Dr. Gisella Perl was a Hungarian Jewish gynecologist who was imprisoned at Auschwitz. While there, she acted to address the terrors that were visited upon women by the Nazi regime, as happened in all concentration camps. If a woman was discovered to be pregnant, she was often beaten or killed; Dr. Perl vowed to help these women by ending their pregnancies to save their lives. As Dr. Perl worked to save those around her, she was also forced to work under the infamous Dr. Josef Mengele; everything she did put her life at risk in Auschwitz.

This program will discuss the life, legacy, heroics, and complicated moral decision making of Dr. Perl in the greater context of Nazi policies around reproduction and bodily autonomy. Dr. Jason Adam Wasserman, Professor of Foundational Medical Studies at Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine, and Dr. Katharina von Kellenbach, Professor emerita of Religious Studies at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, will be in conversation with science journalist Rachel E. Gross, author of Vagina Obscura: An Anatomical Voyage.

Dr. Jason Adam Wasserman is Professor of Foundational Medical Studies at Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine, where he also holds an appointment in Pediatrics, is the course director for the Medical Humanities and Clinical Bioethics curriculum, serves as the Founding Director of the Center for Moral Values in Health and Medicine, the Director of the Holocaust and Medicine program, and as a clinical ethics consultant at Beaumont Hospital – Royal Oak. For the past two years, he served as Provost Fellow for Faculty Diversity at Oakland University, and in the upcoming year he will be an Inaugural Fellow in Bioethics and the Holocaust at the University of Southern California Shoah Foundation and the Maimonides Institute for Medicine, Ethics, and the Holocaust. His first book, At Home on the Street, addressed the issue of homelessness, while his current scholarly work focuses on clinical bioethics as well as integrating social sciences into clinical medicine. The second edition of his book Social and Behavioral Science for Health Professionals (with Brian Hinote) was published in 2020 by Rowman and Littlefield. He has authored numerous articles in journals such as Social Science and MedicineQualitative Health ResearchJournal of Contemporary EthnographyAmerican Journal of BioethicsHastings Center ReportMayo Clinic ProceedingsPediatricsJAMA-Pediatrics, and The New England Journal of Medicine.
Dr. Katharina von Kellenbach currently leads project Bildstörungen on antisemitism-resistant Christian theology and education at the Evangelische Akademie zu Berlin. She is Visiting Scholar in Christian-Jewish-Relations at Boston College and Professor emerita of religious studies at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. Publications include Guilt: A Force of Cultural TransformationThe Mark of Cain: Guilt and Denial in the Lives of Nazi Perpetrators, and Anti-Judaism in Feminist Religious Writings.
Rachel E. Gross is a science journalist who writes about gender bias and marginalized voices for the New York TimesScientific American, the BBC, and others. She is the author of Vagina Obscura: An Anatomical Voyage, a New York Times Editors’ Pick and shortlist selection for the 2023 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Nonfiction and the PEN/E.O. Wilson Award in Literary Science Writing. Previously she was a 2018-2019 Knight Science Journalism Fellow and the digital science editor of Smithsonian Magazine.