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‘Witness in White’ medical ethics learning tours on medicine during the Nazi era
  1. Matthew A Fox1,
  2. Rael D Strous2
  1. 1 Jakobovits Center for Jewish Medical Ethics, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev Faculty of Health Sciences, Beer Sheva, Israel
  2. 2 Department of Psychiatry, Maayenei Hayeshua Medical Center, Bnei Brak, Israel
  1. Correspondence to Dr Matthew A Fox, Jakobovits Center for Jewish Medical Ethics, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev Faculty of Health Sciences, Beer Sheva 841051, Israel; fox{at}


During the Nazi era, physicians provided expertise and a veneer of legitimacy enabling crimes against humanity. In a creative educational initiative to address current ethical dilemmas in clinical medicine, we conduct ethics learning missions bringing senior physicians to relevant Nazi era sites in either Germany or Poland. The tours share a core curriculum contextualising history and medical ethics, with variations in emphasis. Tours to Germany provide an understanding of the theoretical origins of the ethical violations and crimes of Nazi physicians. Tours to Poland address the magnitude of the Nazi physician’s atrocities as well as displays of heroism by Jewish and righteous among the nations' physicians. Exemplary as well as shameful physician behaviour is analysed from an ethical perspective. A combination of unique educational methodologies maximises learning and personal growth, enabling participants to examine ethically complex clinical situations with extrapolation to modern-day medical practice. Learning is designed with relevance to contemporary medical ethics dilemmas such as beginning and end-of-life issues, providing tenets from which participants can develop as more ethical and informed physicians. Participant feedback confirms efficacy and worth of these growth-promoting ethics learning tours which should be expanded to other international groups and settings (see online film Witness in White Berlin 2019 available at

  • eugenics
  • euthanasia
  • history of health ethics/bioethics
  • public health ethics
  • mentally ill and disabled persons

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  • Collaborators Simcha Stein.

  • Contributors MAF and RS designed the main conceptual ideas of the educational seminar program curriculum and format. MAF and RS jointly directed the project over 3 years. MAF and RS jointly wrote the manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Addendum Online film 'Witness in White Berlin 2019' available at:

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