The Nazi Doctors of the Third Reich committed some of the most heinous crimes against humanity, and conducted sadistic medical experimentation on human test subjects within the concentration camps. Disregarding the Hippocratic Oath they had taken to safeguard the physical and mental health of their patients, they were responsible for the Aktion T4 murders of those deemed mentally and physically disabled, whilst the camp doctors actively participated in the Holocaust and were personally responsible for sending millions of people to the gas chambers. The scientific doctors and professors were the creative minds behind the V2 missile, the rockets launched against allied targets that killed thousands of civilians and later formed the basis for the concept of space exploration to place a man on the moon but at the cost of thousands of lives through the use of slave labor. Although a significant number were tried and executed for their crimes, some escaped the hangman's noose by committing suicide in the final days of the crumbling Reich, whilst others were later recruited by American Intelligence as part of Operation Paperclip, for which their services and expertise were utilised as part of the Space Race.
In September 1939, Hitler authorised the implementation for Euthanasia programme which saw the establishment of specially designated clinics which would become killing centres for the mentally and physically disabled. The chief architects of the program were his personal physician Dr. Karl Brandt, chief of the Hauptamt II in the Chancellery of the Führer, Dr. Viktor Brack and Chief of the Chancellery of the Führer of the NSDAP, Reichsleiter Philipp Bouhler. Designated Aktion T4 after Tiergartenstrasse 4, a street address of the Chancellery department set up in the spring of 1940. SS and civilian Doctors and personnel were assigned to the Euthanasia clinics to carry out the sanctioned murders and disposal of the victims. Thousands of men, women and children were sent to the six euthanasia sanatorium's across Germany.
These centres, Bernberg, Bradenburg, Grafaneck, Hadamar, Hartheim and Sonnenstein are synonymous with the secret state sanctioned murders where SS and civilian staff, such as Horst Schumann and Irmfried Eberl, administered lethal injections, falsified the death certificates and cremated the remains. The Nazi Doctors used pseudonyms and code-names when completing the death certificates and despite the secrecy surrounding the facilities, the killing process eventually became public knowledge and following condemnation from the families of the victims and the Catholic Church, the program was publicly stopped, but was instead scaled down, and the killings secretly continued until the end of the war.
The scientific minds of the Third Reich developed many dangerous weapons for the Nazi war machine and none were more lethal than the V-1 and V-2 rockets. The rocket program was originally developed at the Peenemünde Army Research Centre, under Dr. Wernher von Braun and Dr. Walter Dornberger, who collaborated with other doctors and scientists in the concept, planning and creation of the world's first large-scale liquid-propellant ballistic missile. Although Dr. von Braun had envisioned another used for his rockets, they were termed vengeance weapons by Hitler, who wanted them used against allied cities such as London to spread terror into the civilian population.
After the RAF launched a raid on the Peenemünde research facility, the V-2 program was relocated to the underground Mittelwerk at the Kohnstein mountain of the Nordhausen area. There the rocket production was resumed with large numbers of prisoners used as slave labor from the nearby Dora-Mittelbau concentration camp. The appaling conditions resulted in thousands of deaths of inmates who were beaten, starved, tortured and murdered by the SS guards who oversaw the work on the weapons.
When the Nordhausen facility was liberated by the American Army, US specialists began to appropriate and seize the design documents of the rockets and shiped the parts, materials and captured scientists to the United States. Wernher von Braun himself would approach the US Military, who employed over 100 former Nazi scientists as part of Operation Paperclip. The Soviets were also successful in capturing hundreds of Nazi scientists associated with the V-2 program and both countries now began a race to develop the technology for use with placing the first humans into space. These scientific ambitions were the result of thousands of concentration camp inmates, who were worked to death in the development of the rockets as well as the civilians who died in Hitler's desire for vengeance.
