Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team
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2008 - 2009
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2006 - 2007
A Study On Medical Experimentation During the Holocaust
By Tamsin Silver
Before the beginning of World War Two, and even before National Socialism came to power, medical experimentation was highly valued in Germany, and many of these experiments and studies were related to genetics and genetic traits. Like much of the rest of Europe, as well as the United States, Germany was swept with the notion of ‘eugenics’ and the quest to develop a perfect humanity so much so that ‘Racial hygiene’ was taught at major universities in both the US and Germany.
In parallel with the development of biomedical science, a powerful international response began to gather after the appearance of Darwin’s Origin of Species in 1859. Efforts were soon made to apply the principles of natural selection to human populations. Social Darwinism, particularly as it emerged in Germany, early stressed the need for state intervention on the basis of the idea that racial integrity was threatened because medical care had begun to destroy the natural struggle for survival.
The philosopher Hans Jons, in his essay on human experimentation equated human experimentation with the “primeval human sacrifices.... that existed in some early societies for the solemn execution of a supreme, sacral necessity”, he suggested that both involved “something sacrificial in their abrogation of personal inviolability and the ritualistic exposure to gratuitous risk of health and life, justified by a presumed greater social good.” In other words human experimentation was not a new practice, nor was it secluded to German scientists. Human experimentation had throughout history been viewed as a necessary sacrifice in order to find cures that could save the wider population.
The prejudicial attitudes that were expressed through the Nuremberg laws also allowed the German doctors to deduce “support” from the Americans, who barred 5,000 petitioning African American doctors from joining the American Medical Association. Therefor Germany was not alone in its effects to preserve racial purity discriminating against races deemed as inferior by those in authority. As Alexandr L. states “Science under dictatorship becomes subordinated to the guiding philosophy of the dictatorship” .
In this paper I will discuss the origins of eugenics and its popularity amongst scientists across Europe and America, demonstrating that the ideas and theory behind eugenics did not originate in Germany. The paper will also discuss the popularity of eugenics particularly in Germany where it was manipulated by the Nazis to justify the policies of racial hygiene, which led to the exclusion, euthanasia, sterilisation, and eventually mass genocide of those deemed inferior using the principle of eugenics and Social Darwinism. During the course of the path to the Final Solution experiments using the Rascherkunde (inferior races) were used to study a range of topics and this will be my main focus. Chapter three discusses the details of the experiments, the reasoning behind them and the data they produced, some of which I argue constituted a true Nazi science. In my conclusion I will demonstrate further how some of the experiments were deemed so useful and the research so vital to the American military personnel in the face of Cold War that it not only saved some of the Nazi scientists from prosecution but allowed them to continue with their research careers in America.
Chapter 1. The Origins of Eugenics in Europe and America
According to Russell Sparkes, eugenics is the belief that the human race needed protection (and indeed, regeneration) from the “degenerates” of society along with the “unfit” and the “feebleminded”. Eugenics was not a German phenomenon nor did the ideas or research behind it originate in Germany. According to Andre N. Sofair, it was a British biologist, Francis Galton who first made the “nature-nurture” distinction studying the comparative worth of different races, using the term eugenics to express this in 1883. Galton described how, through selective breeding, the human race could be strengthened. Galton manipulated the theory of natural selection to apply it to human terms. He believed that in order to protect and improve the human race healthy parents from the middle classes and educated professions should be encouraged to marry early and produce as many children as possible. Galton proposed that those who were deemed healthy and suitable to reproduce should be issued with a certificate of hereditary health. In contrast, Galton proposed those who failed the “passed in genetics test” should emigrate.
It could be argued that the surge in interest in eugenics occurred after Charles Darwin published his book “ On the Origins of Species by Means of Natural Selection” in 1859. Michael Burleigh claims Darwin was the involuntary progenitor of racist ideology as he was responsible for the theory of natural selection as the mechanism of evolution. It was after Darwin’s work was published that many scientists and anthropologists aimed at applying Darwin’s theories to the Human Race, known as Social Darwinists many of whom were in Darwin’s extended family. It was after the publication of Darwin’s “Origins of the Species” that selection was to become central to all subsequent racist discourse. It was after this that scientists and philosophers began to look at ways in which natural selection could be aided by scientists to encourage the progression of those deemed suitable whilst assisting with the extinction of those deemed inferior. However, it does not imply that previously to Darwin’s work, men were not conscious of the importance of hereditary health and disease. Herbert Spencer the English philosopher and popular theorist and unsurprisingly close friend of Darwin, most famous for his 1873 ‘Study of Sociology’ also wrote on the progression of different racial archetypes. The mechanism of Spencerian evolutionary change was supposed to occur through the inheritance of functionally acquired characteristics, allowing even ethical improvement to be transmitted from parent to child as society progressed towards a peaceful and supremely ethical resting point.
The school of thought amongst eugenicists became focussed on creating ways for humans which were similar to the animal world in the sense of helping aid natural selection to promote the “survival of the fittest”. The aim of some eugenicists was to create methods to ensure those with the “desired Characteristics” bred more, (termed “positive eugenics”) whilst simultaneously diminishing the breeding of those possessing “undesirable characteristics”, (termed “negative eugenics”). Not only did the Social Darwinists want to select the weak and prevent them from reproducing, the theorists also wanted a policy which would prevent the ‘undesired’ from receiving aid as it was believed that this tampered with natural selection. German eugenicists applied the theories of critical progenitors throughout Europe and America and applied them to themselves.
