Eduard Krebsbach- Just doing a Job

TRIAL

Primum non nocere is the Latin phrase for “First do no harm” It is part of the Hippocratic Oath including the promise “to abstain from doing harm” .

The Hippocratic Oath is an oath historically taken by physicians. It is one of the most widely known of Greek medical texts. In its original form, it requires a new physician to swear, by a number of healing gods, to uphold specific ethical standards. The Oath is the earliest expression of medical ethics in the Western world, establishing several principles of medical ethics which remain of paramount significance today. These include the principles of medical confidentiality and non-maleficence. Although the ancient text is only of historic and symbolic value, swearing a modified form of the Oath remains a rite of passage for medical graduates in many countries.

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Eduard Krebsbach (b. 8 August 1894, d. 28 May 1947) received his doctorate in medicine from the University of Bonn. He worked for many years as a pediatrician, before applying for membership in the SS in 1937. The following year he was inducted into the SS as Untersturmführer (SS Captain). Between the fall of 1941 and the fall of 1943 Krebsbach served as SS Sturmbannführer (Major) and Standortarzt (Chief Physician) of the SS and the Police at the Linz, Steyr, Wels and Gusen satellite camps of the main Konzentrationslager (concentration camp) commonly referred to as KL Mauthausen-Gusen.

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In this period Krebsbach initiated the practice of mass execution of prisoners that he judged unworthy to live or unable to work. This was performed by lethal injections (Spritzen) of phenol directly into the heart, thus he killed or supervised the murder of at least 900 prisoners, for which he earned the nickname among inmates “Dr. Spritzbach”. Lethal heart injections continued to be administered at the Gusen camp twice a week even until April 1945.

Following the end of World War II he was arrested and given the death penalty during the Dachau trials conducted by the US military on 13 May 1946 and was executed by hanging on 28 May 1947 at Landsberg Prison in Landsberg am Lech.

The following is from the court record of the Dachau trials (quoted in Hans Maršálek, “Die Geschichte des Konzentrationslagers Mauthausen”, p. 174):

“Krebsbach: When I started work I was ordered by the head of Office III D to kill or have killed all those who were unable to work, and the incurably sick.

Prosecutor: And how did you carry out this order?

Krebsbach: Incurably sick inmates who were absolutely incapable of work were generally gassed. Some were also killed by gasoline injection.

Prosecutor: To your knowledge, how many persons were killed in this way in your presence?

Krebsbach: (no answer)

Prosecutor: You were ordered to kill those unfit to live?

Krebsbach: Yes. I was ordered to have persons killed if I was of the opinion that they were a burden on the state.

Prosecutor: Did it never occur to you that these were human beings, people who had the misfortune to be inmates or who had been neglected?

Krebsbach: No. People are like animals. Animals that are born deformed or incapable of living are put down at birth. This should be done for humanitarian reasons with people as well. This would prevent a lot of misery and unhappiness.

Prosecutor: That is your opinion. The world does not agree with you. Did it never occur to you that killing a human being is a terrible crime?

Krebsbach: No. Every state is entitled to protect itself against asocial persons including those unfit to live.

Prosecutor: In other words, it never occurred to you that what you were doing was a crime?

Krebsbach: No. I carried out my work to the best of my knowledge and belief because I had to.”

KZ Mauthausen, Ewald Krebsbach

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Primum non Nocere-First do no harm.

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First do no harm is  a misquoted line from the Hippocratic oath, but it has been adopted as part of it.The actual translation is “I will utterly reject harm and mischief” however the message is the same.

A great number of Physicians of the Nazi regime did not adhere to the oath. They took the opportunity to do a lot of harm in order to conduct their own experiments.

But some Nazi Doctors did stick to the oath with the aim to heal rather then to harm, and even defy the Nazi regime’s regulations.

US Army Pvt. Bob Levine arrived in England a few days before the Allied forces were to land on Normandy.

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He actively took part in the D-Day invasion and his 81-mm mortar crew was right behind the 90th Infantry when the actual invasion took place. The Allied forces met with fierce German opposition, and the intense fighting lasted weeks. In one such encounter, Levine was hit by a grenade that landed very close to him; his right leg was severely damaged in the explosion. He was captured by German forces, along with many other US soldiers. On his way to the POW camp, they were hit by a mortar shell fired by the US Army, which landed very close to POW killing scores of soldiers. Although Bob survived the explosion, his leg took more blows and he became even weaker and lost more blood.

Next thing Levine remembers was a Nazi doctor’s face, inspecting his wounds and reading his dog tag.

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Levine said that when this doctor read his dog tag and uttered the words ‘Was ist H?’ he knew then that he would definitely be executed. At that time, every American soldier had a religious designation marked on the dog tag, C for Catholic, P for Protestant and H for Hebrew. He was badly wounded, and was at the mercy of a Nazi doctor, in Nazi-controlled territory, and on top of all that, he was Jewish, Levine called this a recipe for disaster.

The Nazi doctor who treated Levine was Dr Edgar Woll.

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When Levine woke up after some time of unconsciousness, he found out that his leg had been amputated, and that the Nazi doctor was gone. His dog tag was missing and there was a note tucked into his pocket. The doctor had written a note on back of a Nazi propaganda card bearing quotes of the Fuehrer. Levine could not understand it, as it was written in German.

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The soldier couldn’t understand a word, but he clung to the card for months, hanging onto it while still a POW, after he was rescued by Allied troops and on the ship taking him back to the United States

Once translated, Levine found the note explained exactly why the doctor opted for amputation and detailed his post-surgical treatment:

“Crushed right foot. Fracture of lower leg. Foreign body in upper right leg’s tissue. Opening of the ankle joint. Amputation at place of fracture. Bandage with sulfa. Vaccinated against gas gangrene.”

