Unusual WWII Facts Part 9

The 1941 and 1942 Elfstedentocht(11 Cities tour.

Even during the War life went on as ‘usual’ .The Elfstedentocht (Eleven cities tour) is a skating tour, almost 200 KM (120 mi) long, which is held both as a speed skating competition (with 300 contestants) and a leisure tour (with 16,000 skaters). It is held in the province of Friesland in the north of the Netherlands, leading past all eleven historical cities of the province. The tour is held  only when the natural ice along the entire course is at least 15 centimetres (6 in) thick.When the ice is suitable, the tour is announced and starts within 48 hours. In 1941 and 1942 it was felt the Marathon skating event had to be held because of the harsh winters which made the ice perfect. The Germans did allow it but did put severe restrictions in place.

Nazis of all nations

At its core, Nazism was hostile to other nations and races, yet when it came to welcoming allies and volunteers – even to their most ideologically pure units – the German military were commendably open-minded. The SS were responsible for some of the worst atrocities of the war. They were ultra-Nazis and supplied the personnel who ran the concentration camps. Yet even this bulwark of the racial ideology of the Nazis became an international force to an extent. Soon, there were volunteers from many countries – Britain, Belgium, Finland, France, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands – serving in their own SS regiments. As the doctrine of ‘my enemy’s enemy is my friend’ took hold there were even Slavs from Ukraine, Kosovo Albanians, Arabs, Tatars and Indonesian Asians. These units often exploited long-standing hatreds – anti-British Empire Indian nationalists joined up and Bosnian Muslims who hated the Serbs had their own legion – at the expense of the supposed racial purity of the German cause.

Die Glocke

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Die Glocke means bell in German and it’s one of the strangest of the ‘Nazi Miracle Weapon’ stories (which include UFOs and a hefty dose of the occult) from World War II. The story first came to light in a Polish book published as late as 2000. The author, Igor Witkowski, reckoned he’d got his hands on secret documents and the transcript of an interview with a captured SS officer (conveniently, he wasn’t allowed to make copies) which revealed a secret German weapons programme. Die Glocke looked like a bell, unsurprisingly, and was designed to emit radiation via a secret metallic liquid that it contained. It could also produce anti-gravity. Others took up the story and it soon had a life of its own – the Americans now had it, it was in a Nazi-friendly South American dictatorship. The story may not even be true, but it will probably never go away.

Breaking Barriers

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Howard P. Perry, the first African-American to enlist in the U.S. Marines. Breaking a 167-year-old barrier, the U.S. Marine Corps started enlisting African-Americans on June 1, 1942. The first class of 1,200 volunteers began their training three months later as members of the 51st Composite Defense Battalion at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Mid – Swearing-in of William Baldwin, the first African-American Navy recruit for General Service. June 2, 1942. Right – Reginald Brandon, the first African-American graduate of the Radio Training School of the Maritime Commission. Upon assignment he had the rank of ensign.

Operation Dragoon

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15 August 1944 – 14 September 1944

Operation Dragoon was the Allied invasion of southern France. Despite being one of the largest amphibious operations in history, it was overshadowed by Operation Overlord and is virtually forgotten today. The landings were lightly opposed because of the Normandy Campaign and successful diversion tactics, and by the end of the first day advances of nearly thirty kilometers had been achieved.

During the late summer of 1944, the Allied advance from the Normandy beachheads had bogged down due to lack of supplies. Capturing port facilities became of the utmost importance because key ports in northern France were unusable. By mid September, Operation Dragoon linked up with units from the Normandy advance, and the port of Marseilles had begun receiving supplies. By the end of the war, southern France would supply nearly one third of Allied material in Europe.

The Olterra

Olterra

The plan sounds like something from a spy movie—to use a secret underwater base as a jumping-off point for launching and recovering midget submarines that would destroy British shipping. That’s exactly what the Italians planned and eventually executed. An Italian cargo ship, the Olterra, was stuck in Spain after World War II broke out and just happened to be anchored across the harbor from the British fortress at Gibraltar. Italy managed to secretly smuggle several tiny midget submarines through Spain and onto the Olterra as well as equipment to maintain the submarines. A hole was cut in the ship below the waterline to allow midget submarines and combat divers to secretly exit.

