["A decision meaning a new foundation...": from the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Anthropology, Human Genetics and Eugenics to the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics].Medizinhist J 2011; 46(1):24-50MJ
The Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics (MPIMG) in Berlin-Dahlem dates its establishment to 1964. Its homepage makes no mention of its predecessor institutes, the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Anthropology, Human Genetics and Eugenics (KWIA) and the subsequent MPI for Comparative Genetics and Hereditary Pathology (MPIVEE). This article traces the two critical phases of transition regarding the constellations of academic staff, institutional and epistemic ruptures and continuities specific to the era. Only one of the five department heads from the final war years, Hans Nachtsheim, remained a researcher within the Max Planck Society (MPG); he nevertheless continued to advocate the pre-war and wartime eugenic agenda in the life sciences and social policy. The generational change of 1959/60 became a massive struggle within the institute, in which microbial genetics (with Fritz Kaudewitz) was pitted against human genetics (with Friedrich Vogel) and managed to establish itself after a fresh change in personnel in 1964/65. For the Dahlem institute, this involved a far-reaching reorientation of its research, but for the genetically oriented life sciences in the Max Planck Society as a whole it only meant that molecular biology, which was already being pursued in the West German institutes, gained an additional facility. With this realignment of research traditions, the Society was able to draw a line under the Nazi past without having to address it head-on.