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May 15th

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6.2.1 - The Criminal Doctors

Several of the seventy or more medical-research projects conducted by the Nazis between the fall of 1939 and spring of 1945 were conducted at Auschwitz. These projects involved experiments conducted with human beings against their will, and at least 7,000 were so treated, based upon existing documents and personal testimonies; there were undoubtedly many more for which no documentation or personal testimony remains.

A comprehensive report on the history and functioning of the Buchenwald concentration camp, as well as a detailed accounting of conditions experienced by the internees, was prepared under the auspices of the Psychological Warfare Division of the U.S. Army immediately after the liberation of the camp in 1944. The lead member of the team that compiled and wrote the report was Eugen Kogon, an Austrian who had been interned as an anti-fascist political prisoner and who subsequently relied on the text as the key source for his book The Theory and Practice of Hell (1950). The original report remained unpublished in any language until the appearance of a 1995 English translation.

The report provides a fairly extensive discussion of the place of homosexual male prisoners in Buchenwald, including internee Ferdinand Römhild's six-page overview, "The Situation of the Homosexuals," compiled as report no. 40 in the "Individual Reports" section of the document. Kogon's introductory text notes the use of the pink triangle to mark homosexual male prisoners and identifies such prisoners as one of the classes singled out for medical experiments, including the gruesome attempts of Danish-born SS doctor Carl Peter Værnet to change the sexual orientation of homosexual men through castration and hormone implants.

At Auschwitz so called camp doctors - German physicians and scientists - performed vile and potentially lethal medical experiments on concentration camps inmates, and tortured Jewish children, Gypsy children and many others. "Patients" were put into pressure chambers, tested with drugs, castrated, frozen to death, and exposed to various other traumas.

Because some Nazis believed homosexuality was a sickness that could be cured, they designed policies to "cure" homosexuals of their "disease" through humiliation and hard work. Guards ridiculed and beat homosexual prisoners upon arrival, often separating them from other inmates. Rudolf Höss, commandant of Auschwitz, wrote in his memoirs that homosexuals were segregated in order to prevent homosexuality from spreading to other inmates and guards. Personnel in charge of work details in the Dora-Mittelbau underground rocket factory or in the stone quarries at Flossenbuerg and Buchenwald often gave deadly assignments to homosexuals.

Neudegg recalls:

"Experiments had been ordered involving living subjects and phosphorus: methods of treating phosphorus burns were to be developed and tested. I must be silent about the effects of this series of experiments, which proceeded with unspeakable pain, fear, blood and tears: for it is impossible to put the misery into words."

Dr. Viktor Brack

( 1904 - 1948)

Brack was a Senior Colonel in the SS and the Chief Administrative Officer in the Chancellery of the Führer. He was found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging. He was hanged June 2, 1948 at Landsberg prison in Bavaria.

Horst SchumannSS Oberführer Brack formulated ideas for experiments with Himmler. Brack was very interested in assembly line sterilizations and castration, applied also to homosexuals. He wanted to be in charge of the x-ray experiments at Auschwitz, but Himmler choose Horst Schumann to be in charge over Brack.

A letter from Brack to Himmler in June, 1942, laid the basis for X-ray experiments which were subsequently carried out at Auschwitz. The second paragraph of this letter forms a fitting conclusion to this account of sub-human Nazi depravity:

"Among ten millions of Jews in Europe are, I figure, at least two to three millions of men and women who are fit enough for work. Considering the extraordinary difficulties the labor problem presents us with, I hold the view that these two to three millions should be specially selected and preserved. This can, however, only be done if at the same time they are rendered incapable to propagate. About a year ago I reported to you that agents of mine have completed the experiments necessary for this purpose. I would like to recall these facts once more. Sterilization, as normally performed on persons with hereditary diseases, is here out of the question because it takes too long and is too expensive. Castration by X-rays, however, is not only relatively cheap but can also be performed on many thousands in the shortest time. I think that at this time it is already irrelevant whether the people in question become aware of having been castrated after some weeks or months once they feel the effects."

T4 went into a great deal planning to disguise its operations and those of the killing centres as ordinary mental hospitals and this was testified to in the Nuremberg trials by Viktor Brack, the chief of the whole section II of KdF and therefore one of the main persons responsible for the smooth execution of the euthanasia program. At the Nuremberg trials, he testified that patients walked calmly in with their towels and stood with their lithe pieces of soap under the shower outlets waiting for the water to start running.

Dr. Carl Clauberg

(1898 - 1957)

Clauberg conducted sterilization and castration experiments along with Horst Schumann at Auschwitz. He tried to look for cheap and fast ways of sterilization and found that x-rays worked quite well. Clauberg tried to artificially inseminate women with numerous things. He injected caustic substances into womens' cervixes to disturb the fallopian tubes. One of the substances he would inject into the women with formalin, novocain, progynon and prolusion to terminate their pregnancies. Block 10 at Auschwitz was know as "Clauberg's block".

