Document UK-81 Source: Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression. Volume VIII. USGPO, Washington, 1946/p.635-642


Affidavit of Fritz Ernst Fischer

I, Fritz Ernst Fischer, being first duly sworn according to law, upon my oath do depose and say:

I am a doctor of medicine, having been graduated from the University of Hamburg and passed my State Examination in 1936. On 13 November 1939 I was inducted into the Waffen-SS and after having served with a combat division as medical officer, I was hospitalized and then assigned to the SS Hospital at Hohenlychen, as Assistant Surgeon.

In addition to my normal duties as surgeon at the SS Hospital. at Hohenlychen, on or about 12 July 1942 I was ordered by Professor Gebhardt to begin medical experiments in my capacity as assistant surgeon to Professor Gebhardt. Professor Gebhardt was a Gruppenfuehrer SS, supreme clinical physician on the staff of the Reichsarzt der SS and Polizei [Oberster Kliniker im Stab Reichsarzt SS and Polizei], and was chief of the SS Hospital at Hohenlychen. The purpose of, the proposed experiments was to determine the effectiveness of sulfanilamide, which I was informed at that time was a matter of considerable importance to military medical circles.

According to the information which I received from Professor Gebhardt, these experiments were directed initially by the Reichsfuehrer SS and the Reichsarzt, Dr.Grawitz.

Professor Gebhardt instructed me, before the operations were undertaken, on the techniques to be followed and the methods of procedure to be employed. Although I was informed by Professor Gebhardt that the subjects of the experiments were to be inmates of the concentration camp at Ravensbruck who were sentenced to death, I had nothing to do with the selection of the patients and hence do not know whether all the subjects of the experiments were sentenced to death or what authority made the determination to condemn these persons to death.

The administrative procedure which was followed in obtaining the subjects for the experiments was established by Professor Gebhardt with the camp commandant at Ravensbruck. After the initial arrangements had been made, it was the general practice to inform the medical officer at Ravensbruck as to the date on which a series of experiments was to be begun and the number of patients which would be required, and then he took the matter up with the commandant of the camp, by whom the selections of subjects were made. Before an operation was undertaken, the persons who had been selected in accordance with this procedure, received a medical examination by the camp physician to determine their suitability for the experiments from a medical stand-point.

The first of the series of experiments involved five persons. The gangrenous bacterial cultures for use in the experiments were obtained from the Hygienisches Institute der Waffen SS. The procedure followed in the operations was as follows: the subject received the conventional anaesthetic of morphine atropine, then evipan-ether. An incision was made five to eight centimetres in length and one to one-and-a-half centimetres in depth, on the outside of the lower leg in the area of the peronaeus longus.

The bacterial cultures were put in dextrose, and the resulting mixture was spread into the wound. The wound was then closed and the limb encased in a cast which had been prepared, which was lined on the inside with cotton, so that in the event of swelling of the affected member, the result of the experiment would not be influenced by any factor other than the infection itself.

The bacterial cultures used on each of the five persons varied both as to the type of bacteria used and the amount of culture used.

After the initial operations had been performed, I returned to Ravensbruck each afternoon, to observe the progress of the persons who had been operated on. No serious illnesses resulted from these initial operations. I reported the progress of the patients to Professor Gebhardt each night.

When the five persons who were first operated on, were cured, another series of five was begun. The surgical procedure and the post-operative procedure was the same as in the initial experiments, but the bacterial cultures were more virulent. The results from this series were substantially the same as in the first and no serious illnesses resulted.

Since no inflammation resulted from the bacterial cultures used in the first two series of operations, it was determined, as a result of correspondence with Dr. Mugrowsky, the head of the Hygienisches Institute der Waffen SS and conversations with his assistant, to change the type of bacterial culture in the subsequent operations. Using the new culture, two more series of operations were performed, each involving five persons.

The difference between the third and fourth series was in the bacterial cultures used. The Hygienisches Institute der Waffen SS prepared them from separate combinations of the three or four gangrene cultures which were available. In the third and fourth series, a more pronounced infection and inflammation was discernible at the place of incision. Its characteristics were similar to a normal, local infection, with redness, swelling and pain. The circumference of the infection was comparable in size to a chestnut. Upon the completion of the fourth series the camp physician informed me that the camp commandant had instructed him that no longer would male patients be available for further experiments, but that it would be necessary to use female inmates.

Accordingly; five women had been prepared for the operation, but I did not operate on them. I reported the change of situation to Professor Gebhardt and suggested that in view of these circumstances, it would be desirable to stop the experimental operations. He did not adopt this suggestion, however, and pointed out that it was necessary, as an officer, that I carry out my duty, which had been assigned to me.

