Nazi human experimentation

Last updated

Nazi human experimentation was a series of medical experiments on large numbers of prisoners, including children, by Nazi Germany in its concentration camps in the early to mid 1940s, during World War II and the Holocaust. Chief target populations included Romani, Sinti, ethnic Poles, Soviet POWs, disabled Germans, and Jews from across Europe.

Nazi Germany The German state from 1933 to 1945, under the dictatorship of Adolf Hitler

Nazi Germany is the common English name for Germany between 1933 and 1945, when Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party (NSDAP) controlled the country through a dictatorship. Under Hitler's rule, Germany was transformed into a totalitarian state that controlled nearly all aspects of life via the Gleichschaltung legal process. The official name of the state was Deutsches Reich until 1943 and Großdeutsches Reich from 1943 to 1945. Nazi Germany is also known as the Third Reich, meaning "Third Realm" or "Third Empire", the first two being the Holy Roman Empire (800–1806) and the German Empire (1871–1918). The Nazi regime ended after the Allies defeated Germany in May 1945, ending World War II in Europe.

Nazi concentration camps concentration camp operated by Nazi Germany

Nazi Germany maintained concentration camps throughout the territories it controlled before and during the Second World War. The first Nazi camps were erected in Germany in March 1933 immediately after Hitler became Chancellor and his Nazi Party was given control of the police by Reich Interior Minister Wilhelm Frick and Prussian Acting Interior Minister Hermann Göring. Used to hold and torture political opponents and union organizers, the camps initially held around 45,000 prisoners. In 1933–1939, before the onset of war, most prisoners consisted of German Communists, Socialists, Social Democrats, Roma, Jehovah's Witnesses, homosexuals, and persons accused of 'asocial' or socially 'deviant' behavior by the Germans.

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.


Nazi physicians and their assistants forced prisoners into participating; they did not willingly volunteer and no consent was given for the procedures. Typically, the experiments resulted in death, trauma, disfigurement or permanent disability, and as such are considered examples of medical torture.

Disfigurement The state of having ones appearance harmed by a medical or physical procedure.

Disfigurement is the state of having one's appearance deeply and persistently harmed medically, such as from a disease, birth defect, or wound. General societal attitudes towards disfigurement have varied greatly across cultures and over time, with cultures possessing strong social stigma against it often causing psychological distress to disfigured individuals. Alternatively, many societies have regarded some forms of disfigurement in a medical, scientific context where someone having ill will against the disfigured is viewed as anathema. In various religious and spiritual contexts, disfigurement has been variously described as being as a punishment from the divine for sin, as being caused by supernatural forces of hate and evil against the good and just, which will be later atoned for, or as being without explanation per se with people just having to endure.

Disability Impairments, activity limitations, and participation restrictions

According to many definitions, a disability is an impairment that may be cognitive, developmental, intellectual, mental, physical, sensory, or some combination of these. Other definitions describe disability as the societal disadvantage arising from such impairments. Disability substantially affects a person's life activities and may be present from birth or occur during a person's lifetime.

Disabilities is an umbrella term, covering impairments, activity limitations, and participation restrictions. An impairment is a problem in body function or structure; an activity limitation is a difficulty encountered by an individual in executing a task or action; while a participation restriction is a problem experienced by an individual in involvement in life situations. Disability is thus not just a health problem. It is a complex phenomenon, reflecting the interaction between features of a person’s body and features of the society in which he or she lives.

Medical torture describes the involvement of, or sometimes instigation by, medical personnel in acts of torture, either to judge what victims can endure, to apply treatments which will enhance torture, or as torturers in their own right. Medical torture overlaps with medical interrogation if it involves the use of professional medical expertise to facilitate interrogation or corporal punishment, in the conduct of torturous human experimentation or in providing professional medical sanction and approval for the torture of prisoners. Medical torture also covers torturous scientific experimentation upon unwilling human subjects.

At Auschwitz and other camps, under the direction of Eduard Wirths, selected inmates were subjected to various hazardous experiments that were designed to help German military personnel in combat situations, develop new weapons, aid in the recovery of military personnel who had been injured, and to advance the Nazi racial ideology. [1] Aribert Heim conducted similar medical experiments at Mauthausen.

Auschwitz concentration camp German network of concentration and extermination camps in occupied Poland during World War II

The Auschwitz concentration camp was a complex of more than 40 Nazi concentration camps and extermination camps built and operated by Nazi Germany in occupied Poland during World War II and the Holocaust. It consisted of Auschwitz I, the main camp (Stammlager) and administrative headquarters in Oświęcim; Auschwitz II–Birkenau, a combined concentration and extermination camp three kilometers away in Brzezinka; Auschwitz III–Monowitz, a labor camp seven kilometers from Auschwitz I set up to staff an IG Farben synthetic-rubber factory; and dozens of other subcamps.

Eduard Wirths SS physician

Eduard Wirths was the Chief SS doctor (SS-Standortarzt) at the Auschwitz concentration camp from September 1942 to January 1945. Thus, Wirths had formal responsibility for everything undertaken by the nearly 20 SS doctors who worked in the medical sections of Auschwitz between 1942–1945.