Professor Carl Clauberg performed experiments into sterilization at both Auschwitz and Ravensbrück. This was done on Hitler's initiative, as he had been convinced by several doctors that mass sterilization could provide a powerful weapon against Germany's enemies during total war.

Clauberg injected chemical substances into wombs during normal gynaechological examinations. Thousands of Jewish and Gypsy women were subjected to this treatment. Clauberg sought to answer Himmler's query about how long it would take to sterilize one thousand women, and eventually informed him that, using methods he developed, a staff of one doctor and ten assistants could do the job in a single day.

The injections totally destroyed the lining membrane of the womb and seriously damaged the ovaries of the victims, which were then removed and sent to Berlin to test the effectiveness of the method.

Clauberg was imprisoned in the Soviet Union, then repatriated to Germany, where he returned to medical practice, proudly claiming "to have perfected an absolutely new method of sterilization" which would be "of great use today in certain cases." Due to an outcry by survivor groups, he was arrested in 1955 and died mysteriously in his cell, in a West German Prison, in 1957.

Dr. August Finke Finke
Finke was a professor at the University of Keil and worked closely with Dr. Sigmund Rascher in the Hypothermia experiments at Dachau. He wrote a lengthy research report (along with Dr. Holzloehner) named "Freezing Experiments with Human Beings." Some of the findings were said to be false or made up, but he delivered his findings from the experiments to other physicians at a Nuremberg medical conference.

Report by Prof. Dr. Holzlöhner, Dr. Rascher, and Dr. Finke, regarding cooling experiments, 10 October 1942:

If the experimental subject was placed in the water under narcosis, one observed a certain arousing effect. The subject began to groan and made some defensive movements. In a few cases a state of excitation developed. This was especially severe in the cooling of head and neck. But never was a complete cessation of the narcosis observed. The defensive movements ceased after about 5 minutes. There followed a progressive rigor, which developed especially strongly in the arm musculature; the arms were strongly flexed and pressed to the body. The rigor increased with the continuation of the cooling, now and then interrupted by tonic-clonic twitchings. With still more marked sinking of the body temperature it suddenly ceased. These cases ended fatally, without any successful results from resuscitation efforts.

Trials of War Criminals Before the Nürnberg Military Tribunals - Washington, U.S Govt. Print. Off., 1949-1953, Vol. I, p. 226-243

Dr. Erwin Gohrbandt

(1890 - 1965)

Gohrbandt was a high-ranking top surgeon in Germany. As the Director of Surgery at the University Clinic of Berlin, he was the chief medical advisor for aeronautical medicine at the Luftwaffe's Sanitary Services Division (Annas & Grodin, 1992). He participated in the Dachau Hypothermia Experiments and then published a report on them in a leading surgical journal.

Dr. Ernst-Robert Grawitz

(1899 - 1945)

Grawitz, SS and Police Gruppenfuehrer (Lt. Colonel) was the top doctor in the SS. He was the one who suggested to Himmler in the summer of 1941gas chambers as means to the `Final Solution,' i.e. the mass extermination of Jews. He knew of and kept an executive's eye on numerous other experiments with human guinea pigs at various concentration camps, for instance body resistance to freezing, jaundice, typhus (research done for I.G. Farben), and the drinkability of sea water. He committed suicide in 1945.

Dr. Ernst Holzlöhner Holzlohner
Holzloehner worked with Dr. Finke and with Dr. Rascher on the Dachau hypothermia experiments. Holzloehner was a professor at the University of Keil and wrote (along with Finke) a research report called "Freezing Experiments with Human Beings". He then delivered his findings to other doctors at a Nuremberg medical conference.

Prof. Dr. Ernst Holzlohner, of the Kiel University, and Dr. Sigmund Rascher, an air force doctor and SS officer, observed prisoners-victims of prolonged immersion in ice water, to test the human body's limits. One third of the victims died.

Dr. Sigmund Rascher

(1909 - 1945)

Rascher was a Luftwaffe captain as well as a doctor. He was in charge of many of the "military medical experiments" at Dachau including the hypothermia experiments (where 300 people were killed) and the high altitude experiments. He examined the brains of Jews after their skulls were split open (while fully conscious) to see the effects of high altitude on humans.

Dr. Horst Schumann

(1906 - 1983)

Like Clauberg, SS Sturmbannführer Schumann was searching for a convenient means of mass sterilization that would enable the Third Reich to carry out the biological destruction of conquered nations by "scientific methods" - through depriving people of their reproductive capacity. "X-ray sterilization" equipment was set up for Schumann in one of the barracks at Birkenau. Every so often, several dozen Jewish men and women prisoners were brought in.