The experiments, however, were interrupted for a period of two weeks, during which Professor Gebhardt told me he had discussed the matter at Berlin and was instructed to carry on the experiments, using Polish female prisoners. In addition, he instructed me to increase the tempo of experiments since the Reichsartz, Dr. Grawitz, intended soon to go to Ravensbruck to test the results of the experiments. Accordingly, I went to Ravensbruck and operated on the female prisoners.

Since the infections which resulted from the first four series of experiments were not typical of battlefield gangrenous infections, we communicated with the Hygienisches Institute der Waffen SS to determine what steps could be taken more nearly to simulate battle-caused infections. As a result of this correspondence and a conference at Hohenlychen presided over by 'Professor Gebhardt, it was decided to add tiny fragments of wood shavings to the bacterial cultures, which would simulate the crust of dirt customarily found in battlefield wounds.

As a result of this conference, three series of operations were performed, each involving ten persons, one using the bacterial culture ,and fragments of wood, the second using bacterial culture and fragments of glass, and the third using the culture plus glass and wood.

About two weeks after these new series were. begun, Dr. Grawitz visited Ravensbruck. Professor Gebhardt introduced him to me and explained to him the general nature of the work. Professor Gebhardt then left, and I explained to Dr. Grawitz the details of the operations and their results. Dr. Grawitz, before I could complete my report on the procedures used and the results obtained, brusquely interrupted me and observed that the conditions under which the experiments were performed did not sufficiently resemble conditions prevailing at the front. He asked me literally, "How many deaths have there been?" and when I reported that there had not been any, he stated that that con-firmed his assumption that the experiments had not been carried out in accordance with his directions.

He said that the operations were mere fleabites and that since the purpose of the work was to determine the effectiveness of sulfanilamide on bullet wounds it would be necessary to inflict actual bullet wounds on the patients. He ordered that the next series of experiments to be undertaken should be 'in accordance with these directions. That same evening, I discussed these orders of Dr. Grawitz with Professor Gebhardt and we both agreed that it was impossible to carry them out, but that a procedure would be adopted which would more nearly simulate battlefield conditions without actually shooting the patients.

The normal result of all bullet wounds is a shattering of tissue, which did not exist in the initial experiments. As a result of the injury, the normal flow of blood through the muscle is cut off. The muscle is nourished by the flow of blood from either end. When this circulation is interrupted, the affected area becomes a fertile field for the growth of bacteria; the normal reaction of the tissue against the bacteria is not possible without circulation.

This interruption of circulation usual in battle casualties could be simulated by tying off the blood vessels at either end of the muscle.

Two series of operations, each involving ten persons, were begun following this procedure. In the first of these, the same bacterial cultures were used as were developed in the third and fourth series; but the glass and wood were omitted, In the other series, streptococci and staphlococci cultures were used.

In the series using the gangrenous culture a severe infection in the area of the incision resulted within 24 hours. Eight patients out of ten became sick from the gangrenous infection. Cases which showed symptoms of an unspecific or specific inflammation were operated on in accordance with the doctrine and manner of septic surgery. The doctrine of Lexer formed the basis for the procedure. The technique is that an incision in the area of the gangrene is made from healthy tissue to healthy tissue on either side. The wound and the corners of the fascia (the fibrous covering of the muscle) were laid open, the gangrenous blisters swabbed, and a solution of H202 (hydrogen perox-ide) was poured over them. The inflamed extremity 'was immobilized in a cast. With most patients it was possible to improve the gangrenous condition of the entire infected area in this manner.

In the series in which banal cultures of streptococci and staphlococci were used, the severe resultant infection with accompanying increase in temperature and swelling did not occur until seventy-two hours later. Four patients showed a more serious picture of the disease. In the case of these patients, the normal professional technique of orthodox medicine was followed as outlined above, and the inflamed swelling split. Due to the slight virulence of the bacteria it was possible in the case of all patients except one to prevent the threatened deadly development of the disease.

The incisions were made on the lower part of 'the leg only in all series to make an amputation possible. It was not made on the upper thigh because then no area for amputation would remain. However, in the series the inflammation was so rapid there was no remedy and no amputations were made.

Since after the tying up of the circulation of the muscles, a very severe course of infection was to be expected, five grams of sulfanilamide were given intravenously in the amount of one gram each, beginning one hour after the operation. After the wound was laid open to expose all its corners, sulfanilamide was shaken into the entire area and the area was drained by thick rubber tubes.

The infection normally reached an acute stage over a period of three weeks, during which time I changed the bandages daily. After the period of three weeks the condition was normally that of a simple wound which was dressed by the camp physicians rather than by me. The procedure prescribed for the post-operative treatment of the patients was to give them three times each day one cc of morphine, and when the dressings were changed, to induce anesthesia by the use of evipan. If evipan could not be given because of the condition of the patient, morphine was used.