Nazism and race Racist foundations of Nazism

Nazism and race concerns the Nazi Party's adoption and further development of several hypotheses concerning their concept of race. Classifications of human races were made and various measurements of population samples were carried out during the 1930s.

After the war, these crimes were tried at what became known as the Doctors' Trial, and revulsion at the abuses perpetrated led to the development of the Nuremberg Code of medical ethics. The Nazi physicians in the Doctors' Trial argued that military necessity justified their torturous experiments, and compared their victims to collateral damage from Allied bombings. But this defense, which was in any case rejected by the Tribunal, cannot apply to the twin experiments of Josef Mengele, which were performed on children and had no connection to military necessity.

The Nuremberg Code is a set of research ethics principles for human experimentation created as a result of the Nuremberg trials at the end of the Second World War.

Medical ethics system of moral principles of the practice of medicine

Medical ethics is a system of moral principles that apply values to the practice of clinical medicine and in scientific research. Medical ethics is based on a set of values that professionals can refer to in the case of any confusion or conflict. These values include the respect for autonomy, non-maleficence, beneficence, and justice. Such tenets may allow doctors, care providers, and families to create a treatment plan and work towards the same common goal. It is important to note that these four values are not ranked in order of importance or relevance and that they all encompass values pertaining to medical ethics. However, a conflict may arise leading to the need for hierarchy in an ethical system, such that some moral elements overrule others with the purpose of applying the best moral judgement to a difficult medical situation.


The table of contents of a document from the Nuremberg military tribunals prosecution includes titles of the sections that document medical experiments revolving around: food, seawater, epidemic jaundice, sulfanilamide, blood coagulation and phlegmone. [2] According to the indictments at the Subsequent Nuremberg Trials, [3] [4] these experiments included the following:

Experiments on twins

Experiments on twin children in concentration camps were created to show the similarities and differences in the genetics of twins, as well as to see if the human body can be unnaturally manipulated. The central leader of the experiments was Josef Mengele, who from 1943 to 1944 performed experiments on nearly 1,500 sets of imprisoned twins at Auschwitz. About 200 people survived these studies. [5] The twins were arranged by age and sex and kept in barracks between experiments, which ranged from injection of different dyes into the eyes of twins to see whether it would change their color to sewing twins together in attempts to create conjoined twins. [6] [7] Often times, one twin would be forced to undergo experimentation, while the other was kept as a control. If the experimentation reached the point of death, the second twin would be brought in to be killed at the same time. Doctors would then look at the effects of experimentation and compare both bodies. [8]

Genetics Science of genes, heredity, and variation in living organisms

Genetics is a branch of biology concerned with the study of genes, genetic variation, and heredity in organisms.

Josef Mengele Nazi SS officer who experimented on twins at Auschwitz

Josef Mengele was a German Schutzstaffel (SS) officer and physician in Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II. He performed deadly human experiments on prisoners and was a member of the team of doctors who selected victims to be killed in the gas chambers. Arrivals that were judged able to work were admitted into the camp, while those deemed unsuitable for labor were sent to the gas chambers to be killed. With Red Army troops sweeping through Poland, Mengele was transferred 280 kilometers (170 mi) from Auschwitz to the Gross-Rosen concentration camp on 17 January 1945, just ten days before the arrival of the Soviet forces at Auschwitz. After the war, he fled to South America where he evaded capture for the rest of his life.

Barracks accommodation for soldiers

A barracks is a building or group of buildings built to house soldiers. The English word comes via French from an old Catalan word "barraca" (hut), originally referring to temporary shelters or huts for various people and animals, but today barracks are usually permanent buildings for military accommodation. The word may apply to separate housing blocks or to complete complexes, and the plural form often refers to a single structure and may be singular in construction.

Bone, muscle, and nerve transplantation experiments

From about September 1942 to about December 1943 experiments were conducted at the Ravensbrück concentration camp, for the benefit of the German Armed Forces, to study bone, muscle, and nerve regeneration, and bone transplantation from one person to another. [9] Sections of bones, muscles, and nerves were removed from the subjects without use of anesthesia. As a result of these operations, many victims suffered intense agony, mutilation, and permanent disability. [9]

On August 12, 1946 a survivor named Jadwiga Kamińska [10] gave a deposition about her time at Ravensbrück concentration camp and describes how she was operated on twice. Both operations involved one of her legs and although she never describes having any knowledge as to what exactly the procedure was, she explains that both times she was in extreme pain and developed a fever post surgery. Yet she was given little to no care. Kamińska describes being told that she had been operated on simply because she was a "young girl and a Polish patriot". She describes how her leg oozed pus for months after the operations. [11]

Prisoners were also experimented on by having their bone marrow injected with bacteria to study the effectiveness of new drugs being developed for use in the battle fields. Many prisoners left the camps with disfigurement that would last the rest of their lives. [12]

