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Ravensbrück: Experiments on Dzido

Above is a war crimes investigation photo of Jadwiga Dzido, a member of the Polish underground, who was deported to Ravensbrueck in March 1941. There, she was subjected to medical experiments with sulphonamide drugs in 1942. The experiments were conducted by Dr. Fritz Fischer, Prof. Karl Gebhardt, Dr. Stumpfegger and Ravensbrueck camp doctor, Herta Oberheuser. This photograph was entered as evidence for the prosecution at the Medical Trial in Nuremberg.

The disfiguring scars on the woman's right leg resulted from incisions made by medical personnel that were purposely infected with bacteria, dirt and slivers of glass, in order to simulate the combat wounds of German soldiers fighting in the war. The inflamed area was then treated with sulphonamide drugs. Many of the prisoners subjected to these treatments died from their wounds.

On 25 October 1946, the US Military Government for Germany established the Military Tribunal I, which conducted the first of the subsequent Nuremberg trials, that against Nazi Physicians. On 5 November indictments were served to twenty-three defendants, most of them former Nazi doctors. The photo above is from that trial.

The indictment listed four charges, the first being participation in the Common Design or Conspiracy. The second and third charges were War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity, which alleged that the defendants committed "murders, brutalities, cruelties, tortures, atrocities, and other inhuman acts" on German civilians and nationals of other countries through a series of specific medical experiments dealing with the effects of high-altitude, malaria, and sterilization, among other things. The final count charged ten of the defendants with membership in the SS, which had earlier been ruled a criminal organization by the IMT.

The Tribunal arraigned the defendants on 21 November, with all pleading not guilty, and the trial began with US Chief of Counsel Brigadier General Telford Taylor's opening statement on 9 December. After all the evidence had been introduced and the arguments made for both sides, the defendants made their personal statements and the trial ended on 19 July 1947. The trial had lasted one hundred and thirty-nine days, with eighty-five witnesses called, and one thousand, four hundred and seventy-one documents used as evidence.

On 20 August, the Tribunal announced it had found fifteen of the defendants guilty, seven not guilty, and one (Helmut Poppendick) guilty of membership in the SS but not of participating in the medical experiments. The next day, sentences were handed down, with seven sentenced to hang, five to life in prison, two to twenty years in prison, one to fifteen, and Poppendick to ten for his membership in the SS. Those sentenced to death were hanged 2 June 1948 in the Landsberg prison.

Sources: U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum