"Fetography: A National Socialist Medical Crime on Pregnant Forced Labourers and the International Research Context, 1930-50"

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 Gabriele Czarnowski (Medical University, Graz)

"Fetography: A National Socialist Medical Crime on Pregnant Forced Labourers and the International Research Context (ca. 1930-1950)"

(Introduced by: Sabine Hildebrandt, Harvard University, Massachusetts)

[36min38; no slides]


This paper was presented to the international symposium:

"Reassessing Nazi Human Experiments and Coerced Research, 1933-1945: New Findings, Interpretations and Problems"

4 - 7 July 2013, Wadham College, Oxford


Convened by Paul Weindling (Oxford Brookes University), Marius Turda (Oxford Brookes University), and Volker Roelcke (University of Giessen).

Kindly funded by the Wellcome Trust, the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, and the University of Giessen


Abstract: Contrary to some other German and Austrian university, hospitals the Graz University women's hospital not only did not reject the admission of forced labourers for abortions, even in very advanced stages of pregnancy, but also subjected these women and their fetuses to additional radiological, physiological, and surgical experiments.

By describing and discussing these experiments - focussing principally on fetography - the paper will make three specific contributions to the history of human experimentation under National Socialism:

- That the experiments took place not in the concentration camp setting, but within the context of the daily routine of a university women's hospital.

- That the perpetrator began experimentation in the early 1930s before the National Socialist seizure of power.

- That the perpetrator placed his experiments in the context of the international scientific community.

Fetography more generally remains a little-studied phase or technology in the history of depictions of the unborn child, located between Samuel Thomas Soemmering's first anatomical representations in 1799 and the invention of ultrasound imaging of the pregnant womb in the 1960s. This paper will examine the similarities and differences which can be found in an analysis of the Graz experiments on pregnant forced labourers, and contemporary international research in this field.


Bio: Promotion at the Free University of Berlin (Political Science/History of Medicine), researcher at the Institute of Social Medicine and Epidemiology, Medical University Graz, Austria.

Publications in the field of history of gynaecology, women's history in the 20th century and the National Socialist public health system



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