Head injury experiments

In mid-1942 in Baranowicze, occupied Poland, experiments were conducted in a small building behind the private home occupied by a known Nazi SD Security Service officer, in which "a young boy of eleven or twelve [was] strapped to a chair so he could not move. Above him was a mechanized hammer that every few seconds came down upon his head." The boy was driven insane from the torture. [13]

Freezing experiments

A cold water immersion experiment at Dachau concentration camp presided over by Ernst Holzlohner (left) and Sigmund Rascher (right). The subject is wearing an experimental Luftwaffe garment Dachau cold water immersion.jpg
A cold water immersion experiment at Dachau concentration camp presided over by Ernst Holzlöhner (left) and Sigmund Rascher (right). The subject is wearing an experimental Luftwaffe garment

In 1941, the Luftwaffe conducted experiments with the intent of discovering means to prevent and treat hypothermia. There were 360 to 400 experiments and 280 to 300 victims indicating some victims suffered more than one experiment. [14]

"Exitus" (death) table compiled by Sigmund Rascher [15]
Attempt no.Water temperatureBody temperature when removed from the waterBody temperature at deathTime in waterTime of death
55.2 °C (41.4 °F)27.7 °C (81.9 °F)27.7 °C (81.9 °F)66'66'
136 °C (43 °F)29.2 °C (84.6 °F)29.2 °C (84.6 °F)80'87'
144 °C (39 °F)27.8 °C (82.0 °F)27.5 °C (81.5 °F)95'
164 °C (39 °F)28.7 °C (83.7 °F)26 °C (79 °F)60'74'
234.5 °C (40.1 °F)27.8 °C (82.0 °F)25.7 °C (78.3 °F)57'65'
254.6 °C (40.3 °F)27.8 °C (82.0 °F)26.6 °C (79.9 °F)51'65'
4.2 °C (39.6 °F)26.7 °C (80.1 °F)25.9 °C (78.6 °F)53'53'

Another study placed prisoners naked in the open air for several hours with temperatures as low as −6 °C (21 °F). Besides studying the physical effects of cold exposure, the experimenters also assessed different methods of rewarming survivors. [16] "One assistant later testified that some victims were thrown into boiling water for rewarming." [14]

Beginning in August 1942, at the Dachau camp, prisoners were forced to sit in tanks of freezing water for up to 3 hours. After subjects were frozen, they then underwent different methods for rewarming. Many subjects died in this process. [17]

The freezing/hypothermia experiments were conducted for the Nazi high command to simulate the conditions the armies suffered on the Eastern Front, as the German forces were ill-prepared for the cold weather they encountered. Many experiments were conducted on captured Russian troops; the Nazis wondered whether their genetics gave them superior resistance to cold. The principal locales were Dachau and Auschwitz. Sigmund Rascher, an SS doctor based at Dachau, reported directly to Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler and publicised the results of his freezing experiments at the 1942 medical conference entitled "Medical Problems Arising from Sea and Winter". [18] In a letter from September 10, 1942, Rascher describes an experiment on intense cooling performed in Dachau where people were dressed in fighter pilot uniforms and submerged in freezing water. Rascher had some of the victims completely underwater and others only submerged up to the head. [19] Approximately 100 people are reported to have died as a result of these experiments. [20]

Malaria experiments

From about February 1942 to about April 1945, experiments were conducted at the Dachau concentration camp in order to investigate immunization for treatment of malaria. Healthy inmates were infected by mosquitoes or by injections of extracts of the mucous glands of female mosquitoes. After contracting the disease, the subjects were treated with various drugs to test their relative efficiency. [21] Over 1,200 people were used in these experiments and more than half died as a result. [22] Other test subjects were left with permanent disabilities. [23]

Immunization experiments

At the German concentration camps of Sachsenhausen, Dachau, Natzweiler, Buchenwald, and Neuengamme, scientists tested immunization compounds and serums for the prevention and treatment of contagious diseases, including malaria, typhus, tuberculosis, typhoid fever, yellow fever, and infectious hepatitis. [24]

Epidemic jaundice

From June 1943 till January 1945 at the concentration camps, Sachsenhausen and Natzweiler, experimentation with epidemic jaundice was conducted. The test subjects were injected with the disease in order to discover new inoculations for the condition. These tests were conducted for the benefit of the German Armed Forces. Many suffered great pain in these experiments. [25]

Mustard gas experiments

At various times between September 1939 and April 1945, many experiments were conducted at Sachsenhausen, Natzweiler, and other camps to investigate the most effective treatment of wounds caused by mustard gas. Test subjects were deliberately exposed to mustard gas and other vesicants (e.g. Lewisite) which inflicted severe chemical burns. The victims' wounds were then tested to find the most effective treatment for the mustard gas burns. [26]

Child victims of Nazi experimentation show incisions where axillary lymph nodes had been surgically removed after they were deliberately infected with tuberculosis at Neuengamme concentration camp. They were later executed. Children of Bullinhuser Damm.jpg
Child victims of Nazi experimentation show incisions where axillary lymph nodes had been surgically removed after they were deliberately infected with tuberculosis at Neuengamme concentration camp. They were later executed.

