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Perpetrator Motivations and Nazi Medicine

13 March, 2010

I’ve realized that this blog gets the majority of it’s views based on searches into the Browing-Goldhagen debate on Holocaust perpetrator motivations.  While I have posted a few works on the blog on the topic, I have not posted my final research on the subject in my blog, simply due to the length of the project.

I will rectify that by now posting the link and research abstract to the online journal in which my research was published:

The Ideological Scalpel: Physician Perpetrators, Medicalized Killing and the Nazi Biocracy


With the conclusion of the Nuremburg Doctor’s trials in August 1947, the role of German physicians in the concentration camps of Europe became a widely discussed and researched topic in the historiography of the Holocaust. Like many other perpetrators indicted by the Allies following the Second World War, German physicians claimed to have been swept up in the mass indoctrination of the National Socialist movement and had ultimately become powerless cogs within the Nazi totalitarian regime. While this claim may be true in some cases, the historiography of German physicians-turned-killers reveals different sources of motivation which allowed doctors in the Third Reich to reverse the precepts of the Hippocratic Oath in order to therapeutically kill for the greater health of the German Völk.

I hope this research will help any individuals pursuing information into the field of perpetrator motivation.

New Blog Started

13 March, 2010

About a week ago, I started a new blog at

It will be my primary blog from now on, and will focus heavily on gaming and gaming culture.  If I have anything that I feel needs to be expressed, but doesn’t fit the theme of my new endeavor, I will be sure to post it here.  So, please, go enjoy what it going on at my new blog…..

Nothing more to see here….

Move along….

I say this every year…..

13 January, 2010

…. but I really need to Blog more.  My final year of school, I was using my blog as a way of sharing the writing I was doing in my history classes, kinda tossing my reflections on history out into the world, just for the sake of it.  Now that I am currently between programs, I think I’ll try to update my blog as often as possible, if only to keep my mind sharp and my writing constant.  So, to all 1 or 2 readers out there, enjoy my meager musings when and if they appear.

A Book Review

29 April, 2009

In his fairly short, yet incredibly dense work Cruel Delight: Enlightenment Culture and the Inhuman, James Steintrager delves into the intellectual and ethical analysis of the practice of cruelty and its relationship to humanity, as perceived by the thinkers of the Enlightenment. In presenting this morose subject of the human condition, Steintrager endeavors to embark on a multi-faceted analysis of the concept of cruelty through the lenses of Enlightenment philosophy, sociology, history, ethics, art, literature, and intellectual discourse, all within 150 pages. This alone should serve as warning indicator to members of the general academic audience who choose to peruse the pages of this text. Hoping to garner a deeper understanding of the Enlightenment and its accompanying socio-cultural history (the word culture is in the title), this reviewer quickly reached the second and most revealing academic warning at the end of the book’s introduction. Steintrager’s own words cannot be bested in describing the danger an academic is about to find themselves engaged in: “By presenting my material in such a way that a general academic audience will, I hope, find it accessible, I have potentially alienated specialists in my field and not at all guaranteed that general readers will be interested.” (Steintrager, xviii) Thus begins the reader’s cruel journey into the morass of Steintrager’s Enlightenment.

Cruel Delight is composed of three sections (Parts I, II, and III), each addressing separate aspects of the shared concepts of cruelty and inhumanity within the Enlightenment. It should be noted that this is the high-water mark of the text’s organizational structure. Part I, entitled The Inhuman is comprised of two chapters, the first attempting to grapple the construct of, as the author words it, “moral monstrosity,” while the second addresses the definition of inhumanity, in Enlightenment terms. The questions of moral monstrosity and inhumanity are broken down to their philosophical roots, with Steintrager drawing upon the works and ruminations of minds such as Smith, Diderot, Shaftesbury, Hume, Hobbes, and Kant. The list of intellectual heavyweights is impressive, no doubt. However, the muddled presentation of the first two chapters in searching for the root of cruelty within morality and inhumanity is likely to be extremely representative of the reality in which Enlightenment philosophers struggled with the issues at hand. This structure is great for specialists in Enlightenment philosophy (or is it?) but falls far short of roping in the general academic audience (but if they’re alienated, that’s alright, too.)

