1941-1945: Large-Scale Murderous Experiments Conducted on Concentration Camp Prisoners

Jews and other devalued and dehumanized groups were regarded as fitting “material” for medical and biological experiments that were forbidden under Germany’s Guidelines for Human Experimentation (1931) (details above). These included handicapped persons and numerous ethnic and groups who were expelled from German society. Foremost among these were Jews, who were systematically stripped of their rights as citizens and through a series of German Racial Hygiene laws, they were stripped of their property, expelled from schools, forbidden to use telephones, banned from public transportation, exempted from labor safety legislation, allowed limited rations, subjected to forced labor and tax laws, restricted to ghettoes, and beginning in 1941, Jews were required to wear a Star of David on their clothing to readily identify them. These measures were all backed by the academic medical and scientific community.

Jews were relegated to sub-human pariah status; equated with vermin that carry contagion and must be exterminated; an identification number tattooed on their skin defined their degraded status. Their expulsion from the human race prepared the ground for subjecting them to diabolical medical experiments, encouraging cruelty for its own sake, and setting in motion their mass extermination: Holocaust.

The heinous experiments conducted on concentration camp prisoners were designed to:

  • Prevent procreation of ethnic-racial undesirables;
  • Improve survival for German troops who may be exposed to unconventional weapons or adverse weather conditions;
  • Test experimental drugs, vaccines or surgical techniques;
  • Conduct macabre physiological experiments designed to test the limits of physical human endurance;
  • Test poison gas and efficient mass extermination methods to achieve racial purification through genocide.
  • Mass sterilization experiments: surgical castration, intra-uterine injections of toxic substances at Auschwitz and Ravensbrück and involuntary x-ray irradiation;
  • Abortion and hysterectomies in Jewish women;
  • 1500 pairs of twins were subjected to experiments designed by Josef Mengele to demonstrate genetic and eugenic similarities and differences, and to learn whether the human body could be unnaturally manipulated. Some twins were sewn together to learn whether a Siamese pair could be created. Fewer than 200 individuals survived.
  • High altitude decompression experiments at Dachau to test survival of parachutists jumping at high altitudes;high-altitude-experiment-Dachau
  • Dehydration experiments to assess human endurance;
  • Bone regeneration and limb transplantation experiments on female prisoners at Ravensbrück;
  • Experiments simulating battlefield traumas were conducted in women prisoners at Ravensbrück , their wounds then filled with gangrene cultures, sawdust, mustard gas, and glass, then sewing them up and treating some with doses of sulfa drugs to see how long it took for them to develop lethal cases of gangrene.
  • Hypothermia (freezing) experiments at Dachau to assess revival techniques for use by the German military forced to land in the North Sea. Victims forced to remain in ice water tank or kept naked outdoors in below freezing temperatures for 9 to 14 hours; then attempted to resuscitate with heat — many died;
  • Seawater experiment on sixty Gypsies who were forced to drink saltwater at Dachau;
  • Deliberate infliction of wounds — including amputating limbs — to test anticoagulants at Dachau;
  • Phosphorus burn experiments at Buchenwald;
  • Malaria experiments at Dachau on more than twelve hundred prisoners to test drugs;
  • Infected prisoners with contagious diseases such as, yellow fever, smallpox, typhus, cholera, and diphtheria at Buchenwald and Natzweiler to test drugs, vaccines;
  • Typhus experiments to test vaccines at Buchenwald and Natzweiler — over 90% died;
  • Weapons for genocidal mass murder were tested, exposing prisoners to lethal chemical, biological, gas and radiation.
  • Mutilating surgery — amputations and removal of organs performed to train young doctors and medical students;Ravensbruck Severed Limbs
  • Eugenic-anthropological research prior to gassing, harvesting brains and organs for research institutes;
  • “At the Hermann Göering steel works, people living and dead (prisoners from the Mauthausen concentration camp) were thrown into molten steel in order to see whether some substance of the human body, some mineral, or some secret mystical something may add more strength to steel than the customary alloys.” (Weindling, 2010)

An estimated 23,000 persons were the victims of these experiments. (Sebine Hildebrandt. Transgression: Anatomical Research in National Socialism. In Human Subjects Research After the Holocaust, Ed. by Sheldon Rubenfeld and Susan Benedict, 2014)

Dr. Julius Hallevorden

Dr. Julius Hallevorden

The diabolical medical experiments conducted on concentration camp prisoners were (for the most part) not committed by uneducated Nazi barbarians; they were committed by and on behalf of leading physicians at renowned medical research institutes who enthusiastically joined the Nazi party; exploited the mass murder programs as an opportunity to conduct experiments that could not otherwise be done; then after the murder of the subjects, they plundered the remains to acquire “specimens” for further research at university departments of anatomy, pathology and neuropathology.

During the war, they published the results of these experiments, hardly concealing their nature — even identifying them as “terminal experiments.” After the war — until 1985 — physicians continued to utilize their booty of “human specimens” for research and to publish their findings. In 1989, the existence of these “specimens” was exposed; German universities and national research institutes rushed to bury some of the specimens. (Harmut Hanauske-Abel. Not a Slippery Slope or Sudden Subversion: German Medicine and National Socialism in 1933, BMJ, 1996)