Sulfonamide experiments

From about July 1942 to about September 1943, experiments to investigate the effectiveness of sulfonamide, a synthetic antimicrobial agent, were conducted at Ravensbrück. [28] Wounds inflicted on the subjects were infected with bacteria such as Streptococcus , Clostridium perfringens (a major causative agent in gas gangrene) and Clostridium tetani , the causative agent in tetanus. [29] Circulation of blood was interrupted by tying off blood vessels at both ends of the wound to create a condition similar to that of a battlefield wound. Infection was aggravated by forcing wood shavings and ground glass into the wounds. The infection was treated with sulfonamide and other drugs to determine their effectiveness.

Sea water experiments

From about July 1944 to about September 1944, experiments were conducted at the Dachau concentration camp to study various methods of making sea water drinkable. These victims were subject to deprivation of all food and only given the filtered sea water. [30] At one point, a group of roughly 90 Roma were deprived of food and given nothing but sea water to drink by Dr. Hans Eppinger, leaving them gravely injured. [18] They were so dehydrated that others observed them licking freshly mopped floors in an attempt to get drinkable water. [31]

A Holocaust survivor named Joseph Tschofenig wrote a statement on these seawater experiments at Dachau. Tschofenig explained how while working at the medical experimentation stations he gained insight into some of the experiments that were performed on prisoners, namely those where they were forced to drink salt water. Tschofenig also described how victims of the experiments had trouble eating and would desperately seek out any source of water including old floor rags. Tschofenig was responsible for using the X-ray machine in the infirmary and describes how even though he had insight into what was going on he was powerless to stop it. He gives the example of a patient in the infirmary who was sent to the gas chambers by Dr. Sigmund Rascher simply because he witnessed one of the low-pressure experiments. [32]

Sterilization and fertility experiments

The Law for the Prevention of Genetically Defective Progeny was passed on 14 July 1933, which legalized the involuntary sterilization of persons with diseases claimed to be hereditary: weak-mindedness, schizophrenia, alcohol abuse, insanity, blindness, deafness, and physical deformities. The law was used to encourage growth of the Aryan race through the sterilization of persons who fell under the quota of being genetically defective. [33] 1% of citizens between the age of 17 to 24 had been sterilized within 2 years of the law passing.

Within 4 years, 300,000 patients had been sterilized. [34] From about March 1941 to about January 1945, sterilization experiments were conducted at Auschwitz, Ravensbrück, and other places by Dr. Carl Clauberg. [26] The purpose of these experiments was to develop a method of sterilization which would be suitable for sterilizing millions of people with a minimum of time and effort. The targets for sterilization included Jewish and Roma populations. [12] These experiments were conducted by means of X-ray, surgery and various drugs. Thousands of victims were sterilized. Aside from its experimentation, the Nazi government sterilized around 400,000 people as part of its compulsory sterilization program. [35] One survivor, who underwent experimentation at Auschwitz, said that the experimentation she endured caused, "fainting from severe pain for a year and a half." Years later she went to a doctor and discovered that her uterus had become one comparable to that of a 4-year-old. [36]

Intravenous injections of solutions speculated to contain iodine and silver nitrate were successful, but had unwanted side effects such as vaginal bleeding, severe abdominal pain, and cervical cancer. [37] Therefore, radiation treatment became the favored choice of sterilization. Specific amounts of exposure to radiation destroyed a person's ability to produce ova or sperm, sometimes administered through deception. Many suffered severe radiation burns. [38]

M.D. William E. Seidelman, a professor from the University of Toronto, in collaboration with Dr. Howard Israel of Columbia University published a report on an investigation on the Medical experimentation performed in Austria under the Nazi Regime. In that report he mentions a Doctor Hermann Stieve, who used the war to experiment on live humans. Dr. Stieve specifically focused on the reproductive system of women. He would tell women their execution date in advance, and he would evaluate how their psychological distress would affect their menstruation cycles. After they were murdered, he would dissect and examine their reproductive organs. Some of the women were even raped after they were told the date when they would be killed, so that Dr. Stieve could study the path of sperm through their reproductive system. [39]

Experiments with poison

Somewhere between December 1943 and October 1944, experiments were conducted at Buchenwald to investigate the effect of various poisons. The poisons were secretly administered to experimental subjects in their food. The victims died as a result of the poison or were killed immediately in order to permit autopsies. In September 1944, experimental subjects were shot with poisonous bullets, suffered torture and often died. [26]

Incendiary bomb experiments

From around November 1943 to around January 1944, experiments were conducted at Buchenwald to test the effect of various pharmaceutical preparations on phosphorus burns. These burns were inflicted on prisoners using phosphorus material extracted from incendiary bombs. [26]