Is cruelty a trait of humanity, or is it an aberration which exists outside of but parallel to human existence? Is it directly opposed to benevolence, or is it, in fact, a product of benevolence? Is it malice, pity, or simply curiosity? A scant thirty pages (give or take a few) are given to tackling the intellectual and philosophical attempts of Enlightenment thinkers to address these huge questions on human nature. When reading the Steintrager text, one feels as if they are swirling within a vortex of Enlightenment discourse, catching fleeting glimpses of understandable reasoning and discussion, only to have it disappear and be replaced by related, yet substantially different analysis. The reader, in the end, finds that Steintrager has not presented a coherent summation of the subjects addressed, not surprising given the length of analysis, one which could easily fill volumes. There exists a vague impression upon the reader that cruelty and inhumanity are simply elements of the human condition, but such a conclusion is reached with little help from the author. One might be better off personally reading the primary source documents utilized in Steintrager’s analysis, keeping the concept of cruelty in mind, in order to reach a coherent consensus.

Part II, entitled Curiosity Killed the Cat, offers a reprieve to the reader, one that is needed yet unfulfilling at the same time. The broad presentation of this portion of the text brings the reader closest to the elusive spectre of “Enlightenment culture” referenced in the book’s title. At the heart of this “cultural” analysis is a series of four engravings, titled “The Four Stages of Cruelty” by William Hogarth, completed in 1751. Steintrager utilizes these four images to create for the reader a sense of Enlightenment culture and its underlying cruelty, with other source documentation being juxtaposed sporadically. For Steintrager, these engravings are sufficient in presenting to his audience topics ranging from the European cultural shift for animal rights to the process of habituation to the professional detachment among practitioners of medicine. As a student of history, the reviewer found this section of the book to be an absolute disappointment.

Steintrager repeatedly misses the mark in presenting the reader with a concise, or even chronological, glimpse into the culture of the Enlightenment. The major culprit once again lies in Steintrager’s organization (or lack thereof). As in the first portion of the book, familiar names are bandied about: Rousseau, Kant, Locke and Pope. However, they are utilized awkwardly as the narrative skips from one tangent of thought to another, then another and then back again. Steintrager (successfully) maintains the underlying discussion on inhumanity throughout the section, but the relevance and purpose of the theme have a tendency to be lost among the varying threads of thought the author is attempting to force into line. The reader is, again, left unfulfilled, having gained little perspective and insight into the aspects and evolution of Enlightenment culture parallel to the narrative of cruelty and inhumanity. On the other hand, the reader can take faith in the relevance of the discourse which closes the second section. A discussion of Enlightenment cataract surgery and its metaphysical impacts on individual objectivism in regards to morality makes perfect sense, after all.

The Bedside Manner of the Marquis de Sade, title to part III of the Steintrager text, was the author’s final opportunity to make amends with the general academic audience, this reviewer among them. As the final section begins, Steintrager presents to the reader brief anecdotal analysis of one of the Marquis de Sade’s more documented transgressions, “affaire d’Arcueil,” followed by some examples of contemporary Enlightenment response and a few of the Marquis’ personal writings. The reader is rewarded with a small amount of contextual historical analysis, but fulfillment is quickly lost as Steintrager presses forward. Presenting Sade as something of an amateur surgeon, Steintrager elevates this conception to equally important footing in regards to the Marquis’ infamous sexual practices. Sade was as morally monstrous as the surgeon and human vivisector of the Enlightenment era, nothing more, or so it would appear to be in Steintrager’s analysis. A consensus, however, remains elusive even under repeated re-readings of the chapter dedicated to Sade and his namesake sexual practice of sadism.

Chapter six, dedicated to ethics and human vivisection starts out strong. At last it appears as if Steintrager will salvage a portion of his text, as his discourse on ethics and cruelty is both well-organized and intellectually understandable. The Enlightenment argument for and against human vivisection is presented along ethical lines, with the theme of cruelty and inhumanity running parallel in a solid analysis. This brief portion of the text is both well-written and enjoyable, but it is soon revealed that this glimmer of academic hope is to be crushed by the same problematic structure that has persisted throughout the text. The discussion on ethics quickly deflates and is succeeded by discussions on female sexual repression and eroticized suffering as presented in art coupled with images of Enlightenment era mastectomy tools and techniques, of which there is not discussion presented in the text. It must be admitted that at this point in the book, the reviewer began writing expletives with his highlighter across the text, as all sense of continuity and cohesion fled the pages. Steintrager’s epilogue is also of no consolation to the reader as the author chooses not to summarize the arguments presented within the body of the text. Instead, Steintrager chooses to summarize and subsequently analyze the novel Vathek by William Beckford, failing to relate it to the body of the text and further confusing (and aggravating) the reader.

