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azi medical experiments in concentration camps affected a wide range of prisoners like Jews, Roma, Poles, and Russians, but also German people with various disabilities. The experiments can be divided into several categories according to the reason why they were performed. Some had tried to reinforce the idea that the Aryan race is superior to all others, others were made to provide information to the military about the resilience of the human body in various conditions, while some prisoners were used as guinea pigs for various drugs.

There had also been medical experiments that had no real purpose but were born only out of the pure sick curiosity of those who performed and conducted them such as finding a cure for homosexuality or injecting substances into the eyes of detainees to change the color of the iris.

There is a misconception that all these abominable things happened only in the Auschwitz camp under the command of Dr. Josef Mengele. Nothing more false! Various experiments on detainees were carried out in all camps. Those who were experimented on did not express a desire to participate voluntarily in experiments but were chosen on various criteria and constrained by the doctors who led these real tortures. Also, the detainees were never informed which experiments they would participate in, and the results most often consisted of the death, disfigurement, or amputation of the participants.

After the war, the crimes performed by these doctors were tried separately in the Nuremberg Trials which went down in history as the Doctors Trial. It should be noted that Dr. Josef Mengele never arrived in front of a panel of judges, he managed to escape at the end of the war to Argentina as many historians choose to believe.

Experiments on twins

Twins Yehudit and Lea, some of Mengele’s test subjects in 1944 (Source: The History Collection)

Mengele’s favorites, experiments on twin children, tried to demonstrate the similarities and differences between twins, but also how the human body can be manipulated beyond its normal limits. Between 1943 and 1944, the “doctor of death” performed about 1,500 medical experiments on twins, of which only 200 survived. By far the most abominable procedure he tested was the attempt to surgically create Siamese twins, which would divide various organs.

Transplantation of bones, muscles, or nerves

LEG Survivor Helena Hegier’s disfigured leg (Source: Holocaust Encyclopedia)

These experiments took place mainly in the women’s camp at Ravensbrück. Between 1942 and 1943, several experiments were performed here, often taking, without anesthesia, pieces of bone, muscle, or nerves from the detainees. Attempts were made either to observe the regeneration of various tissues or to transplant tissue from one person to another. Many of the people who underwent the experiments died in terrible torment due to infections or amputations.

Nazis conducting an experiment on a detainee (Source:

The information obtained from these experiments was used in medicine applied in the army on the front. Although it is inhuman how they were obtained, a number of results were later taken over and analyzed by the Allies.

Testing the effects of hypothermia

Also for military medical needs, especially in the difficult conditions on the eastern front, the Luftwaffe commissioned a series of experiments to test the human body’s ability to withstand the cold. Most of the guinea pigs were Russian prisoners. They were considered to be genetically more resistant than the Germans, so they were repeatedly used for these experiments. There were about 400 such experiments in which detainees endured the cold either in the water or naked in the blizzard.

Prisoner from Dachau concentration camp submerged in freezing water (Source: Jewish Virtual Library)

About 300 people had endured these experiments more than once. Some were sentenced to death from the beginning because the experiment itself consisted of discovering the exact temperature at which a person’s death occurs in the cold. Various methods of resuscitating those who died of hypothermia were also tried. One of the experiments even involved throwing the dying into hot water. The main concentration camps where these experiments were performed were in Dachau and Auschwitz. The one who did the research and published some studies on these morbid experiments was Dr. SS (Schutzstaffel) Sigmund Rascher.

Malaria tests

Experiments with the malaria injection of Dachau prisoners consisted primarily of testing various drugs that SS doctors thought might work. These experiments were performed on 1,000 people, and more than half of them died.

Immunization experiments

Several concentration camps in Germany, such as Sachsenhausen, Dachau, Natzweiler, Buchenwald, and Neuengamme, had hosted sinister experiments in which various drugs were tested. Patients infected with various diseases were tested to find various serums and immunization vaccines for diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria, typhoid fever, yellow fever, typhoid and liver infections,

Experiments with Hyperlite (mustard gas)

Several experiments with this product were made during the war in the Sachsenhausen and Natzweiler camps. Here, detainees were deliberately exposed to this product that causes severe burns, and then treatments were sought to cure them.

Sulfamide experiments

During 1942–1943 in Ravensbrück, the effectiveness of sulfamide against various streptococci and bacteria was tested. The detainees were injured and then infected with streptococci which triggered gangrene and tetanus. The infection was aggravated by the introduction of a splinter of wood or shredded glass into the wound, thus simulating the conditions of a wound on the battlefield. Then sulfamide or other drugs were placed here to see their effectiveness.

Seawater experiments

Roma (Gypsy) after the experiment (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Although it seems innovative, seawater became a real weapon in the hands of Dachau torturers. In 1944, they tried to obtain various methods to turn seawater into drinking water. However, in the first instance, 90 Roma detainees were selected and deprived of food and water, being given only seawater. They suffered terribly from dehydration, according to witnesses who saw them, some of them licking the freshly washed floor. Dr. Hans Eppinger led these experiments.

Sterilization experiments

In 1933, a series of laws on eugenics were approved in Germany, legalizing the sterilization of people with disabilities considered hereditary: schizophrenia, alcoholism, insanity, blindness, deafness, muteness, retardation, and physical disabilities of any kind. By the start of the war, only about 300,000 people were sterilized. After 1941, in several concentration camps, including Auschwitz and Ravensbrück, Dr. Carl Clauberg conducted these experiments in an attempt to obtain a method of sterilization that was as inexpensive as possible and that involved very little effort.

Polish women released from Ravensbrück in 1945 talk with a Soviet doctor (left) (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

X-ray irradiation, various surgical methods, and also various drugs or substances were tried. Thousands of victims were sterilized during these experiments, but outside of them, there was a government program through which about 400,000 individuals were forcibly sterilized. In the experiments, the detainees were given intravenous injections of iodine or silver nitrate, but instead of the expected reactions, they suffered from severe abdominal pain, vaginal bleeding, and even cervical cancer.

Subsequently, the ‘treatment’ with radiation became the main method of sterilization. A certain amount of radiation destroys the human body’s capacity for sperm or eggs. The radiation was administered by telling the prisoners that they had to fill in a form. During this time, as they wrote, the ‘treatment’ was applied to them.

Poison experiments

For about a year, between 1943–1944, in the Buchenwald camp, various experiments were carried out on detainees with several poisons: how the human body reacts to these substances. These substances were put in the food of the detainees. Some died in terrible torment, others were killed by guards to have an autopsy performed on their bodies.

Experiments with incendiary bombs

Jewish prisoner with 3rd-degree burns (Source: Jewish Virtual Library)

Also in Buchenwald, during the same period, tests were performed to see the effectiveness of some pharmaceuticals against wounds caused by incendiary bombs — those with phosphorus. The detainees were exposed to the phosphorus extracted from these bombs and then various drugs were used to treat the burns. Many, on the other hand, died.

We must not let anyone forget the atrocities caused by the Nazis, as the holocaust does not only consist of the Jewish genocide, but also of their torture and the torture of many other nationalities.

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