21 September, 2019

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‘Fog In August’ (Nebel Im August): Cruelty Of Political Extremism & Misuse Of Eugenics?  

By Laksiri Fernando –

Dr. Laksiri Fernando

Let me sing for your suffering. Compassion is my offering.” – A Theme Song 

The victims are mainly orphans, disabled, the sick and old people. They come from marginalized ethnic groups and lower classes in society. Already Jews have been persecuted and exterminated. The turn has come to eradicate the so-called ‘defective’ other sections of society considered to be a barrier in creating a superior and pure German nation to dominate the world. 

Above is the background of the German drama-movie released in 2016 named ‘Nebel im August’ meaning ‘Fog in August,’ directed by Kai Wessel. It is based on a life story novel by Robert Domes (2008). It has now come to the international audience with English subtitles. Based on a true story of a 13 year old Yenish boy, Ernst Lossa, the movie depicts the brutality of Nazi ideology and beliefs in dealing with the sick, the disabled and helpless or ‘unfit’ people. This movie is particularly reviewed here because various forms of this ideology and the misuse of the ‘science’ of Eugenics are prevalent in many societies and among many people.  

Ideology 

The ideology of Eugenics (not the science) believes that the elimination of undesirable or defective people from society is necessary and desirable. There can be soft and hard forms of this thinking and what the ‘Fog in August’ depicts is the most hardest form under Nazism. It is not a fiction but history. Between 1939 and 1945, an estimated 200,000 patients including 5,000 children in Germany who were considered physically and mentally disabled were systematically murdered through a forced euthanasia program. This was called Aktion T4. They were not just Jews, but mostly Germans.  

Voluntary euthanasia is accepted today in many countries under certain conditions. In addition to unbearable pain due to certain illnesses, if someone decides that he/she has lived enough, and should not be a burden to him/herself or to others, then one should have that right to do so. However what is shown in the film is forced euthanasia even on healthy children, on the basis that they are a burden to the society.

The Story 

This is 1943. Ernst Lossa aged 13 is brought to the Sanitorium Kaufbeuren. The police report says, he is a ‘peddler and anti-social vermin.’ The farther is already in custody and therefore he should be kept until father is released and comes to fetch him up. He should be treated as he has social deviations! But he is just a healthy and an intelligent child. He says, ‘I don’t belong here,’ but no one cares for his claim. 

The Director of the Sanitorium, Dr Werner Veithausen, is not necessarily a bad man. But he has to follow orders and need to show his professional competence through new innovations. He also has to run the institute on a restricted budget. Even the disabled children are put on to hard work, and there is only one Mr. Max Witt as a laborer/foreman. 

As all children, Ernst dreams that his father would come to fetch him up soon. He tells the other kids that then they would go to America! In his view, and of many others of that time in Germany, America is the free-land and the destination of salvation. His father does come to fetch Ernst and meets Dr. Veithausen. He has several questions to ask as a formality. All are written down. “What is your address?” He asks Mr. Christian Lossa. No answer. “Are you Yenish?” Of course he has to admit. Ernest is not given on that basis. “Your son is safer here,” is the doctor’s answer. Additional reason is that Ernst is a good worker, healthy and active. 

Yenish are a historically marginalized group in Europe, still prevalent in Germany, Austria, Belgium, Luxemburg, Switzerland and France, numbering around 700,000 people. They are similar to Roma people, or Rodiyas in our context. They have their own language or dialect. 

When Ernest was admitted to the Sanitorium, his head was given a shave. Nandl says ‘you look like a dupe.’ Nandl is a German girl of more or less the same age as Ernst and they become best of pals at the place. She is orphaned, father died in the war and mother committed suicide in Hamburg. She suffers seizures (of epilepsy) on and off. According to Nazi eugenics, they all should be eliminated, a necessity for the German people. “We are doing it based on verifiable medical facts,” they argue. They were practicing racial hygiene or ‘social Darwinism,’ eliminating hereditary diseases. 

Euthanasia   

Initially under Aktion T4, supposed to be incurable patients were sent to Hadamar Euthanasia Centre. However, the policy was changed and Veithausen was asked to conduct his own euthanasia at the Sanitorium discretely. History says that the change was done after strong protests by the Catholic Bishop of Munster, Clemens August von Galen. His role was similar to Lutheran Pastor, Martin Niemoller against Nazism. 

To assist Dr Veithausen in euthanasia, a new nurse Edith Keifer is sent from Hadamar. She is a very pretty young woman in the film. Veithausen did not have any support from Sister Sophia, but opposition, being a strong Catholic. Keifer’s ‘scientific method’ is to administer barbiturate overdoses in raspberry juice particularly to children. Barbiturate is an acid that can put people into sleep. This is what Ernst suspects from the beginning. Sister Sophia knows about it too. She seeks local Priest’s assistance who has unfortunately to administer religious rituals after euthanasia deaths. But he is also helpless. He asks Sister Sophia to “keep a foot in the door for us.”  