It would be the concentration camps, set-up by the Nazi Government to imprison all perceived enemies of the Third Reich which would ultimately be the primary locations for the majority of abuses, murders and medical experimentation perpetrated by the doctors, dentists and physicians. Within each facility the Concentration Camp Inspectorate established five departments, each with a specific function to ensure there was a clearly defined system of administration, of which the Medical Service ironically, played a significant role in the abuse of the camp population. Department I consisted of the command staff, which included the camp commandant and Department II was the Political Department which consisted of the camp Gestapo. Department III were the Protective Custody officers, Department IV came under the camp administration and lastly, Department V was the Medical Service.
The SS Economic and Administrative Main Office (W.V.H.A) oversaw the Medical Service Department within each concentration camp. SS-Standartenführer Dr. Enno Lolling was the chief of Amtsgruppe DIII of the WVHA, which was the Office for Sanitation and Camp Hygiene based in Oranienburg. In this position as Chief Physician at the Concentration Camp Inspectorate, Dr. Lolling supervised all concentration camp doctors and was responsible for the allocation and transfer of medical personnel within the camp system. He also received the professional evaluations and monthly reports from the camp physicians. Although he was the senior physician, Lolling was subordinate to SS-Obergruppenführer Dr. Ernst-Robert Grawitz who was the Reichsarzt SS und Polizei (Reich Physician of the SS and Police), as well as head of the German Red Cross.
Within the Medical Service Department (Division V), there were several distinct positions which were filled by a variety of medical practitioners from the SS, Wehrmacht, Luftwaffe and Waffen-SS, as well as civilian doctors. The Camp Physician, also known as the 1st Camp Doctor served as head of the Medical Service Department and acted as Chief Doctor of the Concentration Camp. The Military Doctor was responsible for the medical care of the SS-Totenkopfwachmannschaften (camp guards and assorted personnel) and their families who lived and worked on site. All other medical positions were undertaken by the Camp Doctors, who were known as the 2nd Camp Doctor and included, medical doctors, dentists and pharmacists who's primary purpose was to provide medical care to the inmates and prevent the spread of disease.
Most of the camp medical personnel were involved in conducting pseudo-medical experiments, which were determined to cure a variety of issues. These experiments were intended to help the Third Reich with the war effort, from helping German military personnel in combat situations as well as the recovery of those who had been injured, to the development of new weapons and ultimately the advancement of Nazi racial theory and ideology. This meant the inmates were viewed as sub-human test subjects, particularly Poles, Jews, Slavs, Soviet POW's, Romani and Sinti and disabled Germans, who's lives were considered forfeit for the good of the Reich. They were experimented upon with diseases such as typhus, smallpox, malaria and exposed to sterilisation and fertility experiments and chemical weapons such as mustard gas.
Doctors such as Sigmund Rascher conducted barbaric aviation and freezing tests, which resulted in cruel deaths, whilst some of the more notorious doctors, such as Josef Mengele conducted experiments on Jewish children, and Peter Værnet who tested on homosexuals in an attempt to cure them of what the Nazis deemed an affliction, offered no contributions to medical science. Other experiments may have contributed to the betterment of mankind, such as cancer research, but came at the terrible cost of human life.
The doctors were also involved in the various other crimes against humanity conducted at the camps, which included selections from incoming inmate transports and those who were to be sent directly to the camp infirmary. They also monitored the gas chambers and executions conducted by the Gestapo to certify the death of prisoners and SS dentists supervised the extraction and process of the dental gold removed from inmates teeth.
They were sometimes assisted in these crimes by inmate doctors and nurses who unwillingly carried out medical care, which was against the primary directives of the SS mandate. After the war the camp doctors and scientists were actively sought by the Soviet and Allied authorities for the crimes they committed, and some of the most notorious were apprehended, tried and executed at the Doctor's Trial in 1947. Others were executed during other trials conducted by the Americans, Russians and British with 8 SS Doctors hanged by the British Executioner Albert Pierrepoint.
After the war the German Medical Association identified a core group of 350 doctors who were involved in committing atrocities. Listed below is a comprehensive, but incomplete index of SS, military and civilian doctors who participated in war crimes and crimes against humanity during the Third Reich. Any research information and photographs are most welcome and shall be attributed to the contributor if desired.
Written by Nucleus
Written by Nucleus