The first operation in December 1942 ended in disaster, with three deaths and two combat divers taken captive. However, a second operation in 1943 was successful in sinking three cargo ships, and another operation later that year sunk three more. The British had their suspicions, given that the Olterra was anchored right across the harbor from them, but never found out the truth until Italy surrendered to the Allies in 1943

Operation Frankton

Operation-Frankton

In December 1942, 10 British special forces soldiers were secretly sent to a French port to destroy things and otherwise cause mayhem. Their mode of transport? Canoes. Having realized that valuable war materials were flowing from Asia to Germany through the port of Bordeaux, the British decided that this choke point had to be stemmed. As more destructive ways of destroying the ships in the port could have caused civilian casualties, the British decided on a commando surgical strike. A royal marine came up with the insane plan of commandos paddling canoes into the port and sticking explosives onto the ships.

A British submarine surfaced off the French coast and launched five canoes, each carrying two commandos, for the strike. The port was hundreds of miles inland up a river, and the commandos had to paddle the whole way, taking several days to make the journey and hiding on the shore during the day. Only two of the boats managed to reach the safety of inland waters; two others capsized, and one disappeared. After reaching the harbor, the four remaining commandos blew up six ships.

Two of the commandos were captured and executed, but the other two were smuggled out of France and into Spain by French resistance members. The strike was a huge propaganda boost for the struggling Allies, and the Germans were forced to guard their ships more closely from then on, an increased expenditure of resources.

Pig Basket Massacre

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After the Japanese occupied the Dutch East Indies, a group of about 200 British servicemen found themselves stuck in Java during the invasion. They took to the hills to fight as a guerrilla resistance force, but they were captured and tortured by the Kempeitai. According to over 60 eyewitnesses testifying at the Hague following the war, these men were then forced into 1-meter-long (3 ft) bamboo cages meant to transport pigs. They were then transported via trucks and open rail cars to the coast, in temperatures reaching 38 degrees Celsius (100 °F). The prisoners, already suffering from severe dehydration, were then placed on waiting boats, which sailed off the coast of Surabaya, whereupon the cages were thrown into the ocean. The prisoners were drowned or eaten alive by sharks.

One Dutch witness, only 11 years old at the time, described the incident to a magazine:

One day around noon, the hottest time of the day, a convoy of about four or five Army trucks passed the street where we were playing, loaded with so-called “pig baskets,” which were normally used to stack pigs during transport to the slaughterhouse or the market. Indonesia being a Moslem country, pigs were only for European and Chinese customers in the market. Moslems (Javanese) were not allowed to eat them and considered pigs (same as dogs) as “dirty animals” from which contact should be avoided. In other words: any connection with pigs and dogs was shameful. To our astonishment the pig baskets were crammed with Australian soldiers, some of them still wearing parts of their uniform, a few even their special hat. They were tied in pairs, two to each other, facing each other, and stacked, like pigs, in the baskets, lying down. Some were in a terrible state, crying for water, I saw one of the Japanese guards opening his fly and urinate on them. I remember being terrified and I can never forget this picture in my mind. Later my father told me the trucks were driven through the town as a show to the Indonesians for utter humiliation of the white race, finally being dumped into the harbour to drown.

Lieutenant General Hitoshi Imamura, commander in chief of the Japanese forces in Java, was acquitted on war crimes charges by a Netherlands court due to lack of evidence but was later charged by an Australian military court and sentenced to 10 years in prison, which he served from 1946–54 in Sugamo, Japan.

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Nazi War criminals that got away.

We love to think that the bad guys always get caught and justice will prevail. Unfortunately that isn’t always the case and often the greater the crime the easier it is to get away with it. Below are some examples of some of the most evil War criminals that escaped justice.

