Danielle Moyse: “the scientific organisation of the selection of lives”

Publié le : 28 February 2013

 In today’s issue of the daily La Croix, Danielle Moyse, a researcher working with Iris, CNRS, Inserm and EHESS, reviews the recently published book by Fabrice Midal, called Auschwitz, l’impossible regard (Auschwitz, the impossible look). In this book the author "attempts both to piece together the broken history of his family, of whom only a few members escaped extermination, and to bring out the specific features of the link between Nazism and evil, speculating on whether we have been freed from this link."

Fabrice Midal points out that "the relationship with reality that is specific to Nazism is far from being behind us." Danielle Moyse writes that the author refers to "a phenomenon that is more widespread but not openly acknowledged," namely "the scientific organisation of the selection of lives." She explains that Nazism is not "presented primarily" in the book "as the catastrophic apotheosis of anti-Semitism, but as an original manifestation of a ‘scientific’ anti-Semitism." But, she continues, "this kind of relationship with reality [the scientific organisation of the selection of lives] precedes Nazism through the phenomenon of eugenics, and survives it by means of the speeding up of technical progress that makes eugenics invisible, as it were. In all cases, the goal is to bring reality under the power of our will, which expects from science that it will ‘improve’ man by eliminating undesirables."  
On the subject of eugenics, in his book Fabrice Midal cites Alexis Carrel who obtained the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1912 and who "advocated getting rid of the insane and criminals by ‘euthanasia establishments’ that would ‘dispose of them humanely and economically’.’" Danielle Moyse comments on this by pointing out that "eugenics, far from being a proposal restricted to isolated fanatics was, long before Nazism, an ideology that enabled men of varying political tendencies to have brilliant careers." Thus, "the scientific fabrication of “otherness’, which Nazism took to the extreme, could well coexist with a way of life that had otherwise no criminal aspect. But the eugenic ideology at the time was necessary for the selection of lives. And Nazism, once and for all, revealed its obnoxious nature."  

Today, Danielle Moyse explains, "the improvements made in prenatal screening techniques are on the way to making any recourse to ideology useless. […]. A scientist may from time to time let it slip that Down syndrome children are ‘poisons for their parents’ (‘La tête au carré’, panel programme on France Inter radio, 5 October 2012) to justify the development of new tests to detect Down syndrome for eliminatory purposes at the start of pregnancy, but the imminent possibility of being able to discreetly select lives to prevent future diseases will soon make these unkind statements unnecessary. And will we not then be even more prisoners of the relationship with reality that Fabrice Midal talks about when we are no longer aware of it?

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