Michael Burleigh comments that, decades before the Nazis came to power in the 1930’s, doctors, psychiatrists and scientists in many countries held the belief that industrial, urban society was endangering biological degeneration. Paul Weindling states that from the 1870’s Germany was in the grips of procession, industrialisation, population growth and urban expansion at rates of increased rapidity than most of Europe. This led to the expanding cities being unable to cope. They lacked an adequate infrastructure of housing, education, sanitation and medical care. Burleigh describes how the biologist August Weissman blamed defective ‘germ plasm’ of “unfit” individuals rather than the environment as being the cause for the degeneration of the human race.
Max Nordau argued in 1892 that society arose out of an innate desire for conquest, subjugation and control of others. According to Nordau the strong imposed their will on the weak, thus forming social units in which the enslaved laboured on behalf of their warrior superiors. John Haycroft, a British Social Darwinist, wrote in 1895 that tuberculosis, scrofula and leprosy should be considered “racial friends” because they attacked only persons of weak constitutions. Haycroft neglected the fact that these diseases affect all social classes however, due to poor sanitation and lack of funds for treatment, they are most likely to prove fatal in the working “lower” class. As Marius Turda describes, at a time when theories of organic destiny enthralled political elite’s and intellectuals alike, eugenicists offered the possibility of national regeneration, combining scientific dogmas with racial categories that versed on what Galton described as a ‘new religion’.
Germany was a leading light in eugenics however; America was one of the first countries to put eugenic theory into policy and practice. Modern biochemistry and experimental physiology had their roots in late nineteenth century Germany, and ambitious young physicians from North America flocked to German laboratories and excellent clinical facilities where medicine was practised and taught in a manner based on a new modern science. It was the way in which the Americans had used eugenics to enforce sterilisation that caught many European’s interest. In the United States eugenics was responsible for the involuntary sterilisation of more than 40,000 individuals, During this period 60,000 Swedes deemed “mentally defective”, “feeble-minded”, racially inferior or who were regarded as lacking in “Nordic” racial features were sterilised. It has also become apparent that the French government had a Eugenic Sterilisation Policy which forcibly sterilised 15,000 mentally handicapped women. My point is that eugenics was international, extended beyond the nadir of the Third Reich in ‘practical’ terms, and remained in use long after 1945.
In the 1920s, many German medical students took courses in genetics that integrated the subject of racial hygiene. These courses were offered at Berlin’s world famous Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Anthropology and Racial Hygiene from 1927. Anthropology was widely viewed in Germany as a discipline with applications that could vastly improve the physical and moral conditions of the people. Eugenics in Germany was influenced by the economic crisis, radical nationalism, Hitler’s totalitarianism and a medical profession willing to participate and attracted to Nazi Party for financial and ideological reasons. In the aftermath of what many scientists called a catastrophic “counter natural selection”, the ideas in Binding and Hoches brochure were taken seriously. The early leaders of the socialist Darwinist movement in Germany included Alfred Ploetz who wrote the founding document of what came to be known as racial hygiene in 1895 in effect advocating activist eugenics. This was the same year as Nordau’s Degeneration and Lombroso’s famous work on criminality. Nordau, in his general writings foresaw a brutal struggle between nationalities in which weaker nations would be vanquished and become extinct. Ploetz argued that if the fit were to be the primary survivors, counter-selective forces should be avoided, including medical care for the weak, because this promoted reproduction among them. The loss of nearly 2 million German men in World War One exacerbated fears about population and spurred new interest in Genetics and eugenics as the path to salvation. Hitler’s own interest in eugenics was an integral component of his overall scheme of race hygiene, and was widely disseminated a decade before his rise to power throughout the pages of Mein Kampf. For example:
“The volkish state must see to it that only the healthy beget children...Here the state must act as the guardian of the millennial future...It must put the most modern medical means in the service of this knowledge. It must declare unfit for propagation all who are in any way visibly sick or who have inherited a disease and can therefore pass it on.”
Social Darwinism, particularly as it emerged in Germany, stressed the need for state intervention on the basis of the idea that racial integrity was threatened because the rise of degeneracy and decadence had begun to destroy the natural struggle for survival.. At the end of the First World War, sterilisation was widely and passionately recommended as a solution to Germany’s urgent social problems such as, shiftlessness ignorance and laziness in the workforce, deviant sexual behaviour involving prostitution and illegitimate births, homosexuality, the number of increased ill and insane people, poverty and the rising cost of social services. Sterilisation also seemed to provide the answers, as it would prevent the generational production of undesirables from procreating.
It was immediately after the Nazis came to power in 1933, that Hitler left no doubt as to his plans of introducing selective “breeding”. On the 28th June 1933 the Reich Minister of the interior established the Committee of Experts for Population and Racial Policy with the objection of making preparations for the promulgation of law sanctioning sterilisation. This sweeping eugenic sterilisation law was targeted at persons with mental and physical disabilities alongside placing Germany at the forefront of the eugenics movement.
Senior members of the first generation of racial hygenisists collaborated with the Nazi regime. For example, Ernst Rudin who was director of Munich Psychiatric Institute helped to draft the regime’s 1933 compulsory sterilisation law. “Hitler is the first politician with truly wide influence who has recognised that the central mission of all politicians is race hygiene and who will actively support this mission.” Eugen Fischer, director of the Berlin Eugenic institute and Otmar Van Verschuer known both for his research on twins and as Dr Mengele’s mentor – together served as medical judges on the new hereditary health courts. On 14 July 1933 the Nazi government issued the Law for the Prevention of Progeny with Hereditary Diseases. This meant that individuals could now be sterilised if they were deemed to be suffering from ‘congenital feeble-mindedness’, schizophrenia, manic depression, Huntingdon’s chorea, hereditary blindness or deafness, serious physical deformities and alcoholism. As Mineau states, the popularity of eugenics and the belief that it could create a ‘fine and healthy’ Volk legitimised these negative eugenics.