Gerhard Sommer

Gerhard Sommer (born 24 June 1921) is a former SS-Untersturmführer (Second Lieutenant) in the 16th SS Panzergrenadier DivisionReichsführer-SS who was involved in the massacre of 560 civilians on 12 August 1944 in the Italian village of Sant’Anna di Stazzema.

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Gerhard Sommer, a former company commander of a mechanized infantry division, had been accused over the Nazis’ mass murder of 560 civilians in the Tuscan mountain village of Sant’Anna di Stazzema in 1944.

On 12 August 1944, Nazi soldiers using machine guns and flamethrowers massacred almost all residents and refugees in Sant’Anna di Stazzema, including 107 children under 14 years.After decades of judicial inertia in Germany and Italy, the case resurfaced in the 1990s based on research by several historians.

In 2005, an Italian military court found that 10 members of the 16th SS “Reichsfuehrer” division, including Sommer, were personally responsible for the massacre and sentenced them to life in prison in absentia.

In 2002 investigations against Sommer were initiated in Germany, but no criminal charges have yet been brought. Gabriela Heinecke, a lawyer from Hamburg in charge of the “Nebenklage”(in addition to lawsuit)  of the Italian survivors of the massacre continues to be denied access to the records by the German public prosecution department.As of May 2006 Sommer was living in a nursing home in Hamburg-Volksdorf, Germany. In May 2015, Sommer was declared unfit for trial by prosecutors in Germany.Sommer’s advanced state of dementia attested by experts meant that he would not have been able to address the court and merely a passive “object of public prosecution.”

 

Helmut Oberlander

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Helmut Oberlander (born 15 February 1924) is a Canadian citizen who was a member of the Einsatzkommando. Since 1994, the Government of Canada has made repeated attempts to revoke Oberlander’s citizenship.

As an ethnic German born and living in Ukraine during World War II, he was conscripted into the German forces at the age of 17 to serve as an interpreter for the EK10A (Einsatzkommando) when they entered Soviet Ukraine in 1941. His duties included listening to and translating Russian radio transmissions, acting as an interpreter during interactions between the military and the local population, and the guarding of military supplies.

The Federal Court of Canada, in Oberlander v. Canada (Attorney General), determined that Oberlander was part of the Ek 10a during World War II.

Ek 10a Deathsquad

The Federal Court of Canada characterized the group as a death squad, responsible for killing more than two million people, most of whom were civilians and largely Jewish. According to the ruling, from 1941 to 1943 Oberlander served with Ek 10a as an interpreter and an auxiliary. In addition to interpreting, he was tasked with finding and protecting food and polishing boots. He lived, ate, travelled and worked full time with the Ek 10a.From 1943 to 1944, he served as an infantryman in the German army.

Oberlander immigrated to Canada with his wife Margaret in 1954, where he ran a construction business and lived in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario. He became a Canadian citizen in 1960.In 1995 the Government of Canada initiated a de-naturalization and deportation process against him. On 28 February 2000, Judge Andrew MacKay reported his findings: he concluded that there is no evidence that Oberlander was involved, directly or indirectly, in committing any war crimes or any crimes against humanity. He might not have, however, disclosed his wartime record during his immigration interview in 1953 in Karlsruhe, Germany. The Government of Canada determined that withholding this information was sufficient reason to strip Oberlander of his Canadian Citizenship. Andrew Telegdi who was Oberlander’s Member of Parliament, and who was at the time parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Citizenship of Immigration, resigned from that position in objection to this decision.

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In October 2008 the government revoked his citizenship.In November 2009 the Federal Court of Appeal struck down this decision thus reinstating his citizenship.

In 2012 Oberlander was again stripped of his citizenship through an Order in Council of the Government of Canada. Oberlander appealed the 2012 order to the Federal Court of Canada, which the court rejected in 2015. Oberlander then appealed the 2015 decision to the Canadian Federal Court of Appeal. In 2016 the court accepted his appeal, setting aside the government’s 2012 Order in Council.