High altitude experiments

In early 1942, prisoners at Dachau concentration camp were used by Sigmund Rascher in experiments to aid German pilots who had to eject at high altitudes. A low-pressure chamber containing these prisoners was used to simulate conditions at altitudes of up to 68,000 feet (21,000 m). It was rumored that Rascher performed vivisections on the brains of victims who survived the initial experiment. [40] Of the 200 subjects, 80 died outright, and the others were executed. [18] In a letter from April 5, 1942 between Dr. Sigmund Rascher and Heinrich Himmler, Rascher explains the results of a low-pressure experiment that was performed on people at Dachau Concentration camp in which the victim was suffocated while Rascher and another unnamed doctor took note of his reactions. The person was described as 37 years old and in good health before being murdered. Rascher described the victim's actions as he began to lose oxygen and timed the changes in behavior. The 37-year-old began to wiggle his head at 4 minutes, a minute later Rascher observed that he was suffering from cramps before falling unconscious. He describes how the victim then lay unconscious, breathing only 3 times per minute, until he stopped breathing 30 minutes after being deprived of oxygen. The victim then turned blue and began foaming at the mouth. An autopsy followed an hour later. [41]

In a letter from Heinrich Himmler to Dr. Sigmund Rascher on April 13, 1942, Himmler ordered Rascher to continue the high altitude experiments and to continue experimenting on prisoners condemned to death and to "determine whether these men could be recalled to life". If a victim could be successfully resuscitated, Himmler ordered that he be pardoned to "concentration camp for life". [42]

Blood coagulation experiments

Sigmund Rascher experimented with the effects of Polygal, a substance made from beet and apple pectin, which aided blood clotting. He predicted that the preventive use of Polygal tablets would reduce bleeding from gunshot wounds sustained during combat or during surgery. Subjects were given a Polygal tablet, and shot through the neck or chest, or their limbs amputated without anaesthesia. Rascher published an article on his experience of using Polygal, without detailing the nature of the human trials and also set up a company to manufacture the substance, staffed by prisoners. [43]


Other documented transcriptions from Heinrich Himmler include phrases such as "These researches… can be performed by us with particular efficiency because I personally assumed the responsibility for supplying asocial individuals and criminals who deserve only to die from concentration camps for these experiments." [44] Many of the subjects died as a result of the experiments conducted by the Nazis, while many others were executed after the tests were completed to study the effects post mortem . [45] Those who survived were often left mutilated, suffering permanent disability, weakened bodies, and mental distress. [18] [46] On 19 August 1947, the doctors captured by Allied forces were put on trial in USA vs. Karl Brandt et al., commonly known as the Doctors' Trial. At the trial, several of the doctors argued in their defense that there was no international law regarding medical experimentation.[ citation needed ] Some doctors also claimed that they had been doing the world a favor. An SS doctor was quoted saying that "Jews were the festering appendix in the body of Europe." He then went on to argue he was doing the world a favor by eliminating them. [8]

The issue of informed consent had previously been controversial in German medicine in 1900, when Dr. Albert Neisser infected patients (mainly prostitutes) with syphilis without their consent. Despite Neisser's support from most of the academic community, public opinion, led by psychiatrist Albert Moll, was against Neisser. While Neisser went on to be fined by the Royal Disciplinary Court, Moll developed "a legally based, positivistic contract theory of the patient-doctor relationship" that was not adopted into German law. [47] Eventually, the minister for religious, educational, and medical affairs issued a directive stating that medical interventions other than for diagnosis, healing, and immunization were excluded under all circumstances if "the human subject was a minor or not competent for other reasons", or if the subject had not given his or her "unambiguous consent" after a "proper explanation of the possible negative consequences" of the intervention, though this was not legally binding. [47]

In response, Drs. Leo Alexander and Andrew Conway Ivy, the American Medical Association representative at the Doctors' Trial, drafted a ten-point memorandum entitled Permissible Medical Experiment that went on to be known as the Nuremberg Code. [48] The code calls for such standards as voluntary consent of patients, avoidance of unnecessary pain and suffering, and that there must be a belief that the experimentation will not end in death or disability. [49] The Code was not cited in any of the findings against the defendants and never made it into either German or American medical law. [50] This code comes from the Nuremberg Trials where the most heinous of Nazi leaders were put on trial for their war crimes. [51] To this day, the Nuremberg Code remains a major stepping stone for medical experimentation. [52]

Modern ethical issues

Andrew Conway Ivy stated the Nazi experiments were of no medical value. [14] Data obtained from the experiments, however, has been used and considered for use in multiple fields, often causing controversy. Some object to the data's use purely on ethical grounds, disagreeing with the methods used to obtain it, while others have rejected the research only on scientific grounds, criticizing methodological inconsistencies. [14] Those in favor of using the data argue that if it has practical value to save lives, it would be equally unethical not to use it. [31] Arnold S. Relman, editor of The New England Journal of Medicine from 1977 till 1991, refused to allow the journal to publish any article that cited the Nazi experiments. [14]

"I don't want to have to use the Nazi data, but there is no other and will be no other in an ethical world ... not to use it would be equally bad. I'm trying to make something constructive out of it."