The so-called hereditary health courts decided upon sterilisation in cases referred to them by physicians and those in charge of hospitals and asylums. Attempts were made to lend the whole process an air of scientific objectivity through the use of intelligence tests as eugenicists believed low intelligence was a form of “feeble-mindedness” which could be inherited and therefore needed to be eradicated.
Chapter 2: From Euthanasia to the Holocaust 1938-1941
The word “euthanasia” comes from the Greek for “good death” or “good dying.” This was a lie in the case of the Nazis, as the killings didn’t have anything to do with the patient’s well being. Hitler, whose subsequent speeches over the next decade threatened extermination of the mentally ill, linked militarism to the killing of the hereditarily weak. It was seen by Hitler, the eugenicists and the scientists that the unfit and inferior were enjoying a parasitic existence at the expense of the healthy and strong, a situation, the scientists pointed out, with dire consequences for the health of German society. Konrad Lorenz, later to be awarded a Nobel Prize for his work in ethnology stated that if this “inferior human material” were not properly eliminated, then “in the same way as the cells of a malignant tumour spread throughout the larger organism,” it would “pervade and destroy the healthy social body.”
In a speech delivered to the Nuremberg Party rally on 5 August 1929, Hitler announced that “if Germany were to get a million children a year and was to remove 700,000 to 800,000 of the weakest people then the final result might even be an increase in strength.” In July 1934 the abortion of “defective” pregnancies on the grounds of racial hygiene was discretely encouraged with Hitler’s approval. This was introduced by a law on 26 June 1935 and sanctioned abortions within the first six months of pregnancy. Abortion was only legal with the woman’s consent, however, after being declared as being of “inferior value” the woman was sterilised against her will.As many as 5,000 individuals were thought to have died as a direct result of sterilisation surgery, the majority of them women. During the course of sterilisation from 1933 to 1939 some 250,000 individuals had been sterilised, over half of who were diagnosed as being “feebleminded.”  According to Robert Jay Lifton the true figure of those sterilised in unknown however, reliable estimates range between 200,000 and 350,000.
Hitler and other proponents would have to wait for the cover of war to implement murder on a mass scale with the final solution. However, before the war came they had started to kill the most vulnerable, the children. Starvation and lethal doses of sedatives in the paediatric clinics up until 1945 killed approximately 6,000 babies, children and teenagers. Between 1940 and 1945, an inconspicuous office at number 4, Tiergartenstrasse in Berlin organised the murder of more than two hundred thousand psychiatric patients, camp inmates who had fallen ill, people suffering from major depression and nonconformists. The Nazi regime embarked on what it regarded as the next logical step of ridding Germany of the “life unworthy of life.” In 1939 euthanasia was decreed for all severely disabled or mentally ill people in Germany’s asylums. Aktion T-4 had been introduced. The euthanasia programme began with the case of the Knauer child. A petition was received in respect of an infant named Gerhard Herbert Kretschmar. The child had been born on 20th February 1939, blind, with one leg a part of one arm missing, the child had also been described as an “idiot”. Hitler sent the physician Karl Brandt and the head of his personal staff in the Nazi party, Phillip Bouhler to authorise the death. Brandt and Bouhler had been instructed that if the facts provided by the child’s father proved to be correct, he was to inform the physicians that in Hitlers name euthanasia could be carried out. The facts were correct and Gerhard was killed on 25th July 1939. Brandt and Bouhler were instructed by Hitler to inform doctors involved that if any legal action were taken against them it, it would be thrown out of court. Hitler authorised Brandt and Bouhler to deal with similar cases in the same way. This led to more infants deemed as defective, being killed and the age limit by summer 1939 was three years old. Bouhler and Brandt recruited a group of officials and doctors who were positively disposed to such ideas. Approximately twenty special paediatric clinics were established where children were killed by either starvation or a lethal dose of sedatives; it is estimated that 6,000 babies, children and teenagers up to the age of sixteen were killed using these techniques up to 1945. The groups’ official title was the Reich Committee for the Scientific Registration of Serious Hereditarily and Congenitally based Illnesses. In 1939 Germany invaded Poland and gas chambers were now installed in six mental institutions. In Poland, planners and functionaries in the euthanasia program tested methods and developed techniques to implement the teachings of race and space. Close-range shootings of asylum patients were carried out by a special SS unit called the SS-Wachsturmbann Einman, by local Selbstschutz units, or by SS Einsatzkommandos. The Killing methods evolved to the Wartheland, patients were now murdered in a static gassing installation at Fort VII in Posen during November and December 1939. Patients were also killed in vans converted to deliver bottled carbon-monoxide gas operated by the detachment called the Sonderkommando Lange, so called after its leader SS-Haupsturmfuhrer Herbert Lange. Their goals involved learning how to kill large numbers of people and then dispose of their bodies most easily. The ultimate goal of producing a pure Aryan race took precedence over such fundamental ethical principles as the integrity of the body and commitment to the well being of the individual patient. In the years ahead, the lessons of this early programme against the disabled would be applied again and again with potentially genocidal consequences.  The Sonderkommando Lange killed more than fifteen hundred patients by May 1940.
