An excerpt from the book The Gestapo - A History of Horror by Jacques Delarue
Paragon House Publishers - soft cover, 1987
(Originally published in France in 1962 under the title Histoire de la Gestapo by Librairie Artheme Fayard)
from pages 284 -289
Many other experiments were carried out in the camps. Numerous vaccines and defense measures against bacterial warfare were tried out. A little-known incident lay at the root of these researches. In the Caucasus the S.S. troops had refused to advance because there was a rumor that they were entering a zone where a plague epidemic was raging. This is probably the only example of the S.S. refusing to obey an order.
Human beings were utilized to produce vaccines: typhus bacilli were injected into men who were used as virus "reservoirs" at Buchenwald. At Dachau malaria was the subject of intensive study, and anopheles was bred to infect more than one thousand subjects, chosen from among Polish priests. In September 1943 an epidemic of infectious jaundice raged on the Eastern font (there were 180,000 cases in one month). Experiments were carried out at Auschwitz and subsequently at Sachsenhausen on Jews of the Polish Resistance.
Among other researches carried out on the prisoners: tests of new drugs; tests of nutrition (7) and of food concentrates at Oranienburg; artificial hormones at Buchenwald; anti-gangrene serums; hematological and serological experiments; tests of an ointment designed to heal phosphorus burns; the artificial culture of phlegmons, abscesses, and septicemias at Dachau; tests with sulphonamides; surgical experiments on bones, nerves, and muscular fibers. Euthanasia was performed with injections of phenol, which killed a man in less than a second. Tests were made with ammunition poisoned with aconitin (the clinical descriptions of the effect of these poisoned bullets are revolting). Research was carried out on decontamination processes of water poisoned by gases; alkaloids and unknown poisons were studied; the tablets destined for the suicide of the leaders were tried out on the prisoners; experiments, too, on the effects of gases in warfare, both hyperite and phosegene.
Experiments were also carried out on methods of sterilization designed to exterminate, or at least to limit the birth rate of races reduced to slavery after the final victory which was to make the Nazis masters of Europe. A letter addressed to Himmler by Dr. Pokorny, informing him of the state of research into sterilization by the absorption of a drug, is edifying. "If we could produce, as rapidly as possible, as a result of these researches, a drug which, after a relatively short period, would lead to a sterilization of individuals, we should have at our disposal a new and very effective weapon. The very idea that three million Bolsheviks in captivity today in Germany could be sterilized, while remaining available for work, although incapable of procreation, opens up vast prospects. Dr. Madaus has discovered that the juice of the plant Caladium seguinum taken orally or intravenously produces permanent sterility after a certain time, particularly in male animals but also in females."
The effect of the juice being rather slow, and the culture of this tropical plant proving too difficult, Dr. Brack perfected a more simple process: (8) sterilization by X rays. Brack in the course of experiments carried out on prisoners was able to establish that permanent sterilization could be obtained by a local radiation of 500 to 600 R. (9) For two minutes in the case of men and of 300 to 350 R for three minutes in the case of women. The difficulty lay in the method of applying this therapy without the knowledge of the patients. Brack then had a brilliant idea which he hastened to communicate to his "most honored Reichsfuehrer."
"A practical procedure would consist in making the persons to be treated approach a counter where they would be asked to reply to certain questions or to fill out forms for two or three minutes. The person sitting behind the counter could work the apparatus by turning a switch which would bring two lamps into action simultaneously." (The radiations had to be transmitted from either side.)
"By installing two lamps, between 150 and 200 persons could be sterilized daily and, in consequence, with twenty installations of this type, 3,000 to 4,000 individuals could be sterilized every day."
Happily the fortunes of war did not allow the Nazis to carry out this particular program of scientific genocide. Everything was ready, however, and it is certain that, had the outcome of the war been different, methods of this nature would have been put into practice.
In general the political bureaus of the camps, the Gestapo, were responsible for choosing the victims to serve as guinea pigs. A sign, a word, a little cross on a list by a member of the Gestapo, sufficed to send a healthy young man into the low-pressure chamber where, an hour later, he would cough up his lungs, or send a young woman in the prime of life to a doctor who would sterilize her with a good dose of X rays.
Sometimes orders from above, issued by Himmler to his agents in the camps, directed the using, for example, of Polish resistants for experiments on infectious jaundice in Auschwitz, or of Russian officers (chosen for their endurance to cold) for the work of Rascher in the refrigerated tanks of Dachau.
The Gestapo also carried out "selections," to satisfy the demand for anatomical specimens, requested by the Nazi institutes. The camps were utilized as a kind of reservoir of experimental material. Here the high peak of horror was reached, a kind of Grand Guignol paroxysm in the pseudo-scientific style of certain horror films, where a mad scientist murders his unfortunate victims to satisfy his maniacal research. The official correspondence exchanged relative to this traffic is hardly credible.
