“The Father of American Space Medicine”

Dr. Huburtus Strughold, who came to be known as “The Father of American Space Medicine” was the wartime head of the Luftwaffe’s Institute for Aviation Medicine in Berlin which oversaw the heinous experiments conducted at Dachau; including freezing experiments, seawater experiments and high altitude/ low oxygen experiments. As the director of the Institute he had full knowledge and received reports about these experiments.

Whereas his wartime superior, his close associates and a subordinate were tried at Nuremberg, despite the incriminating evidence against him, Strughold was not arrested, interrogated, or even called as a witness at the trial. In fact, Strughold provided glowing character references on behalf of his associates. U.S. military intelligence officials shielded him and had his criminal wartime record expunged and concealed, enabling him to claim that he had been “against Hitler…I sometimes had to hide myself because my life was in danger from the Nazis.” (Albarelli, 2010)

But investigative reporter, Linda Hunt, tracked down the documented evidence compiled by Dr. Leo Alexander, the chief medical investigator and a key expert witness at Nuremberg, showing that Strughold was complicit in the horrific experiments at Dachau which were conducted by his closest colleagues who kept him well informed about the experiments. They included: Dr. Sigfried Ruff and Hermann Becker-Freyseng who conducted high altitude experiments; Konrad Schaefer who conducted seawater experiments; Dr. Sigmund Rascher and Professor Holzloehner who conducted freezing experiments. Strughold had co-authored several articles and a book with Ruff.

In Oct 1942, at a Nazi scientific conference in Nuremberg, Holzloehner, presented his detailed findings from the experiments he had conducted on some 200 prisoners at Dachau who “were frozen to death in vats of ice water in the camp yard during winter.” Holzloehner reported that the subjects suffered excruciating pain before they died from having various body parts frozen; their agonizing deaths were shown in graphic film clips at the conference. Strughold and more than a dozen Nazi aviation scientists who were later recruited under Paperclip by the Air Force attended the conference. (Hunt, Secret Agenda, 1991)

Under Operation Paperclip, the U.S. Air Force recruited Strughold & 34 Nazi aviation doctors who, like Strughold, had eluded prosecution for their medical atrocities, and established a new School of Aviation Medicine at Randolph Field, Texas. They brought the Reich’s scientific esprit into the heart of U.S. military medicine (Bower, 1987, pp. 214–232; Coste, 2007, pp. 60–65). In 1950 the U.S. Air Force effectively expunged their crimes from the historical record; they published German Aviation Medicine: World War II, a hagiographic account of these Nazi doctors as heroic men who “showed great scientific understanding . . . and personal concern in aeromedical research” (Hunt, 1991 )

Within the last decade, two German scholars found that at least one set of experiments—involving children—that were conducted inside Dr. Strughold’s own Institute for Aviation Medicine in Berlin. Hans-Walter Schmuhl (English 2008) describes Nazi medical practices between 1927–1945; a compilation edited by Wolfgang U. Eckart (2006). Scientists at  Strughold’s Institute sought to replicate animal experiments that they had conducted on young epileptic rabbits. When deprived of adequate oxygen, the rabbits “reacted…with violent, often fatal convulsions”.  In 1943, half a dozen children aged 11 to 13, were taken from a nearby psychiatric facility known as Brandenburg-Goerden, and brought over to the Institute where they were placed in an altitude chamber and subjected to simulated altitudes of 20,000 feet while being administered low levels of oxygen to see if these conditions would trigger seizures.

As Hans-Walter Schmuhl suggests, the scientists “expected (and hoped) that the children would react like the rabbits.” However, the experiment didn’t trigger seizures in the children; it was deemed a scientific failure.  Even Strughold’s biographer who defends him, Dr. Harsch acknowledges that Strughold was in charge, and therefore bore full responsibility for the experiments that were conducted at the institute.  The children’s fate had already been sealed; Brandenburg-Goerden was a center for murder (euphemistically labelled as “euthanasia” centers) for mentally ill patients and other so-called undesirables, including children. Their bodies were disposed of in a nearby crematorium.  (Lucette Lagnado. A Scientist’s Nazi-Era Past Haunts prestigious Space Prize, The Wall Street Journal, 2012; Read Nazi Medical Atrocities)