The “processing” of patients in psychiatric institutions “for wartime economic purposes” began officially on October 9th 1939. The Reich Ministry of the interior sent questionnaires to various mental institutions in which it asked, among other things, for information on each patient’s type of illness, length of stay, and ability to work. On the basis of the completed questionnaires, three of the approximately thirty medical advisers at T-4 decided which patients would live and which would die. A few weeks later, the asylums received lists of patients they were to prepare for transfer. On the 9 October 1939, the organisers also established a figure of sixty-five thousand to seventy thousand people to be killed in Operation T-4. This target was exceeded by 273 persons before the programme was reconfigured in August 1941 after this; another 20,000 were killed, at least due to starvation, desertion and injections of chloroform to the heart.
The technique of mass murder through the use of gas had nothing to do with medicine except to provide a ‘medical’ justification via eugenics. Mass murder did not become preventative medicine just because Nazi ideologues borrowed their language from medicine to describe their extermination policies as necessary surgery. For example, Mineau describes the work of Otmar Von Verschuer. In his view, to protect the German culture and spirit, one must protect the biological basis that had made German cultural performance possible in the past. Verschuer believed that “the first goal was the fight against racial alienation through the Jews.” This ideology came from a biological perspective however, did not need a doctor to carry it out. They were only used to check the medical records that arrived with the victims so that serious errors in selection could be avoided, they were also needed to determine the fraudulent diagnosis that would be most credible on the death certificates, although sometimes the offices established routine causes to insert. Lifton states, it is no exaggeration to say that the primary-possibly-only medical function of the killing doctors was to determine the most believable falsification of each patient-victim’s death certificate providing an illusion that the killing centres were still hospitals or care giving institutions. They were essentially needed to give the killing centre the appearance of a regular hospital to the outside world. Relatives who had received death certificates from Grafeneck, one of the six killing centres in Germany, for example, claiming that the victims had died of Angina, influenza or pneumonia found it strange that the victim’s religion or home address were given as ‘unknown’ (which would not have been the case if their medical records had accompanied them on their travels), and that they had been cremated because of the risk of ‘contagious diseases’, which could hardly be the case with angina.
Hitler’s wartime authorisation of an adult ‘euthanasia’ programme was conceived as an economy measure, a means of creating emergency bed-space, and hostels for ethnic German repatriates from Russia and eastern Europe, which anticipates and mirrors the linkages between ‘resettlement’ and murder later evident in the Holocaust. The immediate circumstances-and-camouflage- for the killing of the adult mentally ill were those of mobilisation for war. It was explained that hospitals and medical personnel were needed for the army. Michael Wildt states that war created the necessary context to further develop the Reich Security Main Office (RSHA). War made it easier to kill, and made murder an everyday practice. In the occupied areas there were no troublesome clerks and bureaucrats insisting on laws and agreements. Civil rights did not exist in German occupied territories.
In December 1939 Jewish and Polish patients from Meseritz-Obrawalde in the province of Posen were killed in nearby woods after being injected with a strong sedative. The method of killing was debated. Brandt recommended lethal injection as a more medical approach. In January 1940 Brandt and Conti carried out the first killings by injection, on behalf of the administrative cover, code named ‘Aktion T-4’.  According to Burleigh this systematic murder of adult patients began before July 1939. In a meeting held between Hitler, the State Secretary Leonardo Conti, Martin Bormann and the head of the Reich Chancellory, Hans Heinrich Lammers, Hitler instructed Conti to implement a ‘euthanasia’ programme.’ Lammers recalled in 1947 that Hitler stated “it is right that the worthless and seriously ill mental patients should be got rid of. It is right that the worthless lives of such creatures should be ended, this will result in certain savings in terms of hospitals, doctors and nursing staff.”
The staff experimented with gassing patients, and concluded that this was a more effective method. Gas killings in Lorries were also used in January 1940 on Polish patients. From April 1940 an inventory of Jewish patients was undertaken, and in June the first gassings of Jewish mental patients took place. 
After the invasion of the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941, the SS soon found that their ‘cleansing operations’ on Poles and Russians by mass shooting were laborious and a psychological strain. Himmler’s witnessing of mass shootings helped him realise that a more efficient means of extermination was necessary. On 31 July 1941 Gorring commanded Heydrich to undertake the ‘final solution of the Jewish question’. Heydrich transferred the ‘euthanasia’ technology to the killing of Jews, including more than 120 members of T-4 staff. In autumn 1941 Zyklon B was used experimentally in Aushwitz on Soviet prisoners of war. The results showed that it was appropriate for mass killing. ‘T-4’ specialists were transferred to setting up gas chambers in concentration camps equipped with the new killing gas Zyklon B. 
Chapter 3: The Experiments
From September 1939 to April 1945 at least seventy overtly criminal research projects were conducted on Nazi concentration camp inmates employing approximately 200 Nazi physicians who were stationed in the different camps conducting human experimentation. There is no doubt that thousands of individuals were the involuntary victims of medical experiments and that a high proportion died. Many more died as a result of medical neglect or improper post-operative treatment. Finally, thousands of prisoners were put to death by methods devised and executed by physicians engaged in “research” into the methods of killing mass numbers of inmates as rapidly and expeditiously as possible.
