In the midst of World War II, Reich University was positioned to be the central hub for spreading the Nazi ideology to future generations. Staffed by a team of German intellectuals who were sympathetic to the cause, the university's mandate was severely compromised upon the Allied occupation of Strasbourg in November of 1944. In the Name of Science attempts to unravel the legacy of death and barbaric thinking that was harvested on the campus, and profiles key figures who lead a revolution against these practices at their detriment.
More than a dry history lesson, the film tracks a personal journey of discovery for its central writer and narrator - Kirsten Esch. Her grandfather was the Dean of the Medical Facility at the university, and he even stayed on following the Allied occupation. The film's quest to paint an accurate portrait of the university and its culpability also allows Esch an opportunity to define her grandfather's role in these atrocities. Was he aware of the goings-on at nearby concentration camps? Did he buy into their contorted philosophy wholesale? Did he sanction the atrocious medical experiments that were propagated in the university's classrooms and research labs?
The medical program represented the bulk of the university's ambitions - it hosted nearly half of all the student body and absorbed an equal segment of its budget - and it held a tremendous source of promise for those eager to further the National Socialism movement. By empowering grotesque experimentation on Jewish subjects, they hoped to embolden their racial doctrine through the guise of sound scientific reasoning.
The film also profiles a committed group of students who banded together to protest the university's support of the Nazi doctrine, and many of them paid the ultimate price for voicing their conscience. The film features interviews with historians and survivors, and contains a collage of provocative footage from the period.
In the Name of Science painstakingly recounts horrific, but essential history. It's an academic effort, but also a deeply personal one. This unexpected layer imbues the film with a stirring note of humanism, and the darkly fascinating tone of a great detective story.