Many lives were lost in the Holocaust, all of them unnecessary. The brutality and inhumanity was magnanimous, and completely barbaric. Doctors have always seemed to be the islands of healing in a world of pain, and they have, through history, been trusted to always help with the upkeep of well-being. This image of the practice of healing was shattered in so shocking a way through the medical practice of the Third Reich, it may never be repaired. One of the worst facts, however, is that many of the criminals that called themselves "doctors" and "scientists" escaped their accusations and lived on, in a normal life, unlike their "patients", who never again would have that chance.
The freezing / hypothermia experiments were conducted for the Nazi high command. The experiments were conducted on men to simulate the conditions the armies suffered on the Eastern Front. The German forces were ill prepared for the bitter cold. Thousands of German soldiers died of freezing or were debilitated by cold injuries.
The experiments were conducted under the supervision of Dr. Sigmund Rascher at Birkenau, Dachau and Auschwitz . Dr. Rascher reported directly to Himmler. Dr. Rascher publicized the results of his freezing experiments at the 1942 medical conference entitled "Medical Problems Arising from Sea and Winter".
The freezing experiments were divided into two parts. First, to establish how long it would take to lower the body temperature to death and second how to best resuscitate the frozen victim.
The two main methods used to freeze the victim were to put the person in a icy vat of water or to put the victim outside naked in sub-zero temperatures.
The icy vat method proved to be the fastest way to drop the body temperature. The selections were made of young healthly Jews or Russians. They were usually stripped naked and prepared for the experiment. A insulated probe which measured the drop in the body temperature was inserted into the rectum. The probe was held in place by a expandable metal ring which was adjusted to open inside the rectum to hold the probe firmly in place. The victim was then placed in the vat of cold water and started to freeze. It was learned that most victims lost consciousness and died when the body temperature dropped to 25 C.
Two Russian men were seen by a prisoner doctor in the cold vat. They were very strong men and had said a comment to the SS doctor performing the experiment. The prisoner doctor was shocked at how long the Russian men could take the cold without loosing consciousness. He asked the directing doctor to take them out of the tank. He did not allow this and increased the temperature slightly to prolong their pain. They died after a long painful stay in the tank.
The second way to freeze a victim was to strap them to a stretcher and place them outside naked. The extreme winters of Auschwitz made a natural place for this experiment.
The resuscitation or warming experiments were just as cruel and painful as the freezing experiments.
The victims were placed under sun lamps which were so hot they would burn the skin. One young homosexual victim was repeatedly cooled to unconsciousness then revived with lamps until he was pouring sweat. He died one evening after several test sessions.
The frozen victim would have water heated to a near blistering temperature forcefully irrigated into the stomach, bladder, and intestines. All victims appeared to have died from the treatment.
The victim was placed in warm water and the temperature was slowly increased. This method proved to be the best. Many victims died do to shock if they were warmed up to quickly.
Warming By Body Heat
Heinrich Himmler sugested to Dr. Rascher that he try to use women to warm the frozen men. He suggested that the victim and a women copulate. This perverted experiment occured with some success. However it was not as successful as the Warm Bath.
The Nordic or Aryan Race was the most important goal of the Nazis. It was the largest part of the over all plan. The blonde hair, blue eye, super men were to be the only race. The Blacks, Hispanics, Jews, Gypsies, Homosexuals and anyone else that did not meet the race requirements were to by cleansed from society through genocide. Hitler and the German High command made a list rules for the fellow Nazis to follow. The new rules required all SS before marriage must submit to general testing to insure racial purity. The rules for marriage were unbelievably complex. Thousands of marriages were denied. If the laws for marriage were broken it could mean the death penalty.
Dr. Sigmund Rascher and his wife learned what not following the marriage laws would hold for their lives. Mrs. Rascher was sterile. They were not illegally married; they adopted two children. They were later investigated by the Gestapo and executed for the crime. In this case, after his medical experimentation, it seems fitting that this killer was caught up by his own party.
Early in power the National Science groups were pushed into research of the race and experiments commenced. First the party needed propaganda to prove all other races were inferior. Measurements of heads, eyes, nose, blood were required. The vast majority of the early experiments were a propaganda sham. It was determined Gypsies had different blood and were inclined to criminal behavior. The same type of findings were made of all races other than the Nazis.
After the camps were started, vast genetic experiments were undertaken. The range of the testing was broad and specialized. The two major groups of experiments were first to refine the master race and second to determine the cause of defects.
Dr. Josef Mengele research on twins and Gypsies exemplifies the quest for the genetic studies. Dr. Mengele was known as the "Angel of Death". He would be at every selection when the new trains would arrive at Auschwitz. After the victims were unloaded off the trains and stripped naked and divided into men, women, and children, he would sort through the thousands of people. Most went straight to the gas chambers and others to hard labor in the camps. The twins, dwarfs, and unique physical specimens were selected to be assigned to the experimental blocks. In many ways the majority who where killed in the gas chambers were much better off than the survivors that had no idea what horrors awaited them.
The twins were examined from head to toe. Measurements of every inch were taken. Dr. Mengele demanded specific and careful exams. If any detail was missed the staff, usually a prisoner doctor, would be punished. The twins were allowed to keep their hair for the first several days of the examination. After all the living data was taken the twins would be killed by a single injection of chloroform in the heart. Care was taken to insure the twins died at the same time. The twins were then dissected with the organs being sent to research centers.
Prisoner doctors tell of the fate of two Hungarian twins who arrived at Auschwitz late in 1943. Dr. Mengele was at the camp selection. The train arrived in the very early morning. Three sets of twins were found. They were taken to the experimental block. Dr. Mengele ordered the two Hungarian twins be placed in the examination room. The two Hungarian twins young men age 18 were described as "extremely athletic and handsome." They had much body hair and were allowed to keep it for the first few weeks. The twins were showered and returned nude to the examination room. The examination started at the head . All parts of their heads were examined. The head examination took almost days. They were then completely X-rayed . The next part of the examination consisted of tubes being forced through their noses and into their lungs. They were then ventilated with a gas which caused them to cough so severely they had to be restrained. The sputum from the lungs was collected for examination.
The twins were then photographed for several days . The purpose of the photographs were to show hair patterns. They were each forced to stand, bend, and kneel in many positions to accomplish the photographs. For example, they were required to stand with their arms lifted for many hours so the under arm hair could be photographed.
After the photographs were finished they were awoken very early in the morning. They were taken into a room with tables and a hot water vat. The water in the vat was very hot. They were made to sit in the water until they were ready to pass out from the heat. They were then strapped to a table where their hair was plucked out trying to save the hair root. They were put back into the hot vat several times. After enough hair was collected, they were totally shaven of every hair on their body. The twins were then again extensively photographed without hair.
The twins then received several two liter enemas which caused them much pain and discomfort. The boys on different days were strapped over a bench table and their rectums were hyper descended after which they received an extensive lower gastric intestinal examination. This extensive procedure was performed without any anesthesia. The young men were crying so loud that Doctor Mengele ordered they be gagged. The next day they received a painful and humiliating urological examination. In this examination tissue samples were taken from the kidneys, prostate, and testicles. Several semen samples were forcefully taken over two days.
After this three weeks of tortuous medical examinations they were taken two the dissection laboratory. Using two doctors, each twin was simultaneously given an injection in the heart, taking their lives. They were dissected and their organs were sent to the Institute of Biological Racial and Evolutionary Research Berlin.