The high-altitude experiments were designed to test the limits of human endurance and existence at extremely high altitudes and without oxygen. The experiments were conducted at Dachau concentration camp from approximately March 1942 to August 1942 for the Luftwaffe (German Air Force). Two hundred subjects were selected mainly Russians, Russian prisoners of war, Poles, Jews of various nations, and German political prisoners. Their purpose was to duplicate the atmospheric conditions that a German pilot might encounter in combat when falling great distances through space without a parachute and without a source of Oxygen. Four variations of the experiment were conducted: a slow descent without oxygen, slow descent with oxygen, falling without oxygen and falling with oxygen. The first two were to simulate descent with the parachute open, the latter two, and a free fall before the chute opened. Due to the severity of the conditions, seventy-eight participants or rather victims were killed in the experiments.
The prosecution at the Nuremberg medical trials argued that the experiments were “neither necessary nor a scientific success.” The contents of a report signed by Dr. Rascher and Dr Romberg titled “Experiments on Rescue from High Altitude” demonstrates that the defendants knew these experiments were not scientific and did not follow established medical protocols regarding voluntary subjects. However, the US Air Force continued some of this research after the war and published the results in co-operation with a number of German physicians involved in the various experiments.
Drs. Holzloehner, Rascher, and Finke conducted the Freezing experiments from August 1942 to approximately May 1943 at Dachau concentration camp, primarily for the benefit of the German Air Force. The purpose of the experiments was to establish the most effective treatment for victims of hypothermia. The Ice water and dry land experiments simulated the freezing conditions experienced by German fliers whose planes had crashed into the sea or German Army troops fighting on the battlefield in subfreezing temperatures and deep snow. According to post-war testimony approximately 280-300 male civilian prisoners belonging to various nationalities and religions, as well as Russian prisoners of war were used in 360 to 400 experiments. The cruel and torturous experiments caused approximately between eighty to ninety deaths. Two months after the start of the experiments, Drs. Holzloeherner and Finke withdrew from the project believing the work had been completed. Dr Rascher however, continued with the experiments alone causing a further 15 to 18 deaths. Under Dr Raschers autonomous control the experiments lasted at least five hours until death occurred.
Scientists and Historians have argued the validity and use of the experimental data since the study came to light during the Nuremberg medical trials. The study generated data unavailable elsewhere regarding the response of unanesthetized persons to immersion hypothermia, providing particularly important information on lethal temperatures, specific reactions to cooling, and methods of re-warming. The hypothermia results were widely regarded as the most potentially useful of the Nazi data. Robert Pozos, a physiologist specialising in hypothermia, has advocated the free use of the results, believing that they can advance contemporary research on hypothermia and save lives. In 1980 Pozos made a strong argument to use the data in potentially lifesaving research however, he was denied permission to publish by Arnold Relman, the then editor of the New England Journal of Medicine. The British Air and Sea Rescue used the Nazi data to modify rescue techniques for those exposed to cold water. Arthur L. Caplan argues that the experiments provided useful data and that it was “Reasonable to sacrifice the interests of the few to benefit the majority”
However there is also some discrepancy over the validity of those carrying out the experiments. Berger states that there was a considerable lack of expertise in cardiac physiology and that Dr Raschers expertise on the subject was particularly limited which is why Drs. Holzloeherner and Finke were drafted in to contribute their expert knowledge. An important point if one is to include the work of Dr Raschers solo experiments amongst the data of the project. Berger claims the report is riddled with inconsistencies, and demonstrates data falsification and suggestions of fabrication. According to Berger many of the conclusions are not supported by the facts presented. It is for these reasons that Berger believes the experiments cannot advance science or save human lives but that they are responsible for creating the myth of good science at Dachau.
Michelle Haney however, argues that the Hypothermia experiments provided data, which was not obtained from any other research and thus represents a valuable set of results which, considering their uniqueness should possibly constitute a valuable source. Dr John Hayward once remarked on the freezing experimentation results stating: “I don’t want to have to use the Nazi data, but there is no other way and will be no other in an ethical world. I’ve rationalised it a bit. But not to use it would be equally bad. I’m trying to make something constructive out of it. I use it with my guard up but it’s useful.”
Over 1,084 inmates of many nationalities, including Catholic priests, were subjects in the experiments investigating immunisations and various treatments of malaria. These experiments were also conducted at Dachau concentration camp from approximately February 1942 to April 1945, ending just before Germany surrendered on May 8th 1945. Inmates considered to be healthy were deliberately infected with malaria by infected mosquitoes, or were injected with malaria-infected blood, a further three to five inmates per month were artificially infected with malaria so their drawn blood could be used to infect other inmates. Dr. Claus Karl Schilling, after an arranged meeting with Heinrich Himmler, asked for and was given permission to carry out malaria experiments at Dachau. Schilling believed it was his duty to humanity to find a cure for malaria no matter what life-threatening methods were used upon the involuntary camp inmates. After inmates were contaminated with malaria many inmates died in the following months from tuberculosis, dysentery, and typhus. Malaria directly caused thirty deaths, while complications as side effects of malaria caused three to four hundred deaths.
Dr Karl Gebhart’s area of interest was the treatment of severe extremity injuries. For these experiments the leg bones of healthy women were removed, including the surrounding soft tissues in order to attempt to transplant them to wounded soldiers at the SS hospitals in Hochenlychen. The experiments however, were unsuccessful. The victims were the same group of women who were forced to take part in the sulphanilamide experiments. The two experiments occurred during the same period of time which questions the accuracy of both the experiments for the conditions would not replicate a true to life circumstance for one person to be exposed to both issues at the same time. Fifteen to twenty inmates were subjected to this experiment from the end of 1942 and into 1943.