Dr John Hayward, justifying citing the Dachau freezing experiments in his research. [31]

The results of the Dachau freezing experiments have been used in some late 20th century research into the treatment of hypothermia; at least 45 publications had referenced the experiments as of 1984, though the majority of publications in the field did not cite the research. [14] Those who have argued in favor of using the research include Dr Robert Pozos from the University of Minnesota and Dr John Hayward from the University of Victoria. [31] In a 1990 review of the Dachau experiments, Robert Berger concludes that the study has "all the ingredients of a scientific fraud" and that the data "cannot advance science or save human lives." [14]

In 1989, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considered using data from Nazi research into the effects of phosgene gas, believing the data could help US soldiers stationed in the Persian Gulf at the time. They eventually decided against using it, on the grounds it would lead to criticism and similar data could be obtained from later studies on animals. Writing for Jewish Law, Baruch Cohen concluded that the EPA's "knee-jerk reaction" to reject the data's use was "typical, but unprofessional", arguing that it could have saved lives. [31]

Controversy has also risen from the use of results of biological warfare testing done by the Imperial Japanese Army's Unit 731. [53] The results from Unit 731 were kept classified by the United States until the majority of doctors involved were given pardons. [54]

See also

Related Research Articles

Racial hygiene

The term racial hygiene was used to describe an approach to eugenics in the early 20th century, which found its most extensive implementation in Nazi Germany. It was marked by efforts to avoid miscegenation, analogous to an animal breeder seeking purebred animals. This was often motivated by belief in a racial hierarchy and the related fear that lower races would "contaminate" a higher one. As with most eugenicists at the time, racial hygienists believed that lack of eugenics would lead to rapid social degeneration, the decline of civilisation by the spread of inferior characteristics.

Carl Clauberg German general

Carl Clauberg was a German gynecologist who conducted medical experiments on human subjects at Auschwitz concentration camp. He worked with Horst Schumann in X-ray sterilization experiments at Auschwitz concentration camp.

Sigmund Rascher was a German SS doctor. He conducted deadly experiments on humans about high altitude, freezing and blood coagulation under the patronage of SS leader Heinrich Himmler, to whom his wife Karoline "Nini" Diehl had direct connections. When police investigations uncovered that the couple defrauded the public with their supernatural fertility by 'hiring' and kidnapping babies, she and Rascher were arrested in April 1944. He was accused of financial irregularities, murder of his former lab assistant, and scientific fraud, and brought to Buchenwald and Dachau before being executed. After his death, the Nuremberg Trials judged his experiments as inhumane and criminal.

Kurt Blome German politician

Kurt Blome was a high-ranking Nazi scientist before and during World War II. He was the Deputy Reich Health Leader (Reichsgesundheitsführer) and Plenipotentiary for Cancer Research in the Reich Research Council. In his autobiography Arzt im Kampf, he equated medical and military power in their battle for life and death.

Gerhard Rose German expert on tropical medicine

Gerhard August Heinrich Rose was a German expert on tropical medicine. Participating in Nazi human experimentation at Dachau and Buchenwald, he infected Jews, Romani people, and the mentally ill with malaria and typhus. Sentenced to life in prison, he was released in 1953.

Horst Schumann SS officer

Horst Schumann, SS-Sturmbannführer (major) and medical doctor, conducted sterilization and castration experiments at Auschwitz and was particularly interested in the mass sterilization of Jews by means of X-rays.

Johann Kremer professor of anatomy

Johann Paul Kremer was a professor of anatomy and human genetics at Münster University who joined the Wehrmacht on May 20, 1941. He served in the SS in the Auschwitz concentration camp as a physician during World War II, from 30 August 1942 to 18 November 1942.

The Stateville Penitentiary malaria study was a controlled study of the effects of malaria on the prisoners of Stateville Penitentiary near Joliet, Illinois in the 1940s. The study was conducted by the Department of Medicine at the University of Chicago in conjunction with the United States Army and the State Department. The study is notable for its impacts on the Nuremberg Medical Trial and subsequent medical experimentation on prisoners.

Claus Schilling German scientist

Claus Karl Schilling, also recorded as Klaus Schilling, was a German tropical medicine specialist who participated in the Nazi human experiments at the Dachau concentration camp during World War II.

The Sanitätswesen was one of the five divisions of a Nazi concentration and extermination camp organization during the Holocaust. The other divisions were the command center, the administration department, the Politische Abteilung and the protective detention camp.

SS Medical Corps

The SS Medical Corps was a formation within the SS of professional doctors who provided medical services for the SS, including experiments on and the development of different methods of murdering prisoners. Members of the SS Medical Corps also served on the front with the Waffen-SS as support personnel practicing field expedient medicine on wounded members of the SS.

Bruno Nikolaus Maria Weber was a German physician, bacteriologist and Hauptsturmführer (1944), at Auschwitz, in the branch of the Hygiene Institute of the Waffen SS. He was chief of the Hygienic Institute. He organized experiments involving the interaction of different human blood types in unwilling prisoner-patients. He also conducted experiments using barbiturates and morphine derivatives for mind-control purposes. He was made Obersturmführer der reserve on the 20th of April, 1943, SS-Sanitatsamt. Woth the SS number: 420759.

Friedrich Entress

Friedrich Karl Hermann Entress was a German-Polish camp doctor in various concentration and extermination camps during the Second World War. He conducted human medical experimentation at Auschwitz and introduced the procedure there of injecting lethal doses of phenol directly into the hearts of prisoners. He was captured by the Allies in 1945, sentenced to death at the Mauthausen-Gusen camp trials, and executed in 1947.

