January 21, 2022

Nazi scientists did cutting-edge science by following funding trail

A large part of the worst criminal activity was not pseudo-science

A deeper look at the role of scientists in Nazi Germany is overturning the conventional view that only a few rotten apples collaborated and that their work was mere pseudo-science anyway. Independent science historians supported by the Max Planck Society (MPS), which administers 80 research institutes in Germany, have studied archives and found how closely many scientists worked with the Nazi regime at the height of its power.

The MPS now believes that a large part of the worst criminal activity was not pseudo-science, but cutting edge work. The government of the time willingly funded basic research without requiring scientists to join the Nazi party. Many scientists tailored their research programs to the regime's policies to get funding and to take advantage of the new resources opened up for them by Nazi conquests. “Most researchers, it turns out, seem to have regarded the regime not as a threat, but as an opportunity for their research ambitions,” says Nature.

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