The judge in the case said that there needed to be study of whether or not Oberlander was only cooperating with Nazis under duress, or out of fear of his life.On July 7 2016, the Supreme Court rejected a government appeal of that decision, meaning that Oberlander will — unless the government revokes it again — retain his Canadian passport.

Alois Brunner

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Alois Brunner (8 April 1912 – c. 2010) was an Austrian Schutzstaffel (SS) officer who worked as Adolf Eichmann’s assistant. Eichmann referred to Brunner as his “best man.” Brunner is held responsible for sending over 100,000 European Jews to the gas chambers. He was commander of the Drancy internment camp outside Paris from June 1943 to August 1944, from which nearly 24,000 people were deported.

After some narrow escapes from the Allies in the immediate aftermath of World War II, Brunner fled West Germany in 1954, first for Egypt, then Syria, where he remained until his death. He was the object of many manhunts and investigations over the years by different groups, including the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the Klarsfelds and others. He was condemned to death in absentia in France in 1954 for crimes against humanity. He lost an eye and then the fingers of his left hand as a result of letter bombs sent to him in 1961 and 1980, possibly by the Israeli Mossad. The government of Syria under Hafez el-Assad came close to extraditing him to East Germany, before this plan was halted by the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989. Brunner survived all the attempts to detain him, unrepentant about his activities to the end.

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SS captain Alois Brunner, described by Eichmann as his “best man,” was responsible for the deportation of 128,500 Jews to the death camps. After the war in the 1950s, Brunner fled to Syria where he reportedly served as a government adviser to president Hafez Assad and is thought to have instructed the regime on torture tactics.

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He survived two Mossad assassination attempts, and went to his grave utterly “unrepentant,” according to Nazi hunter Efraim Zuroff.

In an interview with the German magazine Bunte, in 1985, Brunner described how he escaped capture by the Allies immediately after World War II. The identity of Brunner was apparently mixed up with that of another SS member, Anton Brunner, who was executed for war crimes, instead of Alois, who, like Josef Mengele, lacked the SS blood type tattoo, which prevented him from being detected in an Allied prison camp. Anton Brunner, who also worked in Vienna deporting Jews, was confused after the war with Alois Brunner.

After arriving in Syria under the pseudonym of Dr. Georg Fischer

On November 30, 2014, the Simon Wiesenthal Center reported receiving credible information that Brunner had died in Syria in 2010. He would have been 97 or 98. Partly due to the ongoing Syrian Civil War, the exact date of his death and place of burial are unknown at present.

According to the director of the Wiesenthal Center, Dr Efraim Zuroff, the information came from a “reliable” former German secret service agent who had served in the Middle East. The information was also widely reported in the press. The new evidence revealed that Brunner was buried in an unknown location in Damascus around 2010, unrepentant of his crimes to the end. Zuroff said that, owing to the civil war in Syria, the exact location of Brunner’s grave is impossible to know.

Aribert Heim

 

Aribert Ferdinand Heim (28 June 1914 – 10 August 1992)was an Austrian SS doctor, also known as Dr. Death. During World War II he served at the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp in Mauthausen, killing and torturing inmates by various methods, such as direct injections of toxic compounds into the hearts of his victims.

After the war, Heim lived for many years in Cairo, Egypt, under the alias of Tarek Farid Hussein, where he converted to Islam and died there on 10 August 1992 according to testimony by his son and lawyer. This information, though set forth by a German court, has been challenged.In 2009, a BBC documentary stated that German police had found no evidence of Heim’s death on their recent visit to Cairo;nevertheless, three years later, a court in Baden-Baden confirmed again that Heim had died in 1992, based on new evidence provided by his family and lawyer.

Aribert Heim worked in Mauthausen as a doctor starting in October 1941 at the age of 26, and he only worked there for six weeks.

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The prisoners at Mauthausen called Heim “Dr. Death”, or the “Butcher of Mauthausen” for his cruelty He was known there for performing operations without anaesthesia. For about two months (October to December 1941), Heim was stationed at the Ebensee concentration camp near Linz (Austria),

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where he carried out experiments on Jews and others similar to those performed at Auschwitz by Josef Mengele. According to Holocaust survivors, Jewish prisoners were poisoned with various injections directly into the heart, including petrol, phenol, available poisons or even water, to induce death.He is reported to have removed organs from living prisoners without anesthesia, killing hundreds.