Horst Schumann The sterilization experiments consisted of exposing the women's ovaries and the men's testes to X-rays. Schumann applied various intensities at various intervals in his search for the optimal dose of radiation. The exposure to radiation produced severe burns on the belly, groin, and buttocks areas of the subjects, and festering sores that were resistant to healing. Many subjects died from complications.

The results of the X-ray sterilization experiments were unsatisfactory. In an article that he sent to Himmler in April 1944, titled "The Effect of X-Ray Radiation on the human Reproductive Glands," Schumann expressed a preference for surgical castration, as being quicker and more certain.

Schumann conducted sterilization and castration experiments at Auschwitz. Schumann also performed typhus experiments by injecting people with blood from typhus patients and then attempting to cure the newly infected subjects. He worked at Block 30 in the womens' hospital, Birkenau, and invented a machine that gave sterilization and castration treatment to both men and women. Schumann also had a little device that he inserted into the male patients rectum to stimulate the prostate and produce ejaculation.

"In the autumn of 1942, Schumann was ordered to Auschwitz again. He was to test the mass sterilization of Jews by means of x-rays. ... He chose his test persons himself. They were always young, healthy, good-looking Jewish men, women and girls who looked like old people afterwards. The parts of the body that were tredated with the rays were burnt, suppurating. Often the intestines were also affected. Many died. Part of Schumann's control tests, to check whether the radiation had worked, was the so-called semen check: a stick covered with a rubber hose was inserted into the rectum of the victim and the glands stimulated until ejaculation occurred so that the ejaculate could be tested for sperm."

Himmler, writing to SS-Oberfu"hrer Brack, on August 11, 1942, expressed an interest in sterilization experiments involving the use of x-rays. In April of 1944, he received a report of the work of Dr. Horst Schumann "on the influence of X-rays on human genital glands" at Auschwitz. The report included the following statement:

"Previously you have asked Oberfuehrer Brack to perform this work, and you supported it by providing the adequate material in the concentration camp Auschwitz. I point especially to the second part of this work, which shows that by those means castration of males is almost impossible or requires an effort which does not pay. As I have convinced myself, operative castration requires not more than 6 to 7 minutes, and therefore can be performed more reliably and quicker than castration by X-rays."

Schumann set up an X ray station at Auschwitz in 1942, in the women's camp. Here men and women were forcibly sterilized by being positioned repeatedly for several minutes between two x-ray machines, the rays aiming at their sexual organs. Most subjects died after great suffering, or were gassed immediately because the radiation burns from which they suffered rendered them unfit for work. Men's testicles were removed and sent to Breslau for histopathological examination. The frequently following ovariotomies were performed also by the Polish prisoner, Dr. Wladyslav Dering. Dering once bet with an SS man that he could perform ten ovariotomies in an afternoon, and won his bet. Some of his victims survived. Dering was declared a war criminal but eluded justice and for a time practiced medicine in British Somaliland.

Among the medical experiments carried out on Block 10 was one involving the sterilization of unknowing prisoners by x-rays. These were conducted by Horst Schumann, who had previously been involved in euthanasia killings in Germany and who came to Auschwitz in 1941.

  • Experimental subjects - relatively healthy young men and women in their late teens or early twenties, who had been obtained by a previous day's order from the camps - were lined up in a waiting room and brought in one by one, often completely ignorant of what was to be done to them.
  • Women were put between plates that pressed against abdomen and back; men placed penis and scrotum on a special plate. Schumann himself turned on the machine, which hummed loudly.
  • Many of the women emerged with what Marie L. called "substantial burns", which could become infected and take a long time to heal; and many quickly developed symptoms of peritonitis, including fever and severe pain and vomiting. Not long after the x rays, the women's ovaries were removed surgically, often in two separate operations. Among the women, there were pleurisies, suppurations, aggravations of pulmonary tuberculosis, and death.
  • As for the men, after the X rays sperm was collected ("their prostates [were] brutally massaged with pieces of wood inserted into the rectum") and sooner or later one or both testicles were surgically removed, with resulting hemorrhages, septicemia, and death.

After the war, Dr. Schumann fled to Africa, where, remarkably, he worked tirelessly in remote areas saving victims of sleeping sickness and described himself as "having found the serenity and the calm necessary for the moral balance of a human being." He was repatriated to Germany in 1966, where in a greatly weakened condition after several years in custody, he was released without standing trial. In custody, he alternated between statements such as "It was terrible what we did," and other statements defending or denying his actions. He died in 1983.

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