NAZI MEDICAL EXPERIMENTS
During World War II, a number of German physicians conducted painful and often deadly experiments on thousands of concentration camp prisoners without their consent. Unethical medical experimentation carried out during the Third Reich may be divided into three categories. The first category consists of experiments aimed at facilitating the survival of Axis military personnel. The second category of experimentation aimed at developing and testing pharmaceuticals and treatment methods for injuries and illnesses which German military and occupation personnel encountered in the field. The third category of medical experimentation sought to advance the racial and ideological tenets of the Nazi worldview. . The SS physicians who carried out pseudo-medical experiments in Auschwitz included: Professor Dr. Carl Clauberg
Carl Clauberg experimented with sterilization in the camp. Part of Block No. 10 in the Main Camp was put at his disposal. Several hundred Jewish women from various countries lived in two large rooms on the second floor of the building. Clauberg developed a method of non-surgical mass sterilization that consisted of introducing into the female reproductive organs a specially prepared chemical irritant that produced sever inflammation. Within several weeks, the fallopian tubes grew shut and were blocked. Clauberg’s experiments killed some of his subjects, and others were put to death so that autopsies could be performed. Dr. Horst Schumann
Like Clauberg, Horst Schumann was searching for a convenient means of mass sterilization that would enable the Third Reich to carry out the biological destruction of conquered nations by “scientific methods”–through depriving people of their reproductive capacity. “X-ray sterilization” equipment was set up for Schumann in one of the barracks at Birkenau. Every so often, several dozen Jewish men and women prisoners were brought in. The sterilization experiments consisted of exposing the women’s ovaries and the men’s testes to X-rays.
Schumann applied various intensities at various intervals in his search for the optimal dose of radiation. The exposure to radiation produced severe burns on the belly, groin, and buttocks areas of the subjects, and festering sores that were resistant to healing. Many subjects died from complications. The results of the X-ray sterilization experiments were unsatisfactory. In an article that he sent to Himmler in April 1944, titled “The Effect of X-Ray Radiation on the human Reproductive Glands,” Schumann expressed a preference for surgical castration, as being quicker and more certain. Dr. Josef Mengele
Josef Mengele held a Ph.D. and a medical doctorate. In close collaboration with the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Anthropology, Genetics, and Eugenics, he studied the phenomena of twins, as well as the physiology and pathology of dwarfism. He was also interested in people with different-colored irises and in the etiology and treatment of noma (“water cancer” of the cheek). This latter disease, widespread in the Gypsy Camp, had been previously almost unknown in Europe. Mengeles first experimental subjects wereGypsy children. He had a laboratory in the so-called “Gypsy Family Camp.” On Mengele’s orders, children suffering from noma were put to death in order for pathology investigations to be carried out. Organs and even complete heads of children were preserved and sent in jars to institutions including the Medical Academy in Graz, Austria.
Mengele also began selecting dwarves and persons with physical peculiarities (including inborn disabilities and the developmental defects that appear in dwarfism) from the Jewish transports brought to Birkenaufor extermination, from the Jewish “Theresienstadt Family Camp” in Birkenau, and from the so-called Mexico (Sector BIII). In the first phase of his experiments, Mengele subjected pairs twins and people with physical handicaps to special medical examinations that could be carried out on the living organism. Usually painful and exhausting, these examinations lasted for hours and were a difficult experience for starved, terrified children (for such were the majority of the twins).
The subjects were photographed, plaster casts were made of their teeth and jaws, and their fingerprints and toeprints were taken. As soon as the examinations of a given pair of twins or dwarf were finished, Mengele ordered them killed by phenol injection so that he could go on to the next phase of his experiments, the comparative analysis of internal organs at autopsy. “Scientifically” interesting anatomical specimens were preserved and shipped to the Institute in Berlin-Dahlem for more detailed examination. Dr. Johann Paul Kremer
The killing of prisoners was also accompanied by research into the changes that occur in the human organism as a result of starvation–in particular, liver atrophy (“braune Atrophie”). This research was carried out at Auschwitz Concentration Camp by SS-Obersturmführer Johann Paul Kremer, M.D., Ph.D., professor at the University of Münster, where he lectured on anatomy and human genetics. At the Block No. 28 clinic in the main camp, he carried out assessments of prisoners attempting to gain admission to the hospital. Many of them were at the point of exhaustion, in the “Musselman” state, in the final stages of starvation to death. Kremer ordered most of them killed by phenol injection. Kremer selected prisoners who struck him as particularly good experimental material, and questioned them just before their deaths, as they lay on the autopsy table awaiting injection, about such personal details as their weight before arrest and any medicines they had used recently. In some cases, he ordered these prisoners photographed.
Before their bodies were cold, they were subjected to autopsies and slides were made for Kremer of the liver, spleen, and pancreas. SS Physicians Friedrich Entress, Helmuth Vetter and Eduard Wirths In 1941-1944, SS camp physicians Friedrich Entress, Helmuth Vetter, and Eduard Wirths carried out clinical trials of the tolerance and efficacy of new medications and drugs, with such ode names as B-1012, B-1O34, B-1O36, 3582, P-111, rutenolu, and peristonu, on Auschwitz Concentration Camp prisoners. They did so on commission from IG Farbenindustrie, and particularly from the Bayer firm, which was part of that cartel. These preparations were given to prisoners suffering from contagious diseases, who had in many cases been deliberately infected. Prof. Dr. August Hirt
In 1942, SS-Hauptsturmführer Prof. Dr. August Hirt, chairman of the anatomy department at the Reich University in Strassburgu, set about assembling a collection of Jewish skeletons under the auspices of the Ahnenerbe Foundation. To this end, he received permission from Himmler to select the required number of prisoners at Auschwitz Concentration Camp. The selection of 115 persons (79 Jewish men, 30 Jewish women, 2 Poles, and 4 “Asians”–probably Soviet POWs) and the preliminary preparation, consisting of biometrical measurements and the collection of personal data, were carried out by Hirt’s collaborator, SS-Hauptsturmführer Dr. Bruno Beger, who arrived in Auschwitz in the first half of 1943. Berger finished his work by June 15, 1943. After going through quarantine, some of the prisoners whom Berger selected were sent in July and early August to Natzweiler-Struthof Concentration Camp, where they were killed in the gas chamber. The victims’ corpses were sent to Hirt as material for his skeleton collection, which was intended for use in anthropological studies that would demonstrate the superiority of the Nordic race.
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, DC
Jesse Nickelson, EdD
Director, Youth and Community Initiatives
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
100 Raoul Wallenberg Place, SW
Washington, DC 20024-2126