After this, Levine was transferred to a POW camp, where he stayed until US soldiers liberated them and he was sent home.

The Nazi doctor had definitely saved his life, by performing an amputation, and most importantly removing his dog tag with its mention of ‘H’. The missing dog tags likely spared Levine from Berga, a notorious camp for Jewish POWs where 350 American soldiers were worked to the bone — or the grave.

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Levine went back to Normandy in 1981, where he wanted to meet the Nazi doctor but found out that he had died in 1954. A local historian tracked down Dr Woll’s family, who were happy to see Levine and his wife. They had an evening of drinks and toasts together. Levine mentioned to Edgar’s family how grateful he was for what he had done for Levine, to which one of Edgar’s family member said that if it hadn’t been for Levine, they would still be saying ‘Heil Hitler

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Karl Gebhardt Medical Experiments

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Karl Gebhardt was Gruppenführer in the SS and Generalleutnant (Lieutenant General) in the Waffen SS; personal physician to Reichsfuehrer-SS Himmler; Chief Surgeon of the Staff of the Reich Physician SS and Police (Oberster Kliniker, Reichsarzt SS und Polizei); and President of the German Red Cross.

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He served as Medical Superintendent of the Hohenlychen Sanatorium. As a physician he would have sworn to the Hippocratic Oath ‘First do no harm’

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He was a Consulting Surgeon of the Waffen-SS, Chief Surgeon in the Staff of the Reich Physician SS and Police, and personal physician to Heinrich Himmler.

Karl Gebhardt

Gebhardt was the main coordinator of a series of surgical experiments performed on inmates of the concentration camps at Ravensbrück and Auschwitz.

During the war, Gebhardt conducted medical and surgical experiments on prisoners in the concentration camps at Ravensbrück (which was close to Hohenlychen Sanatorium) and Auschwitz. At Ravensbruck he had initially faced opposition from camp commandant Fritz Suhren, who feared future legal problems given the status of most camp inmates as political prisoners, but the SS leadership backed Gebhardt and Suhren was forced to cooperate.

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In order to absolve Gebhardt for his failure to prescribe sulfonamide for Heydrich, Himmler suggested to Gebhardt that he should conduct experiments proving that sulfonamide was useless in the treatment of gangrene and sepsis. In order to vindicate his decision to not administer sulfa drugs in treating Heydrich’s wounds, he carried out a series of experiments on Ravensbrück concentration camp prisoners, breaking their legs and infecting them with various organisms in order to prove the worthlessness of the drugs in treating gas gangrene.

43-031He also attempted to transplant the limbs from camp victims to German soldiers wounded on the Russian front. The Ravensbrück experiments were slanted in Gebhardt’s favor; women in the sulfonamide-treated experimental group received little or no nursing care, while those in the untreated control group received better care. Not surprisingly, those in the control group were more likely to survive the experiments.

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During the Subsequent Nuremberg Trials, Gebhardt stood trial in the Doctors’ Trial (9 December 1946–20 August 1947), along with 22 other doctors.

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He was found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity and sentenced to death on 20 August 1947. He was hanged on 2 June 1948, in Landsberg Prison in Bavaria.

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Fritz Klein’s interpretation of the Hippocratic oath.

Nuremberg Trial Suspect Fritz Klein, Belsen Camp Doctor

Fritz Klein (24 November 1888 – 13 December 1945) was a German Nazi physician hanged for his role in atrocities at Bergen-Belsen concentration camp during the Holocaust.

Klein was born in Feketehalom, Austria-Hungary (now Codlea in central Romania).Klein was considered a Volksdeutscher, or ethnic German. He studied medicine at the University of Budapest and completed his military service in Romania, finishing his studies in Budapest after World War I. He lived as a doctor in Siebenbürgen(Transylvania). In 1939 as a Romanian citizen he was drafted into the Romanian army, where after the outbreak of the war with the Soviet Union in 1941 he served as paramedic on the eastern front. In May 1943 Romanian dictator Marshal Antonescu, on a demand from Hitler to release ethnic Germans in the Romanian Army, drafted them into the German army.

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Hence Klein became a soldier in the Waffen-SS, was listed in the SS-Personalhauptamt, and was posted to Yugoslavia.

On 15 December 1943, he arrived in Auschwitz concentration camp, where at first he served as a camp doctor in the women’s camp in Birkenau. Subsequently, he worked as a camp doctor in the Gypsy camp. He also participated in numerous selections (“Selektionen”) on the ramp. In December 1944 he was transferred to Neuengamme concentration camp, from where he was sent to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in January 1945.

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He remained at the camp with commandant Josef Kramer and assisted in handing it over to British troops. Klein was imprisoned and required to help bury all unburied corpses in mass graves.

Dr. Fritz Klein

The British Fifth Army Film & Photographic Unit photographed Klein standing in a mass grave in a well-known 1945 photo.

When asked how he reconciled his actions with his ethical obligations as a physician, Klein famously stated:

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“My Hippocratic oath tells me to cut a gangrenous appendix out of the human body. The Jews are the gangrenous appendix of mankind. That’s why I cut them out.”

Klein and 44 other camp staff were tried in the Belsen Trial by a British military court at Lüneburg. The trial lasted several weeks from September to November 1945. During the trial Anita Lasker testified that he took part in selections for the gas chamber. He was sentenced to death and hanged at Hamelin jail by Albert Pierrepoint on 13 December 1945

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