 

Dr Veithausen also devices his own method called Starvation Diet or S-Diet. He gets credit for that ‘scientific innovation’ from Nazi authorities. It is just a vegetable soup boiled so long that it has no calories or nutrition. When this diet is given to patients, they die whilst they eat. Doctor selects the chopping list almost daily, striking out names in the hospital list and then giving names to the nurses. 

Rebellion 

Ernst becomes the main Rebel against the killings. Ernst, Nandl, Sister Sophia and hapless Emili in Sister’s custody try to flee but prevented by Russian bombings. Sister Sophia and Emili get killed and Nandl badly injured. Rebellion starts in the dining room the following day. They throw the food away. “Give them to the Russians, then we will win the war,” Ernst shouts and others repeat. After the funeral of Sister Sophia, Ernst confronts Dr Veithausen.     

“Murderer! Sister Sophia helped sick people, you killed them. You are a murderer.”

That evening, Veithausen strikes off Ernst Lossa’s name from the hospital list. The task is given to Nurse Keifer and male nurse Paul Hechtle. Most probably Keifer does the job. She is cool, firm and a strong believer in racial purity and Eugenics. The following morning in the dining room, Nandl declares: “Listen! Ernst Lossa has done it. He is in America!” The crowed repeats.   

A Post Mortem: There are debates in many countries how to deal with the disabled, mentally retarded and so-called deviant people. The science of Eugenics may try to prevent them before birth in the future. But politics of Eugenics often try to eliminate or discard them. Prejudices against the old people and hate against drug addicts are part of the same. Those attitudes sometimes extend to capital punishment or in dealing with criminals. Certain groups of migrants are another category. The efforts to create pure or superior ‘country, society, nation or ethnicity’ are often lead to various forms Nazism or political Eugenics. They come not only from one strand of politics, but different strands and various sources. 

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Latest comments

  • 7
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    This is a good reminder by a Buddhist writer not to persecute minorities as jews..
    Will Sri Lankan government take action against all these BBS radicals…

    • 0
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      No. Govt. is too busy doing their manipulations to remain well oiled whichever group comes to power. Same lot will be scratching each other’s back and Sajith is an outsider they fear. All radicals are necessary mainly for the Maras to use when necessary if the law surfaces.

    • 0
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      Do we read into other interpretations beside the ethnic minorities?

      Whatever the author’s intentions, great food for thought to mull over this pre-election period.

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    ” She seeks local Priest’s assistance who has unfortunately to administer religious rituals after euthanasia deaths. But he is also helpless. He asks Sister Sophia to “keep a foot in the door for us.” – LS

    “Dr. Veithausen calls for Ernst’s death, which is carried out by either Paul Hechtle or Sister Kiefer (both deny being the killer). Nandl breaks the news to the other patients by claiming that Ernst has finally made it to America. “ -Wikipedia

    Wikipedia end suggest neither Paul Hechtle nor Sister Kiefer killed Ernest. It is not clear what happens to the remaining of the children after the death & the prayer. This could be the safety value for the two nurses to let the boy run away. It sounds the priest played the final role in the escape.

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    In Germany, there was no Eugenics. It was Nazism, pure & simple! Eugenics is not science; rather it is psuedo science- a kind of deviant social Darwinism. The subject first invented by Francis Galton (1822-1911) a polimath half cousing of Chalse Darwin who shared the common grand father Erasmus Darwin. He did contributed to the evolutionary theory by objecting to Darwin’s favorite principle of gradualism by proposing a metaphor known as Galton’s polihendron, a kind of sultaional theory. He also contributed to statistics & criminology (figermark testing is his invetion).

    Eugenics was also one of Galton’s excentric hypothesis. He wrongly hypethesized that, if evolution works by natural selection, allowing mix breeding (for example, poor & rich) can make nations weak and therefore selective breeding should be the way to maintain a society full of geniuses! But, he didn’t advocated to elimante undesirables; that was a product of Nazism!

    But Nazism had its orging in Eugenics. It came via Earnst Haecle, a German anatomist & evolutionary biologist who proposed the theory called Biogenetics aka recapitulation that says that evolution proceeds by adding new traits at the end of growth cycle (ontogeny produce phylogeny) meaning the youngest species are the most progressed. He also said that Aryan and therefore Geman are the most advanced human race. Hitler read this when he was in jail used it to write his Mein Kampf which gave birth to the Nazism.

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      Darwin’s survival of the fittest is a important distinction between white people and non-whites. The physical and interlectual inferiority of the south asains and Africans. India for example has 1.6 billions people but cannot complete in football, rugby, volleyball, basketball or any serious sports. This is because Hindus and Muslims have arranged marriage. This produces weak children. In the west you have compete.

