A Human Paradox: The Nazi Legacy of Pernkopf's Anatomy Atlas (2017)

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Main contributors
Bowen Potter, Angela; Beckman, Emily; Hartsock, Jane A.
Lecture delivered by Angela Bowen Potter, PhD (Medical Humanities Program Coordinator, Purdue University); Emily S. Beckman, DMH (Assistant Professor for Medical Humanities and Health Studies, IUPUI); and Jane A. Hartsock, JD, MA (Visiting Assistant Professor of Medical Humanities and Health Studies, IUPUI) on October 2, 2017.

Eduard Pernkopf’s Atlas of Topographical and Applied Human Anatomy is a four-volume anatomical atlas published between 1937 and 1963, and it is generally believed to be the most comprehensive, detailed, and accurate anatomy textbook ever created. However, a 1997 investigation into “Pernkopf’s Atlas,” raised troubling questions regarding the author’s connection to the Nazi regime and the still unresolved issue of whether its illustrations relied on Jewish or other political prisoners, including those executed in Nazi concentration camps. Following this investigation, the book was removed from both anatomy classrooms and library bookshelves. A debate has ensued over the book’s continued use, and justification for its use has focused on two issues: (1) there is no definitive proof the book includes illustrations of concentration camp prisoners or Jewish individuals in particular, and (2) there is no contemporary equivalent to this text. However, both points fail to address the central importance of the book, not simply as part of anatomy instruction, but also as a comprehensive historical narrative with important ethical implications.
Ruth Lilly Medical Library
Educational; History; Lectures
History of Medicine; Medical Humanities; Medical Ethics; Human Anatomy; National Socialism; Nazis; Human Experimentation in Medicine; Pernkopf, Eduard, 1888-1959
Germany (nation)
History of Medicine and Medical Humanities Lectures
Ruth Lilly Medical Library
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In Copyright - Educational Use Permitted

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