Unethical human experimentation is human experimentation that violates the principles of medical ethics. Such practices have included denying patients the right to informed consent, using pseudoscientific frameworks such as race science, and torturing people under the guise of research. Around World War II, Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany carried out brutal experiments on prisoners and civilians through groups like Unit 731 or individuals like Josef Mengele; the Nuremburg Code was developed after the war in response to the Nazi experiments. Countries have carried out brutal experiments on marginalized populations. Examples include American abuses during Project MKUltra and the Tuskegee syphilis experiments, and the mistreatment of indigenous populations in Canada and Australia. The Declaration of Helsinki, developed by the World Medical Association (WMA), is widely regarded as the cornerstone document on human research ethics.

Karel Sperber

Karel Sperber OBE (1910–1957) was a Jewish Czech surgeon who travelled to England after the Nazi invasion of his country, but unable to practice medicine because he was an alien, took a job as a ship's doctor instead and was captured by Axis forces when his ship was sunk by the Germans.

The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide was written by Robert Jay Lifton and published in 1986, analyzing the role of German doctors in carrying out a genocide. From the viewpoint of a psychiatrist, Lifton dove into detail covering the medical procedures occurring before and during the Holocaust. The book consists of three parts, each with chapters, and recounts the events that led to the holocaust, as well as members that formed part of it. Euthanasia was the term used by the Nazis to describe their killings that had purpose, in reality they committed a genocide. Lifton explores the paradoxical theme of healing killing in which one race was healed by eliminating another; a concept that many used to morally justify their actions. Throughout the book, Lifton provides quotes from interviews he conducted with SS doctors and with victims. In that manner, he is able to retell the story from both sides, and later provide a psychiatric analysis on the manner in which the doctors were able to carry out their experiments.