The first example goes back to the period of the euthanasia program affecting Germans. In Berlin there existed an institute specializing in brain research called the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute, with three branches in Munich, Gottingen, and Dillenburg. The last-named establishment was run by Dr. Hallervorden'. One day Dr. Hallervorden learned that certain invalids were to be killed with carbon monoxide and immediately decided to take advantage of this. He visited those responsible for carrying out the task and said to them, "'Listen, my friends, if you're going to kill all those people, at least keep their brains so that they can be of some use.' 'How many could you examine?' they asked me. 'An unlimited number,' I replied. 'The more the merrier.'"
The way in which all this was effected has also been related by Dr. Hallervorden. "Most of the establishments were short of doctors. As a result of overwork or indifference, most of them left the choice to the nurses and hospital orderlies. Anyone who appeared ill or who in the eyes of the nurses and orderlies appeared to be a 'case,' was put on a list and dispatched to the place of destruction. The worst feature of this affair was the brutality exercised by the staff. They simply chose those whom they did not like and entered them on the lists." The Kaiser Wilhelm Institute soon had more brains than it could examine, thanks to National Socialism.
The second incident which shows the "logical" purpose behind the Nazi scientific methods of execution took place in 1941. This time they were no longer content to experiment on the corpses of people condemned to death, as Haliervorden had done, but decided to murder men solely to use their corpses as material for study.
The Germans, occupying the Strasbourg Faculty of Medicine, installed there one of their own men, S.S. Sturmbannfuehrer Dr. Hirt. The doctor was steeped in Nazi philosophy and his idee fixe was naturally the racial question. He conceived the plan of forming at Strasbourg a collection of skeletons and skulls of Jews. He wrote to Himmler, to whom all these requests had to be submitted.
"We have here," said the professor, "an almost complete collection of the skulls of all races and nations. In the case of the Jewish race, however, we have so far few specimens of skulls at our disposal, so that it is almost impossible to arrive at definitive conclusions by their examination. The war in the East now gives us an opportunity to fill this gap. And the Judaeo-Bolshevik commissars, who display the repugnant, characteristic signs of degenerate humanity, can contribute their skulls, and afford us the possibility of obtaining a concrete scientific documentation."
It was therefore arranged that the Jewish Soviet commissars were to be captured alive and handed over to the military police, who would keep them until the arrival of a special envoy. The latter would photograph them, take a certain number of anthropological measurements, and collect all possible indications as to the status and origins of the prisoner, after which he would be put to death so that his head could be cut off and sent to Strasbourg.
"After the execution of these Jews," wrote Hirt, "the head must not be damaged. The envoy will sever the head from the trunk and dispatch it to its destination in hermetically sealed tin boxes. These boxes will contain a liquid to preserve the heads in perfect condition."
These instructions were carried out, and the university at Strasbourg began to receive a number of strange parcels.
But soon the heads did not satisfy Hirt, who now demanded entire skeletons, not only of "Judaeo-Bolshevik commissars." Auschwitz camp received orders to provide him with 150 skeletons. Since the camp was in no position to prepare these skeletons, and since Hirt wanted measurements of the bodies, it was decided that the most suitable solution was to send the subject alive to Natzweiler camp near Strasbourg. In June 1943, 115 persons selected by the Gestapo at Auschwitz arrived at Natzweiler camp. These were followed in August by a further eighty. S.S. Hauptsturmfuehrer Kramer, who operated in most of the camps and ended his career as commandant of the camp at Bergen-Belsen (where he earned the name of the "Beast of Belsen"), undertook the execution of these wretched victims, gassing them with cyanide, a process which did not damage the body. In this way Hirt received corpses which were still warm on his dissecting table. His anatomical collection had grown considerably by the time the American and French troops approached the city. The Nazis took fright because the refrigerating chests in the university morgue still contained eighty corpses which were liable to prove compromising. Hirt asked for instructions. Was he to preserve the collection, or destroy it? It was a question of removing the flesh from the corpses to render them unrecognizable, and to declare that they were bodies abandoned by the French. Finally, on October 26, Sievers, the General Secretary of the Ahnenerbe, who had followed this affair with the keenest attention, gave the assurance that the collection had been destroyed. The information was false. Hirt's assistant had been unable to dissect the corpses sufficiently rapidly. Some of them were still in Hirt's "reserve," when the Allied troops entered Strasbourg. They were discovered by men of the 2nd French Armored Division. Hirt disappeared and was never found. No vestige of information has ever come to light as to his fate. He was one of the very few Nazi "experimenters" who eluded the search, and who did not join his colleagues who were judged at Nuremberg at the "trial of the doctors."
Perhaps, under a false name, he is leading the peaceful life of a country doctor in some remote region, tapping the chests of his patients with the same meticulous care that he used in completing his collection.
7 The experiments in hunger and thirst made at Dachau were extremely painful. Youths of sixteen and seventeen were the principal victims.
8 Numerous tests were also made with surgical processes, direct injections of caustic products, inoculations, etc.
9 R -- Roentgen (after the inventor of X rays): a unit for measuring radiation.