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Medical Experimentation

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 seven thousand were so treated, based upon existing documents and personal testimonies; there were undoubtedly many more for which no documentation or personal testimony remains.

About two hundred German medical doctors were involved in the concentration camp experiments, conducting “Selektionen,” medical services, and research. They maintained close professional ties with the German medical establishment, and used the universities and research institutes in Germany and Austria in their work.

Dr. Ernst Robert Grawitz, SS Chief Medical Officer, received all requests for authority to perform experimentation, and obtained two opinions before passing them to Himmler with his recommendation.

Grawitz used Dr. Karl Gebhardt, Himmler's personal physician, for one opinion, and Richard Glücks and Arthur Nebe for the other. He then passed his report to Himmler, who took great interest in the experiments and often interfered with them.

There were three broad classes of experiments. The German Air Force conducted experiments at Dachau (and elsewhere) dealing with survival and rescue, including research into the effects of high altitude, freezing temperatures, and the ingestion of seawater.

Medical treatment constituted a second class, and involved research into the treatment of battle injuries, gas attacks, and the formulation of immunization compounds to treat contagious and epidemic diseases.

Finally, there were racial experiments, including research into dwarfs and twins, serological research, and skeletal examination. It is this class of horrors that returns us to Auschwitz (Encyclopedia of the Holocaust,, Vol. 3, pp. 957-958).

During his interrogation of Adolf Eichmann, Israeli police Captain Avner Less brought up the subject of Eichmann's complicity in medical 'research' projects which had been approved by the Reichsführer-SS, Heinrich Himmler , and read four documents to him. What follows is the text of Less's interrogation at that point...

LESS: I have some photostats of documents that were submitted in the first Nuremberg war crimes trial, the trial of the physicians. The sender of this letter is the business manager of Ahnenerbe. I'll read it to you.

"Berlin, November 2, 1942. Secret. To SS-Obersturmbannführer Dr. Brandt. Dear Comrade Brandt: As you know, the Reichsführer-SS gave orders some time ago to the effect that SS-Hauptsturmführer Prof. Dr. Hirt should be supplied with everything he requires for his research. For certain anthropological investigations -- I have already reported to the Reichsführer-SS on the subject -- 150 skeletons of prisoners or Jews are needed, and these are to be made available by the Auschwitz concentration camp." Etc. etc. It's signed: "With comradely greetings, Heil Hitler, Yours, Sievers."

The second document is a report by this Professor Hirt. "Re: Procurement of the skulls of Jewish-Bolshevistic commissars for scientific research at the University of Strassburg." I quote:

"Extensive skull collections from nearly all races and people are in existence. It is only of Jews that so few skulls are available to science that work on them admits of no secure findings. The war in the East now offers us an opportunity to make good this deficiency. In the Jewish-Bolshevistic commissars, who embody a repulsive and characteristic type of subhuman, we have the possibility of acquiring a reliable scientific document by acquiring their skulls.

The smoothest and most expeditious way of obtaining and securing this provision of skulls would be to instruct the Wehrmacht to hand over all Jewish-Bolshevistic commissars immediately to the military police. The person charged with securing this material (a young physician or medical student belonging to the Werhmacht or better still to the military police) is to prepare a previously specified series of photographs and anthropoligical measurements.

After the subsequently induced death of the Jew, whose head must not be injured, he will separate the head from the trunk and send it, immersed in a preserving fluid, in well-sealed lead containers made especially for this purpose, to the designated address."

And now the next document. A letter of June 21, 1943. From Ahnenerbe. Top secret.

"To Reich Security Headquarters IVB4, Attention: SS-Obersturmführer Eichmann. Re: Skeleton collection.

With reference to your letter of September 25, 1942, and the consultations held since then regarding the above-mentioned matter, we wish to inform you that Dr. Bruno Beger, our staff member charged with the above-mentioned special mission, terminated his work in the Auschwitz concentration camp on June 15, 1943, because of the danger of an epidemic. In all, 115 persons, 79 male Jews, 2 Poles, 4 Central Asians, and 30 Jewesses, were processed.

These inmates have been placed, men and women separately, in the concentration-camp sick quarters, and quarantined. For the further processing of these selected persons, immediate transfer to Natzweiler concentration camp is desirable and should be effected as quickly as possible in view of the danger of infection in Auschwitz. A list of the selected persons is appended. You are requested to send the necessary instructions."

And now for the last document.

"The Reichsführer-SS Personal Staff, Field Headquarters, November 6, 1942. Secret. To Reich Security Headquarters IVB4. Attention: SS-Obersturmführer Eichmann. The Reichsführer-SS has ordered that Dr. Hirt, head of the Anatomy Department in Strassburg, should be supplied with everything needed for his research. In the name of the Reichsführer-SS, I therefore request you to help establish the projected skeleton collection. per. proc. SS-Obersturmbannführer Brandt" (von Lang, Jochen. ed. Eichmann Interrogated: Transcripts from the Archives of the Israeli Police. NY: Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 1983, pp. 169-171).

Thus the German government's full complicity in the crimes committed at Auschwitz under the guise of "medical research" is clear, with a chain of evidence reaching all the way to Himmler.

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