After the war, Heim remained in Germany, working as a doctor at a gynaecological practice in Baden-Baden until 1962, when he went into hiding. In 1979, the public prosecutor’s office in Baden-Baden pressed charges against Heim and issued an international arrest warrant.

It is believed that Heim left Germany in 1963 using his second name Ferdinand and that he traveled to Egypt on a tourist visa. He then lived in hiding in Cairo for decades using the name. In 1980, he apparently converted to Islam and then assumed the name Tarek Hussein Farid. They believe he died at the age of 78 on Aug. 10, 1992 in Cairo.

 

 

 

 

UNIT 731-Japanese WWII Experiments

The Nazi’s did not have ‘the monopoly’ on evil acts. Their Asian counterparts in Japan did not shy away from evil in order to get what they wanted. Some of their acts made the Nazi’s look like choirboys.

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Unit 731  was a covert biological and chemical warfare research and development unit of the Imperial Japanese Army that undertook lethal human experimentation during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945) of World War II. It was responsible for some of the most notorious war crimes carried out by Japan. Unit 731 was based at the Pingfang district of Harbin, the largest city in the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo (now Northeast China).

It was officially known as the Epidemic Prevention and Water Purification Department of the Kwantung Army. Originally set up under the Kempeitai military police of the Empire of Japan, Unit 731 was taken over and commanded until the end of the war by General Shiro Ishii, an officer in the Kwantung Army.

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The facility itself was built between 1934 and 1939 and officially adopted the name “Unit 731” in 1941.

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Referring to their victims as maruta, meaning logs, the researchers experimented on, apparently, anyone they could get their hands on: Chinese, Russians, Koreans, Mongolians, Pacific Islanders, other South East Asians and even a few American prisoners of war all fell victim to the doctors at the camps.

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Unit 731 veterans of Japan attest that most of the victims they experimented on were Chinese, Koreans and Mongolians. Almost 70% of the victims who died in the Pingfang camp were Chinese, including both civilian and military.Close to 30% of the victims were Russian.Some others were South East Asians and Pacific Islanders, at the time colonies of the Empire of Japan, and a small number of Allied prisoners of war. The unit received generous support from the Japanese government up to the end of the war in 1945.

Instead of being tried for war crimes, the researchers involved in Unit 731 were secretly given immunity by the U.S. in exchange for the data they gathered through human experimentation. Others that Soviet forces managed to arrest first were tried at the Khabarovsk War Crime Trials in 1949.

 

Americans did not try the researchers so that the information and experience gained in bio-weapons could be co-opted into the U.S. biological warfare program, as had happened with Nazi researchers in Operation Paperclip.On 6 May 1947, Douglas MacArthur, as Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, wrote to Washington that “additional data, possibly some statements from Ishii probably can be obtained by informing Japanese involved that information will be retained in intelligence channels and will not be employed as ‘War Crimes’ evidence.” Victim accounts were then largely ignored or dismissed in the West as Communist propaganda.

Thousands of men, women and children interred at prisoner of war camps were subjected to vivisection, often without anesthesia and usually ending with the death of the victim. Vivisections were performed on prisoners after infecting them with various diseases. Researchers performed invasive surgery on prisoners, removing organs to study the effects of disease on the human body. These were conducted while the patients were alive because it was feared that the decomposition process would affect the results.The infected and vivisected prisoners included men, women, children, and infants, including pregnant women (impregnated by Japanese surgeons) and their infants.

Prisoners had limbs amputated in order to study blood loss. Those limbs that were removed were sometimes re-attached to the opposite sides of the body. Some prisoners’ limbs were frozen and amputated, while others had limbs frozen, then thawed to study the effects of the resultant untreated gangrene and rotting.

Some prisoners had their stomachs surgically removed and the esophagus reattached to the intestines. Parts of the brain, lungs, liver, etc. were removed from some prisoners.

