The Anti-Tobacco Movement of Nazi Germany: A Historiographical Re-Examination

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Introduction: The infamy of Nazi medical research conjures up images of horrific experiments in the concentration camps and SS (Schutzstaffel) doctors like Josef Mengele. However, the anti-smoking campaign of Nazi Germany is perhaps one of the least examined aspects of public health history and state sponsored anti-tobacco advocacy. Nazi public health activism was involved in work that may provide insight relevant to current public health issues. Purpose: This article examined the current literature that discusses the anti-smoking campaigns of Nazi Germany, explored the phenomenon of quality medical research under the banner of National Socialism, and shed light into a forgotten aspect of Nazi medical history. Findings: Previous authors have suggested that the Nazi war on cancer and the contributions made by Nazi public health activists were one of the most aggressive public health movements in the world. Marked with a certain level of ambivalence, these aggressive campaigns against smoking were less concerned with the universal dimensions of public health practices and ethics than they were towards a pursuit of a lifestyle that was worthy of a "master race."