Continuities and new beginnings after National Socialism: The Federal Ministry of Health

Employees (IfZ):  Dr. Lutz Kreller

In 1962, thirteen years after the founding of the Federal Republic of Germany, the federal government established a new Ministry of Health for the central coordination and formation of West German health policy, thus catching up with similar developments in all of the other Western European countries as well as the GDR.

This research project investigates the new creation of the Ministry of Health, which originally also included environmental and consumer protection issues, and looks into the actions taken there concerning health policy through the 1970s. The project focuses in particular on questions of continuities and fractures from the National Socialist era regarding personnel, institutions, and programs. A selection of leading ministry figures will be researched to see to what degree the staff included former members of National Socialist organizations. Related issues connected to previous professional activities will also be investigated, including involvement in the racist practices promulgated by Nazi health policy such as forced sterilization and “euthanasia” and the lack of medical care provided to prisoners of war and forced laborers. The project will also investigate the extent to which traditions in health policy from the Nazi era and before 1933 continued to impact the ministry’s work. This includes the question of how the new ministry came to terms with those traditions, what new developments in health policy were to be observed, and how the ministry’s personnel decisions affected the particular policies it would pursue.

Prof. Dr. Andreas Wirsching and Prof. Dr. Johannes Hürter take the lead on the project, which is supported by the Federal Ministry of Health. The project closely aligns with a parallel project at the Center for Contemporary History in Potsdam, which began its work on the Ministry of Health of the GDR in July 2017. It also follows the  research project on “Protectors of Order: The Ministries of the Interior in Bonn and East Berlin following National Socialism”, which includes an investigation into the precursors to the Ministry of Health.

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