Prisoners would be buried alive to see how long it would take before they died and what the effects were.

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Prisoners were injected with inoculations of disease, disguised as vaccinations, to study their effects. To study the effects of untreated venereal diseases, male and female prisoners were deliberately infected with syphilis and gonorrhea, then studied. Prisoners were also repeatedly subject to rape by guards.

Plague fleas, infected clothing, and infected supplies encased in bombs were dropped on various targets. The resulting cholera, anthrax, and plague were estimated to have killed around and possibly more than 400,000 Chinese civilians.Tularemia was tested on Chinese civilians.

Unit 731 and its affiliated units (Unit 1644 and Unit 100 among others) were involved in research, development, and experimental deployment of epidemic-creating biowarfare weapons in assaults against the Chinese populace (both civilian and military) throughout World War II. Plague-infested fleas, bred in the laboratories of Unit 731 and Unit 1644, were spread by low-flying airplanes upon Chinese cities, coastal Ningbo in 1940, and Changde, Hunan Province, in 1941. This military aerial spraying killed thousands of people with bubonic plague epidemics.

 

Physiologist Yoshimura Hisato conducted experiments by taking captives outside, dipping various appendages into water, and allowing the limb to freeze. Once frozen, which testimony from a Japanese officer said “was determined after the ‘frozen arms, when struck with a short stick, emitted a sound resembling that which a board gives when it is struck'”, ice was chipped away and the area doused in water. The effects of different water temperatures were tested by bludgeoning the victim to determine if any areas were still frozen. Variations of these tests in more gruesome forms were performed.

Female prisoners were forced to become pregnant for use in experiments. The hypothetical possibility of vertical transmission (from mother to fetus or child) of diseases, particularly syphilis, was the stated reason for the torture. Fetal survival and damage to mother’s reproductive organs were objects of interest. Though “a large number of babies were born in captivity” of Unit 731, there has been no account of any survivors of the facility, children included. It is suspected that the children of female prisoners were killed or the pregnancies terminated.

While male prisoners were often used in single studies, so that the results of the experimentation on them would not be clouded by other variables, women were sometimes used in bacteriological or physiological experiments, sex experiments, and the victims of sex crimes. The testimony of a unit member that served as guard graphically demonstrates this reality:

“One of the former researchers I located told me that one day he had a human experiment scheduled, but there was still time to kill. So he and another unit member took the keys to the cells and opened one that housed a Chinese woman. One of the unit members raped her; the other member took the keys and opened another cell. There was a Chinese woman in there who had been used in a frostbite experiment. She had several fingers missing and her bones were black, with gangrene set in. He was about to rape her anyway, then he saw that her sex organ was festering, with pus oozing to the surface. He gave up the idea, left, and locked the door, then later went on to his experimental work

Human targets were used to test grenades positioned at various distances and in different positions. Flame throwers were tested on humans. Humans were tied to stakes and used as targets to test germ-releasing bombs, chemical weapons, and explosive bombs.

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At the end of the war, unit 731 scientists destroyed much of the evidence of the program. According to reports, however, some infected test animals were released; it is believed that at least 30,000 people died from the plague in the Pingfang area within the first three years after the war.

In Japan, not one was brought to justice. In a secret deal, the post-war American administration gave them immunity for prosecution in return for details of their experiments.

 

Some of the worst criminals, including Hisato Yoshimura, who was in charge of the frostbite experiments, went on to occupy key medical and other posts in public and private sectors.

Like the German rocket scientists and engineers who were folded into military and other governmental programs at the end of World War II through Operation Paperclip, unit 731’s scientists were given immunity from prosecution and their atrocities were covered-up in exchange for exclusive access to their findings.

I don’t know what is more disturbing. The actual atrocities or the fact it was covered up and immunity was given or the fact that some of these’scientists’ were actually medical doctors, who subscribed to the principle of “First do no harm”

The amounts of graphic pictures relating to Unit 731 are staggering, but most of them were just too horrendous to include in this blog.

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