Clarkson professor to serve on panel about Holocaust and African Americans studies
Thursday, December 6, 2012 - 10:54 am

POTSDAM -- Clarkson University History Professor Sheila Faith Weiss will serve on a consultant panel organized by the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

The panel will convene on Feb. 21-22 at the museum in Washington, D.C. Weiss will serve as an expert on eugenics and Nazi racial law.

The group, comprised of professors and university administrators, will discuss ways the disciplines of Holocaust studies and African American studies can collaborate. The museum’s Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies assists research institutions and universities dedicated to examining Holocaust studies in connection with other disciplines.

Weiss’ scholarly interests include the history of biomedical sciences during the Third Reich. In 2003, she served on an expert committee of scholars who helped develop the temporary United States Holocaust Memorial Museum exhibit “Deadly Medicine, Creating the Master Race.”

The exhibit, which the New York Times considered an exhibition that “should be part of every citizen’s experience,” later traveled to numerous cities in the United States and Germany. Weiss also contributed an article to the exhibit’s book.

Weiss said she is excited to serve on the panel, chaired by Evelynn M. Hammonds, who is dean of Harvard College, Barbara Gutmann Rosenkrantz professor of the history of science, and professor of African and African American studies at Harvard University.

“I view it as a unique opportunity to discuss ways in which my own research on eugenics and genetics in the Third Reich can shed light on themes and issues at the forefront of African American studies,” Weiss said.

“There are interesting parallels between the use of eugenics and genetics to construct Afro-Americans as ‘racial outsiders’ -- with all the nefarious consequences attached to such a construction -- and the legitimization of Nazi anti-Semitism by the biomedical sciences. I hope that our meeting will suggest some specific areas in which I and one or more colleagues participating in the consultant group might concretely organize a funded research project relevant to the museum’s outreach program."

Weiss is presently working on a professional and political biography of the contested German human geneticist Baron Otmar von Verschuer. Von Verschuer was dissertation advisor to Dr. Josef Mengele, the man notorious for his heinous experiments on Jewish and Sinti twins at Auschwitz.