  1. "Nazi Medical Experimentation". US Holocaust Memorial Museum. Retrieved 23 March 2008.
  2. "Nuremberg - Document Viewer - Table of contents for prosecution document book 8, concerning medical experiments". Retrieved 2017-04-14.
  3. "Medical Experiment". Jewish Virtual Library. Retrieved 23 March 2008.
  4. "The Doctors Trial: The Medical Case of the Subsequent Nuremberg Proceedings". United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Archived from the original on 20 April 2008. Retrieved 23 March 2008.
  5. Josef Mengele and Experimentation on Human Twins at Auschwitz Archived 14 April 2015 at the Wayback Machine , Children of the Flames; Dr. Josef Mengele and the Untold Story of the Twins of Auschwitz, Lucette Matalon Lagnado and Sheila Cohn Dekel, and Mengele: the Complete Story by Gerald Posner and John Ware.
  6. Black, Edwin (2004). War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America's Campaign to Create a Master Race. United States: Thunder's Mouth Press. ISBN   978-1-56858-258-0 . Retrieved 14 April 2008.
  7. Berenbaum, Michael (1993). The world must know: the history of the Holocaust as told in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Boston: Little, Brown. pp. 194–5. ISBN   978-0-316-09134-3.
  8. 1 2 Baron, Saskia, director. Science and the Swastika: The Deadly Experiment. Darlow Smithson Productions, 2001.
  9. 1 2 Perper, Joshua A.; Cina, Stephen J. (14 June 2010). When Doctors Kill: Who, Why, and How. Springer Science & Business Media. ISBN   9781441913692.
  10. "Women's Concentration Camp Medical Experiment Victims" . Retrieved 12 November 2017.
  11. "Nuremberg - Document Viewer - Deposition concerning medical experiments at Ravensbrueck [bone/muscle/nerve experiments]". Retrieved 2017-04-14.
  12. 1 2 "Nazi Medical Experiments". Retrieved 3 May 2018.
  13. Small, Martin; Vic Shayne. "Remember Us: My Journey from the Shtetl through the Holocaust", Page 135, 2009.
  14. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Berger, Robert L. (May 1990). "Nazi Science — the Dachau Hypothermia Experiments". New England Journal of Medicine. 322 (20): 1435–40. doi:10.1056/NEJM199005173222006. PMID   2184357.
  15. The Dachau Concentration Camp, 1933 to 1945. Comite International Dachau. 2000. p. 183. ISBN   978-3-87490-751-4.
  16. Bogod, David (2004). "The Nazi Hypothermia Experiments: Forbidden Data?". Anaesthesia. 59 (12): 1155–1156. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2044.2004.04034.x. PMID   15549970.
  17. "Freezing Experiments". Retrieved 3 May 2018.
  18. 1 2 3 4 Tyson, Peter. "Holocaust on Trial: The Experiments". NOVA Online. Retrieved 23 March 2008.
  19. "Documents Regarding Nazi Medical Experiments". Retrieved 2017-04-14.
  20. Neurnberg Military Tribunal, Volume I · Page 200
  21. George J. Annas Edward R. Utley Professor of Health Law; Medicine Michael A. Grodin Associate Professor of Philosophy and Associate Director of Law, and Ethics Program both of the Boston University Schools of Medicine and Public Health (7 May 1992). The Nazi Doctors and the Nuremberg Code : Human Rights in Human Experimentation: Human Rights in Human Experimentation. Oxford University Press, USA. pp. 98–. ISBN   978-0-19-977226-1.
  22. United States. Office of Chief of Counsel for the Prosecution of Axis Criminality; United States. Dept. of State; United States. War Dept; International Military Tribunal (1946). Nazi conspiracy and aggression: Office of United States Chief of Counsel for Prosecution of Axis Criminality. U.S. Govt. Print. Off.
  23. "Malaria Experiments". Retrieved 3 May 2018.
  24. "Nazi Medical Experiments".
  25. "Epidemic Jaundice Experiments". Retrieved 3 May 2018.
  26. 1 2 3 4 "Introduction to NMT Case 1: U.S.A. v. Karl Brandt et al". Harvard Law Library, Nuremberg Trials Project: A Digital Document Collection. Retrieved 23 March 2008.
  27. "Children of Bullenhuser Damm". Retrieved 31 March 2016.
  28. Schaefer, Naomi. The Legacy of Nazi Medicine , The New Atlantis, Number 5, Spring 2004, pp. 54–60.
  29. Spitz, Vivien (2005). Doctors from Hell: The Horrific Account of Nazi Experiments on Humans. Sentient Publications. ISBN   978-1-59181-032-2.
  30. "Sea Water Experiments". Retrieved 3 May 2018.
  31. 1 2 3 4 5 Cohen, Baruch C. "The Ethics Of Using Medical Data From Nazi Experiments". Jewish Law: Articles. Retrieved 23 March 2008.
  32. "Nuremberg - Document Viewer - Affidavit concerning the seawater experiments". Retrieved 2017-04-14.
  33. Gardella JE. The cost-effectiveness of killing: an overview of Nazi "euthanasia." Medical Sentinel 1999;4:132-5
  34. Dahl M. [Selection and destruction-treatment of "unworthy-to-live" children in the Third Reich and the role of child and adolescent psychiatry], Prax Kinderpsychol Kinderpsychiatr 2001;50:170-91.
  35. Piotrowski, Christa (21 July 2000). "Dark Chapter of American History: U.S. Court Battle Over Forced Sterilization". News Center. Archived from the original on 15 April 2008. Retrieved 23 March 2008.
  36. Conference, Claims. "Personal Statements From Victims of Nazi Medical Experiments - Claims Conference". Claims Conference. Retrieved 3 May 2018.
  37. Meric, Vesna (27 January 2005). "Forced to take part in experiments". BBC News.
  38. "Medical Experiments at Auschwitz". Jewish Virtual Library. Retrieved 23 March 2008.
  39. "Medicine and Murder in the Third Reich". Retrieved 2017-04-14.
  40. Cockburn, Alexander (1998). Whiteout:The CIA, Drugs, and the Press. Verso. ISBN   978-1-85984-139-6.
  41. "Documents Regarding Nazi Medical Experiments". Retrieved 2017-04-14
  42. "Nuremberg - Document Viewer - Letter to Sigmund Rascher concerning the high altitude experiments". Retrieved 2017-04-14.
  43. Michalczyk, p. 96
  44. "Nuremberg - Document Viewer - Letter to Erhard Milch concerning the high altitude and freezing experiments". Retrieved 2017-04-14.
  45. Rosenberg, Jennifer. "Mengele's Children – The Twins of Auschwitz". Retrieved 23 March 2008.
  46. "Sterilization Experiments". Jewish Virtual Library. Retrieved 23 March 2008.
  47. 1 2 Vollman, Jochen; Rolf Winau. "Informed consent in human experimentation before the Nuremberg code". BMJ. Archived from the original on 4 March 2008. Retrieved 8 April 2008.
  48. "The Nuremberg Code". United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Archived from the original on 21 February 2008. Retrieved 23 March 2008.
  49. "Regulations and Ethical Guidelines: Reprinted from Trials of War Criminals before the Nuremberg Military Tribunals under Control Council Law No. 10, Vol. 2, pp. 181–182". Office of Human Subjects Research. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office. 1949. Archived from the original on 29 October 2007. Retrieved 23 March 2008.
  50. Ghooi, Ravindra B. (1 January 2011). "The Nuremberg Code–A critique". Perspectives in Clinical Research. 2 (2): 72–76. doi:10.4103/2229-3485.80371. ISSN   2229-3485. PMC   3121268 . PMID   21731859.
  51. "The Nuremberg Trials". Retrieved 3 May 2018.
  52. "Nuremberg Code — United States Holocaust Memorial Museum". Retrieved 3 May 2018.
  53. "Unit 731: Japan's biological force". BBC News. 1 February 2002. Retrieved 27 March 2008.
  54. Reilly, Kevin; Stephen Kaufman; Angela Bodino (2003). Racism: A Global Reader. M.E. Sharpe. ISBN   978-0-7656-1059-1 . Retrieved 27 March 2008.

Further reading

Controversy regarding use of findings