The mustard gas experiments were equally as painful and even more fatal than the limb transplantation’s. Wounds caused by chemical warfare agents were of grave concern to military medical circles of Germany. Experiments with Lost, an asphyxiating poison gas commonly known as mustard gas, were conducted at Sachenhausen, Natzweiler, and other concentration camps over the entire period of the war (September 1939 to April 1945) for the benefit of the German armed forces. Hitler issued a decree in March 1944 ordering Karl Brandt to push medical research into gas warfare. The German army had employed the use of mustard gas in the First World War, it was a great fear of the Hitler and Himmler that the Allies would retaliate in the Second World War having time in between to develop equally if not more effective methods of chemical warfare. During the experiment wounds were deliberately inflicted on camp inmates and mustard gas applied to the wounds. The inmates of the Natzweiler concentration camp were used in these experiments, beginning in November 1942 conducted by Professor Dr. Hirt. Approximately 220 Russian, Polish, Czech and German inmates became involuntary subjects resulting in the deaths of approximately fifty. Otto Bickenbach, who proposed to test vitamin B6 as a possible protective against the gas used for his experiment, mainly gypsies from the concentration camp of Natzweiler-Struthof, four of whom died.
Sulphanilamide experiments were developed after heavy casualties were being caused from gas gangrene on the Russian Front in the winter of 1941-1942, sulphanilamide experiments were conducted to evaluate whether the drug could be used on soldiers in the field to improve their survival during lengthy transports to base hospitals. Referred to by the allies as the “miracle drug” German soldiers questioned their medical officers why they weren’t using the drug? To test the effectiveness of sulpha on infections, experiments were conducted at the women’s concentration camp Ravensbruck from July 20, 1942, until August 1943. Fifteen male inmates and sixty Polish women inmates were selected for the experiment. In the preliminary experiments an incision ten centimetres long was made into the muscle, and wood shavings were added to the infectious bacteria forced into the wound. No deaths occurred so a new series of experiments involving twenty-four Polish female inmates was carried out. In this series circulation of blood through the muscles was interrupted in the area of infection by tying off the muscles on either end. The result was serious infection and a number of deaths occurred.  In total Seventy-four Polish women, one German, and one Ukrainian woman were experimented on.
Adam, G. Yehuda states that the majority of the medical experiments related to mass murder and sterilisation and to further the Nazi racist ideology. Sterilisation experiments were carried out from March 1942 to January 1945, four months before the end of the war at Auschwitz, the women’s concentration camp Ravensbrueck, and other camps. After sterilisation the victims would still be able to work yet be unable to reproduce non-Aryan children. Thus the initiative would fulfil two major goals of National Socialism: the eventual elimination of all but the desired Aryan peoples and the provision of slave labour needed by the war effort. Two German Physicians Dr Carl Clauberg and Dr Horst Schumann were selected to head the sterilisation experiments in Auschwitz. The gynaecologist Carl Clauberg was the senior doctor at a womens' hospital in Konigshutte in Upper Silesia. Clauberg proposed using a chemical method to accomplish this and in July 1942 he was given permission to use the female prisoners of Auschwitz concentration camp as his experimental subjects. To sterilise women, injections of corrosive substances were introduced into either the cervix or the uterus “producing horrible pain, inflamed ovaries, bursting spasms in the stomach and bleeding.”
Dr Horst Schumann began his sterilisation experiments using x-rays at the request of Viktor Brack, the staff member of Hitlers' chancellory who was responsible for installing the gas chambers in the camps. In a letter to Himmler, Brack proposed experiments to determine the right dose of radiation as too little would provide only temporary sterility whereas too much would cause burns. Brack speculated that three to four thousand prisoners could be sterilised by radiation per day. Like Clauberg, Schumann was also given access to the prisoners of Auschwitz for his experiments. The men had their testicles blasted with large doses of radiation, after this they were castrated in order to ascertain the pathological change in their testes.  By 31 December 1942 approximately 200 men had been sterilised and would later be castrated by Schumann to determine the efficacy of the radiation method of sterilisation.
The Poison Gas experiments conducted at Buchenwald and Sachenhausen concentration camps had no scientific objective to heal or cure, they were used to determine how fast death occurred and observe pain. In this study the German doctors were studying different methods of killing human beings and the length of time these methods took. The poison gas was stored in airtight sealed metal tins and was initially deployed in July 1941 in the battle of Vermin, to disinfect housing and clothes. The poison was used for fumigation by the producers- Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Schadlingsbekampfung (Degesch) (German Pest Control Company) employees equipped with gas masks who were later trained as SS medical orderlies. At the end of August 1941 Zyklon B was used at first experimentally. From a temperature of approximately 26 degrees Centigrade the cyanide granules turn into gas on contact with air, and are deadly even in small quantities. These experiments provided the Nazi officials with the answer they were looking for, the Final Solution. Zyklon B was immediately used in the gas chambers to eradicate approximately one million Jews.
Erin Lynch claims many of the experiments were not valid because in many cases the victims had been used in multiple experiments, sometimes being involved in two simultaneously. This meant the benefactors of the experiments could not be mimicked.  Lynch also argues that the doctors’ complete disregard for patients’ human rights and lives’, could easily have disregarded the standard scientific procedures when carrying out experiments and recording data.
