  Did a patient’s age, gender, or behavior determine whether that individual lived or died?  Why did the ‘end phase’ of the ‘euthanasia’ program witness an increase in instances in mortality of victim who had little or no pathology, a phenomenon documented in anecdotal evidence at a number of T4 institutions?”

Heberer has been a historian since 1994 at the Centre for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the USHMM in Washington, D.C.  A specialist on medical crimes and eugenics policies in Nazi Germany, she has written and edited articles and presented numerous lectures and keynote addresses around the world. She authored the book “Children During the Holocaust” in 2010.

Heberer earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Southern Illinois University, and her Ph.D. in German and Central European History at the University of Maryland-College Park. She held an exchange doctoral fellowship at the Free University of Berlin.

Heberer’s visit is sponsored by the University College, Common Reading Program, and the Department of History at WSU, and by the Campus Outreach Lecture Program of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies supported by the generosity of Alan Solomon, M.D. Her visit to WSU was arranged by C. Richard King, professor of comparative ethnic studies, who conducted research at the USHMM in summer 2012.

On November 13, the Tuesday following Heberer’s presentation, WSU’s Bill Kabasenche will present “What’s Your Body Worth? The Ethics of Commodifying Human Tissues.”  This will be the final Common Reading Tuesdays presentation this fall semester, with a new schedule of spring 2013 speakers and events set to begin in January. Kabasenche will speak at 7 p.m. in Todd 116.

On January 5, 2013, David Lacks, son of Henrietta Lacks, will visit WSU. He plans an evening lecture in Beasley Coliseum. Details are forthcoming.


CONTACT: Karen Weathermon, Co-Director, Common Reading Program, part of the University College at WSU, 509-335-5488, kweathermon@wsu.edu

MEDIA: Beverly Makhani, Director, Communications, University College at WSU, 509-335-6679, Makhani@wsu.edu