Bravo, James Steintrager! You have indeed remained true to your prophetic words. Not only have you possibly alienated specialists within the field of Enlightenment studies, you have mostly likely alienated the vast general academic audience as well. Poor structure, oversimplification and over-analysis prove to make this text a frustrating and unfulfilling academic read. In all fairness to the author, the specific mind-frame of the reviewer (in wanting historical contextual analysis) may have been asking too much, but given the extremely broad scope of the attempted analysis, the consolidation of the argument and narrative into such a short volume is unquestionably the author’s shortcoming. While the brief discussion and analysis on ethics in chapter six is a strong point, it falls far short of compensating for the remainder of the work. The inundation of poorly ordered primary sources utilized in the first portion of the text followed shortly by singular analysis of the Hogarth engravings in the second serves to put the reader off balance and grasping at straws. There is a lack of continuity despite the presence of the theme of cruelty and inhumanity, weak as it may be. In regards to historical contextual analysis, an M.A. in French and Ph.D. in Comparative Literature do not a historical author make!

My CSUSB body of work by

28 March, 2009


This is the summation of everything I’ve written while at Cal State San Bernardino, limited to the top 100 words.  As Nikki says, this is “what my brain looks like.”  Not really sure how I feel about that assessment….

My Blog by…

28 March, 2009


The Historical Evolution of Europe after 1945

23 March, 2009

With the end of the Second World War in 1945, Europe faced the overwhelming task of literally rebuilding itself from the inside-out and the ground up. As Bruno Foa states in his post-war analysis of the continent, “{I}t is already clear that the economic and social disturbances of the last war were child’s play in comparison with the crisis Europe is now facing . . . {T}he experiences of this war and the new dark age which began on January 30, 1933, have destroyed old frames of references and created conditions favorable to nihilism and despair.” Emerging from what has been dubbed a 30 year European Civil War, the old order of Europe – politically, socially, culturally, and psychologically – had been utterly destroyed. If Europe was to have any chance of finding its new center in the chaotic post-war reality, the old ways of thinking would have to be cast aside in favor of a more progressive and mutually beneficial approach to existence.

    The first order of business for battered Europe was the dismantling of imperialism and recognition of the new state of world affairs. With the United States and the Soviet Union dominating the affairs of West and East Europe, respectively, the self-determination of Europe as a whole, as opposed to individual nationalist states, became paramount in driving forward the economic and social recovery of Europe. The creation of the United Nations in the spring of 1945 was the first major step in bringing the newly emerging Europe closer to a unified reality. The ensuing Cold War, pitting Soviet and Western ideologies against one another forced Central and Western Europe to realize its need for a strengthened existence, as it faced the stark reality that the ideological war between East and West was likely to be fought on the same battlefields as the previous two wars. The implementation of the Marshall Plan in 1947 sped the process of re-stabilization in Europe greatly. As Brose points out, “Marshall’s ERP aimed to facilitate reconstruction, stimulate private European investments and intra-European trade, provide dollar liquidity for the purchase of American exports, and, perhaps most importantly, free Europe from social and economic instability so that it could avoid revolution and afford to help the U.S. militarily.” The infusion of American money (in addition to a not-insubstantial amount of Americanization) helped kick start Central and Western Europe’s miracle of economic recovery. This process proved ideologically and economically beneficial for the United States and Europe, a fact that was not overlooked in the lagging Soviet Union and its satellites in Eastern Europe. Additionally, while the Marshall Plan was successful in quelling revolutionary ideas in the west, it fueled the flames of democratic revolution in the east.