However, many doctors were very skilled, Erin Lynch states that simply because the German leaders in modern medicine may have twisted and sick ideology does not mean that they lost their scientific training. Since better knowledge of survival in cold water has direct and immediate practical benefits for education in cold water safety, and in the planning of naval rescue missions at sea, Pozos and Hayward see it criminal not to use the available data, no matter how tainted it may be. (Cohen: 15) Many of the experiments conducted by Nazi doctors’ yielded data considered to be highly valuable in certain fields, largely due to the extraordinary extent of violations of the subjects. As I will show in my conclusion the data obtained from some of the experiments proved vital in the research of Americas NASA and military sectors and helped to devise methods of military combat and treatment which still prove useful today. Kenneth Mallanby, reader in ethnography, attended Nuremberg as a correspondent for the BMJ, from the observations he made at the trial he endorsed “utilitarian legitimisation of clinical experiments” and personally justified the nazi experiments as holding long-term scientific benefits irrespective of the associated human costs. (Weindling 1996)
Some would argue that, if some general good can come of the most evil acts, then those who suffered and died might not have done so entirely in vain. The benefit derived by society could be regarded as an intangible memorial to the victims of Nazism. For example Michelle Harvey states that the data obtained from experiments such as the typhus vaccine was justified, as for each victim 20,000 others may have been saved.
As stated in the third chapter, America coveted the results in for some of the Nazis research projects namely, the hypothermia and high-altitude experiments. Post World War Two America had a new threat to deal with in the form of the Cold War with Russia. It was apparent to the American armed forces that some of the Nazi science could prove vital in the war against Russia if it was to result in a physical conflict.
Project paperclip was a post war and cold war operation carried out by the Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency (JIOA). Project Paperclip had two aims: to exploit German Scientists for American research, and to deny these intellectual resources to the Soviet Union. It was given the Code name Operation Paper Clip because Army intelligence officers would put paper clips on the dossiers of German scientists who might be useful to the United States. At least 1’600 scientists and their dependants were recruited and taken to the United States by Paperclip and its successor projects from the 1940s through to the early 1970’s. General Groves, director of the Manhattan Project spoke about a particular scientist, Otto Hahn and stated that he saw no objection to bringing to the United States, carefully screened physicists who could contribute materially to the welfare of the United States and would who then remain permanently in the United States as naturalised citizens.”
Many of the paperclip scientists were members of Nazi organisations of one sort or another. However, many claimed inactive status or that membership was just a formality. The director of the Joint Intelligence Objectives agency, Navy Captain Bosquet N. Wev, bluntly put the case for recruitment in an April 27th 1948 memo to the Pentagon’s Director of Intelligence: “Security investigations conducted by the military have disclosed the fact that the majority of German scientists were members of either the Nazi Party or one or more of its affiliates.” The possibility of scientists being won to the Soviet side in the Cold War was according to Captain Wev, the highest consideration. In this memo to his superiors Wev wrote, “Continued delay and opposition to the immigration of these scientists could result in their eventually falling into the hands of the Russians who would then gain the valuable information and ability possessed by these men. Such an eventuality could have a most serious and adverse affect on the national security of the United States.”
The fact that American officials were prepared to break the law and change official documents erasing the scientists Nazi past in order for them to be granted immigration into the United States suggests that the Nazi Science discovered by the Allies after the war was truly ground breaking. The Nazi concentration camps were a lawless environment where scientists were not limited by ethics, morals or any state law. For these reasons the experiments carried out in these environments were a true Nazi science as they provided valuable data that had done been obtained previously and could not be obtained in the future due to the laws, regulations and code of ethics drawn up post world war two.
Similar to Project Paperclip, in 1947 and 1948, whilst the Nuremberg trials concluded and the situation of the Paper Clip recruits was being secretly debated in the U.S, the implications of yet another set of wartime human experiments were known to a still smaller circle of American officials. Unlike the Nazi atrocities and American military-related research, Japanese exploitation of tens of thousands of people in China in horrid biological warfare experiments had received precious little attention in the West. The inattention is partly due to high-level decisions among a few U.S. officials to avoid a war crimes investigation of Japanese doctors and officials. Instead, it was decided to guard the Japanese biological warfare information and expertise as closely as possible; the Japanese were after all wholly under American supervision, unlike the Germans, who were occupied by four powers.
Similarly to the Nazis it was widely believed in Japan that the Japanese “race” was of a higher order than any other race or ethnic group, racism in Japan, as in most other cultures, was born of religion and skin colour. However, unlike their tamer Nazi counterparts in Europe, the members of Unit 731 were largely able to escape the justice of the Allies in the Pacific War. American army intelligence had discovered in 1943 that the Japanese were using humans for research experiments. This information interested the scientists at Fort Detrick as well as their superiors in the United States Arm Chemical Corps. American scientists were denied by law and by medical ethical considerations, from testing humans without their consent. Researchers at For Detrick assumed that since the Japanese had no such restrictions, must have been ahead of the United States in developing biological warfare weapons. They, as well as the American government officials, who were told about the biological warfare projects, were extremely keen to obtain the extremely valuable research data. Some of the experiments had similarities with the Nazi experiments it was therefore highly useful to gain the data of both experiments.
U.S intelligence officers also knew that the Soviets wanted Unit 731, on September 2, 1945: the U.S began its occupation of the Japanese mainland. Ishii and many of his top-secret personnel eluded capture by the soviets and secretly approached the Americans with a tempting proposition. From the end of 1945 to early 1946, the “Kamakura Conference” worked out the details of an arrangement where Unit 731 members would trade medical research results and biological warfare information for amnesty from prosecution of war criminals. The American authorities secured the data they coveted and the members of Unit 731 living under U.S. occupation in Japan quietly returned to their lives as doctors and scientists. However, it is important to remember that the U.S. government has never officially admitted that they granted de facto pardons to Japanese war criminals.
