Is it acceptable to use data from Nazi medical experiments?

The question ‘Is it acceptable to use data from Nazi experiments?’ is one of the most difficult ethical questions to answer. At least for me it is, I am a man who bases a lot of his decisions on his gut feeling. In this case my gut feeling says no.

However if I keep my opinion of this devoid of all emotion, it throws up another question ‘Is it acceptable to use data from Nazi experiments, to safe someone in your family?’. In that case I more then likely would come to a different answer.

I am not going to tell anyone what their answer should be. I will just highlight some of the experiments and how they were conducted. But I’ll start with one experiment and its conclusion.

At the start of August 1942, at Dachau concentration camp, prisoners were forced to sit in tanks of freezing water for up to three hours. After subjects were frozen, they then underwent different methods for rewarming. Many subjects died in this process. The data of this experiment did reveal that body-temperature recovery was fastest with immersion in warm water, but that rewarming and presumably survival were achieved with the other methods, too.

The horizontal axis shows minutes, and the vertical axis temperature (°C). The German title can be translated as “Effect of combined rewarming treatment: warm bath, massage and light box.” The water temperature was 8°C. The arrows and numbers (1 to 6) were superimposed by the present author. Translations of the corresponding notations from the German are: 1, in water; 2, period out of bath (no German notation); 3, warm bath; 4, massage; 5, light box; and 6, response to speech (regaining of consciousness).

Sterilization Experiments: Himmler’s interest in Dr Clauberg’s Cell Block 10 was sterilization. He convinced Clauberg to begin experiments on reversing his infertility treatments and to discover ways to block the fallopian tubes. Clauberg redirected all of his energies toward the single goal of effective mass sterilization. Thousands of inmates had their genitals mutilated in order to discover cheap methods of sterilization. The Nazis hoped that these methods could ultimately be applied to millions of “unwanted” prisoners. Women at Auschwitz were sterilized by injections of caustic substances into their cervix or uterus, producing horrible pain, inflamed ovaries, bursting spasms in the stomach, and bleeding. Young men had their testicles subjected to large doses of radiation and were subsequently castrated to ascertain the pathological change in their testes.

Mustard gas experiments: Between September 1939 and April 1945, many experiments were conducted at Sachsenhausen, Natzweiler, and other camps to investigate the most effective treatment of wounds caused by mustard gas. Test subjects were deliberately exposed to mustard gas and other vesicants (e.g. Lewisite) which inflicted severe chemical burns. The victims’ wounds were then tested to find the most effective treatment for the mustard gas burn.

Poison Experiments: A research team at Buchenwald developed a method of individual execution through the intravenous injections of phenol gasoline and cyanide on Russian prisoners. The experiments were designed to see how fast the subjects would die.

Tuberculosis Experiments: The Nazis conducted experiments to determine whether there were any natural immunities to Tuberculosis (“TB”) and to develop a vaccination serum against TB. Doctor Heissmeyer sought to disprove the popular belief that TB was an infectious disease. Doctor Heissmeyer claimed that only an “exhaustive” organism was receptive to such infection, most of all the racially “inferior organism of the Jews.” Heissmeyer injected live tubercle bacilli into the subjects’ lungs to immunize against TB. He also removed the lymph glands from the arms of twenty Jewish children. About 200 adult subjects perished, and twenty children were hanged at the Bullenhauser Dam in Heissmeyer’s effort to hide the experiments from the approaching Allied Army.

Malaria experiments: Between February 1942 to about April 1945, experiments were conducted at the Dachau concentration camp in order to investigate immunization for treatment of malaria. Healthy inmates were infected by mosquitoes or by injections of extracts of the mucous glands of female mosquitoes. After contracting the disease, the subjects were treated with various drugs to test their relative efficacy. Over 1,200 people were used in these experiments and more than half died as a result .Other test subjects were left with permanent disabilities.

Malaria card of Father Bruno Stachowski from Claus Schilling’s research at Dachau. Approximately 1000 cards were kept back from destruction by the prisoner assistant Eugène Ost.

Epidemic Jaundice experiments: From about June 1943 to about January 1945 experiments were conducted at the Sachsenhausen and Natzweiler concentration camps, for the benefit of the German Armed Forces, to investigate the causes of, and inoculations against, epidemic jaundice. Experimental subjects were deliberately infected with epidemic jaundice, some of whom died as a result, and others were caused great pain and suffering.

Every prisoner of the regime was deemded to be a potential subject for inhuman research. Helpless victims, the inmates of psychiatric hospitals and concentration camps, were available for exploitation while alive. Leading scientists and professors took an active part in this ruthless abuse. Every university anatomical institute in Germany — and probably Austria — was the recipient of the cadavers of victims of Nazi terror, in particular, political victims executed by the Gestapo.

After the war, West Germany allowed Doctor Baron Otmar Von Verschuer to continue his professional career. Doctor Von Verschuer was the mentor, inspiration and sponsor of Mengele. After he executed his victims. Mengele would personally remove the victims’ eyes, while there were still warm, and ship them to Von Verschuer to analyze. n 1951, Verschuer was awarded the prestigious professorship of human genetics at the University of Münster, where he established one of the largest centers of genetics research in West Germany.

The question ‘Is it acceptable to use data from Nazi experiments?’ will remain a controversial one.



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