    The death of Stalin ushered in a new era of Soviet Communist control in the east. Helmed by Nikita Khrushchev and mobilized along the lines of his (in)famous Secret Speech, an ideological thaw settled over Soviet Russia and Eastern Europe. This slackening of totalitarian Communism, when coupled with the model and influence of resurging Western Europe, facilitated active attempts of democratization and self-determination in Soviet satellites, most notably Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia. The Hungarian Revolution of 1956, initially a peaceful student protest, serves as a quintessential example of the thinking the thaw produced. A peaceful student protest rapidly spiraled into outright democratic revolution, a result of Communist reaction to weakening control. “After a decade of Communist control over our country,” wrote Hungarian Andor Heller, “we are going to show our feelings spontaneously, in our own way – something never allowed under Communist rule . . . The peaceful demonstrations of the youth and the workers have been turned by Communist guns into a revolution for national freedom.” The Soviet military response, resulting in the deaths of thousands of Hungarians, severely undermined the hopes of democratic self-determination within the Soviet satellites. A little over a decade later, the economic reform movement in headed by Alexander Dubcek in Czechoslovakia, raised the ire of the Soviet regime. In attempting to keep pace with the rapid technological and economic gains of Western Europe, facilitated by expanding trade agreements and free-market economies, Dubcek implemented the “Action Program” which in-turn sparked cries for social and political reforms as well. The Soviet response was again military in nature, and, although bloodless, showed that the failure of the “Prague Spring” effectively ended any hope of democratic reform in the east.

    The changing democratic and industrial landscape in Western Europe, however, was not without its share of problems. The student revolutions of 1968 challenged the newly established authority of a unifying Europe, particularly in France. Pressure from below resulted in the resignation of de Gaulle, thus removing the largest obstacle hampering deeper unification along economic lines. Additionally, Americanization had come full-circle in its influence of Western Europe. The continent had successfully followed the American model to such a degree that it had become self-sufficient to the point of helping the spread of democracy on its own, such as in Italy and Spain, while also allowing its citizens to be in the frame of mind to question and challenge the establishment, a mark of truly democratic freedom.

    The same democratic freedom, albeit a difficult transformation, was to eventually come to the whole of Eastern Europe. The western model of Democratic Capitalism continued to far surpass the Communism of the Soviet Bloc, which, despite the threatening illusion of strength and solidarity, was collapsing upon its disintegrating infrastructure. Despite the idealistic attempt to reform the Soviet Union back to its Marxist-Leninist roots through the dual efforts of Perestroika and Glastnost, Mikhail Gorbachev preside over the demise of the Communist Era of Russia and Eastern Europe. Much to the shock and delight of the West, the single largest threat to an autonomous and unified European state practically disappeared overnight. The time of the European Union had finally arrived.

    The question presented by the history of post-war Europe is whether the formation of the European Union, as it is today, was inevitable or not. Arguably, the reality of its existence is a product of inevitability for three reasons: the historic push for unification, the fully realized consequences of purely nationalist interests, and the necessity of mutual understanding and protection whilst in the threatening shadow of the Cold War. The push for unification, deeply intertwined with the call for pacifism, had remained a consistent undercurrent within the social dialogue of Europe since before the First World War. However, the evolution of the competitive-state system plunged the continent into two bloody conflicts, the result of which bared the soul of Europe unto itself and begged for a reevaluation of the old modes of thinking. As Western Europe rapidly reorganized itself along multi-beneficial lines while standing between the aggravated ideologies of the East and West, it made perfect sense for the reforming nations to come to grips with their collective past and direct themselves toward a brighter collective, or unified future. While the process has not been met with overwhelming approval or appreciation and continues to face challenges it may or may not be able to handle (the violent dissolution of Yugoslavia and the antagonistic reassertion of legitimate power in the Russian Federation, for example), the unification of Europe was, after 1945, immediately recognized as the best defense against a continuation of the European Civil War.



Brose, Eric Dorn. A History of Europe in the Twentieth Century. New York: Oxford University

Press, 2005.


Fao, Bruno. “Europe in Ruins.” In Sources of Twentieth Century Europe, edited by Marvin

Perry, 284 – 287. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000.


Heller, Andor. “The Hungarian Revolution, 1956.” In Sources of Twentieth Century Europe,

edited by Marvin Perry, 358 – 360. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000.


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