      • 0
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        niro,
        What about cricket? Gene mixing is the exact opposite of Eugenics. The way Darwin saw it, gene mixing can cause a dilution of traits. Looks like you are controdicting yourself for some reason!

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          D.P
          When the Germans were the most technologically advanced nation in the 1930’s – Hitler banned the German cricket team based on the fact that it was useless. Does the great nations of the world: USA, Russia, France , Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, Korea, China etc play cricket ? It’s a dumb sport good for kalu sudda wanna be dark-skinned south asians. My first cousin was the 18th test cricketer to play for SL. I’ve played cricket, rugby, hockey and football. Cricket is the dumbest sport and epimotizes the Lo iq of backward ass south Asians. It does not promote speed, , dextirity, efficiency or . strength. Look at fatso’s like ranatunga, rangana hearth and malinga. This is the general SL poulation. South Asians have no concept of the Olympic motto- higher, stronger, faster. Which is the presmise of Darwin survival.

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            niro,
            You are talking about social Darwinism, the wrong version; not real Darwinism!

          • 0
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            niro,
            I don’t tink that you understand Darwin’s theory at all! It is very clear that you have misunderstood the relationship between survival & competition & its role in in evolution. First of all, competions among individuals within a population of species and inter populations or inters pecies is not the only factor in the survival; symbiosis (cooperation) also plays an equally important role. For example, an alarm call from tree living monkeys alerts deer herds on the ground. Cattles get benefit of removing ticks by birds and so on.

            Secondly, the role of competition in evolution doesn’t necessarily mean outright win by physical streangth as in sports. It only mean having an advantge even if it is not visible in the short term. These could be many traits like having a large litter, breeding early, new-born youg one being able to run for safety etc. This is a huge subject and you need to start with Darwin’s “Orgin” first!

            However, the instinctive urge to be ahead of the competition is certainly an evolved trait. But, this uerge can be expressed in many different ways of which winning in sports could be just one among many. Bragging about having an old civilization could also be one such expression!

      • 0
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        Niro,
        Also, I forgot to mention the fact that most high-performing athletes in the US are Balcks!

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      DP, Don’t blame eugenics for Nazism. Hitler was an occultist, Thule etc. and dictator annexed Austria in 1933, took the Holy spear from Vienna museum which Roman soldier pierced Jesus on the cross with, said to have power to rule the world, and murdered the Jews. Napoleon and Charlemagne too earlier tried spear. When US troops took it back Hitler committed suicide. Advanced Aryan is a myth of the deceived. Nation Israel still has endowments above nations. When nations nuclear decimate others in middle east, resurrected glorified Jesus will return to fulfil pledge of covenant and reign as he is even now doing. Evidence of earthly life of Jesus 2000 years ago is all over Galilee and Jerusalem, as exactly foretold in bible. Humans carry his DNA which requires intelligent language decoder, not by chance evolution. Matter cant decode DNA language of life, without its Creator/Redeemer. Dawkins thought coming aliens were earlier civilizations which seeded. Aliens are demons, fallen angels from satan. Deceived atheists could spend Godless dark eternity. Bible says earth belongs to its Creator and not to dark forces.

  • 0
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    continued..
    I believe that seeds of Nazism without its Eugenic roots exist in all human races. It comes from insticntive desire for discrimination which is directly related to competion for finding mates & food. It is only an extension of personal rivalry to external groups of various nature. This cannot be eliminated completely. All we can do to keep it under control by cultivating higher level social values & norms. In the past, this objective was accomplished via religion. Marxist socialism is another such attempt where relgion failed. But now, in this modern world of instant communication, humans have reached a point where higher social valued can be maintained without religions or failed Marxism, I believe.

  • 4
    2

    There is a saying ” Charity begins at home”. Sri Lanka is full of Orphans , destitue and poor and almost all of them are Tamils. The orphnas were created by those who are about to be Crowned as PM & President. There will be more of the same.

    • 1
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      weren’t they also created by prabhaharan?His own son nearly became an orphan.

  • 0
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    Surely the professor is aware, there is a substantial gap between what we see in a movie and reality. For example, the Titanic may have sunk, but there were no lovers running around the boat till the last moment. In this case, the Nazis were not the first to do eugenics. For example, eugenics was a serious academic subject in the USA in the 1920’s, with major universities offering full courses. Long before that, there were laws prohibiting blacks marrying with whites, obviously to prevent mixed-race procreation. What the Nazis did with eugenics pales in comparison to the experiments carried out on Chinese civilians by Japanese soldiers during the same time period. Another point to note, which no movie will tell you: many of the people who carried out the killings did not so with bad intention, but were simply following orders. The Prussian tradition of obedience to higher authority was stronger than any moral compulsion.

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