In conclusion the Nazis scientists were not alone in their attempts to advance science-using human as test subjects. Nor were the catalyst ideas of eugenics of German decent. The beginning of eugenics began as described in chapter one with Francis Galton in Britain; however as also shown in chapter one the idea of a superior race pre-dated this. Germany too was not alone in the sterilisation of some of its citizens. America and Sweden both had sterilisation programmes pre-dating that of the Nazis. What is significant however is that the Nazis took it a step further, they used Eugenics as the sole reasoning behind the “euthanasia” of thousands and the murder of approximately a million people. In answer to my question, the Nazis did practice science, which was unique to them, they helped to advance science and much of the Nazi data is used today. However, not all the science was deemed useful or valid, the so-called ad-hoc experiments proved to be far less useful, the data was not used and the experiments were classed as cruel methods of torture, poorly designed experiments which yielded no useful results and therefore cannot be justified. Some of the experiments were a Nazi Science however; experiments such as Dr Mengele’s twin studies were simply a science of the Nazis.
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 Spitz, Vivien, ‘Doctors from Hell’ [p85]
 Robert L. Berger ‘Medical Ethics in the Third Reich’ [p88]
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 Robert L. Berger, ‘Medical Ethics in the Third Reich’ [ 94]
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 Robert L. Berger, ‘Medical Ethics in the Third Reich’ [p88]
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 Roelke, Volker, ‘Nazi medicine and research on human beings’ [p7]
 Caplan, Arthur, L “Too hard to face” Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law Online, (2005), 394-400 [p395]
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 Robert L. Berger, ‘Medical Ethics in the Third Reich’ [p90]
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 Lynch, Erin ‘The Ethical Dilemma of Utilising Data from the Nazi’s Human Medical Experiments: An Analysis’ The Graduate Discourse Journal, Vol. 1, No 3, (2001) 53-64
 Janeck p 4
 Spitz, Vivien, ‘Doctors from Hell’, [p103]
 Ibid 
 Spitz, Vivien, ‘Doctors from Hell’, [p105]
 Ibid 
 Spitz, Vivien, ‘Doctors from Hell’ [p106]
 Yehuda, G. Adam “The role of the German medical establishment in the Holocaust” IMAJ, Vol. 7, (2005), 139-142 [p140]
 Spitz, Vivien, ‘Doctors from Hell’ [p115]
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 Pringle, Heather, ‘The Master Plan: Himmler’s Scholars and the Holocaust’ (Harper Perennial, London, 2006) [p245]
 Spitz, Vivien, ‘Doctors from Hell’ [p137]
 Hill, Bueno Müller, “A Poisonous Present” Nature, Vol. 438, (2005),p 427
 Spitz, Vivien, ‘Doctors from Hell’, [p139]
 Ibid [p140]
 Spitz, Vivien, ‘Doctors from Hell’, [p141]
 Yehuda, G. Adam, op.sit [p141]
 Benedict, Susan & Jane M, Georges, “Nurses and the sterilisation experiments at Auschwitz: a postmodernist perspective” Nursing Inquiry, Vol. 13, No 4, (2006), 277-288 [p279]
 Ibid [p280]
 Steinbacher, Sybille, ‘Auschwitz: A History’ (Penguin Books, London, 2005) [p112]
Lynch, Erin ‘The Ethical Dilemma of Utilising Data from the Nazi’s Human Medical Experiments: An Analysis’ The Graduate Discourse Journal, Vol. 1, No 3, (2001) 53-64 [p56]
 Benedict, Susan & Jane M, Georges, ‘Nurses and the sterilisation experiments at Auschwitz:’ [p281]
Lynch, Erin ‘The Ethical Dilemma’, [p57]
 Benedict, Susan & Jane M, Georges, ‘Nurses and the sterilisation experiments at Auschwitz:’ [p283]
 Spitz, Vivien, ‘Doctors from Hell’, [p209]
Steinbacher, Sybille, ‘Auschwitz: A History’, [p87]
Steinbacher, Sybille, ‘Auschwitz: A History’, [p88]
 Lynch, Erin ‘The Ethical Dilemma’, [p58]
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 Lynch, Erin ‘The Ethical Dilemma’, [p60]
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 Harvey, Michelle “Nazi Medicine: Ethical implications of using data from human experimentation by Nazi doctors and the issue of self-regulation of scientific community” Hindsight (2000), 1-13, [p1]
 Harvey ,‘Nazi Medicine’ [p5]
 Bogod, David, “The Nazi Hypothermia Experiments: Forbidden Data?” Anaesthesia, Vol. 59, (2004), 1155-1159
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 http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/radiation/dir/mstreet/commeet/meet13/brief13/tab_f/b [p1]
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 http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/radiation/dir/mstreet/commeet/meet13/brief13/tab_f/b [p1]
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 Ibid [p4]
Moreno, D. Jonathan, ‘Undue Risk’,: [p102]
 Harris, Sheldon, ‘Japanese Biomedical Experimentation during the World War Two Era’ Military Medical Ethics, Vol 2 (2002) [p471]
 Fong, Patrick, “Inter Arma Silent Leges: The Impunity of Japan’s Secret Biological Warfare Unit” taken from http://www.nesl.edu.intjournal/vol6/fong/pdf
Harris, op.cit [p492]
 Ibid, [p8]
 Ibid, [p9]
 Ibid [p12]
Copyright: 2009 Tamsin Silver & H.E.A.R.T