In all the series of experiments, except the first, sulfanilamide was used after the gangrenous infection appeared. In each series two persons were not given sulfanilamide as a control to determine its effectiveness. When sulfanilamide and the bacteria cultures together were introduced into the incision no inflammation resulted.

I do not remember exactly how many people were subjected to the sulfanilamide experiments. So far as I can remember, there were six series of experiments, each involving approximately ten persons. I remember positively, however, that deaths occurred only in the last two series. One of the patients in the banal culture series died, and three persons died of an acute gangrenous infection.

After the arrival of Doctor Stumpfegger from general head-quarters in the fall of 1942, Professor Gebhardt declared before some of his co-workers that he had received orders to continue with the tests at Ravensbruck on a larger scale. In this connection, questions of plastic surgery which would be of interest after the end of the war should be clarified. Doctor Stumpfegger was supposed to test the free transplantation of bones. Since Professor Gebhardt knew that I had worked in preparation for my habilitation at the university on regeneration of tissues, he ordered me to prepare a surgical plan for these operations, which after it had been approved he directed me to carry out immediately. Moreover, Doctor Koller and Doctor Heissmeyer were ordered to perform their own series of experiments. Professor Gebhardt was also considering a plan to form the basis of an operative technique of remobilization of joints. Besides the above, Doctors Schulze and Schulze-Hagen participated in this conference. Since I knew Ravensbruck I was ordered to introduce the new doctors named above to the camp physician. I was specially directed to assist Doctor Stumpfegger, since he as physician in the staff of Himmler probably would be absent from time to time.

I had selected the regeneration of muscles for the sole reason because the incision necessary for this purpose was the slightest. The operation was carried out as follows:

Evipan and ether were used as an anesthetic, and a five centimetre longitudinal incision was made at the outer side of the upper leg. Subsequent to the cutting through the fascia, a piece of the muscle was removed which was the size of the cup of the little finger. The fascia and skin were enclosed in accordance with the normal technique of aseptic surgery. Afterwards a cast was applied. After one week the skin wound was split under the same narcotic conditions, and the part of the muscle around the area cut out was removed. Afterwards the fascia and the sewed-up part of the skin were immobilized in a cast.

Since Professor Gebhardt did not ask me any longer for these operations, I discontinued them.

Only one female patient was operated on whose wounds healed under normal aseptic conditions.

As a disciple of Lexer, Gebhardt had already planned long ago a free heteroplastic transplantation of bone (a transplantation'of a bone from one person to another person). In spite of the fact that some of his co-workers did not agree, he was resolved to carry out such an operation on the patient Ladisch, whose shoulder joint (scapula, clavicle, and the head of the humerus) was removed because of a sarcoma.

I and my medical colleagues urged professional and human objections up until the evening before the operation was performed but Gebhardt ordered us to carry out the operations. Doctor Stumpfegger, in whose field of research this operation was, was supposed to perform the removal of the scapula (shoulder blade) at Ravensbruck, and had already made initial arrangements therefor. However, because Professor Gebhardt required Doctor Stumpfegger to assist him in the actual transplantation of the shoulder to the patient Ladisch, I was ordered to go to Ravensbruck and perform the operation' of removal on that evening. I asked Doctor Gebhardt and Schulze to describe exactly the technique which they wished me to follow. The next morning I drove to Ravensbruck after I had made a previous appointment by telephone. At Hohenlychen I had already made the normal initial preparation for an operation, namely, scrubbing, etc., merely put on my coat, and went to Ravensbruck and removed the bone.

The camp physician who was assisting me in the operation continued with it while I returned to Hohenlychen as quickly as possible with the bone which was to be transplanted. In this man-ner the period between removal and transplantation was shortened. At Hohenlychen the bone was handed over to Professor Gebhardt, and he transplanted it, together with Doctor 'Schulze and Doctor Stumpfegger.

Subsequent to the foregoing test operations (gangrenous in-fection) I had impressed on Professor Gebhardt that now we had results which would justify their cessation. I ceased to operate, and later on I did not receive any order to continue with the operations. I did not carry out another order for Doctor Stumpfegger, who was absent at that time, to Continue his work.

My behavior towards all patients was very considerate, and I was very careful in the operations to follow standard professional procedure.

In May 1943 at the occasion of the fourth conference of the consulting physicians of the Wehrmacht a report was made by Professor Gebhardt and myself as to these operations. This medical congress was called by Professor Handloser, who occupied the position of surgeon general of the armed forces, and was attended by a large number of physicians; both military and civilian.

In my lecture to the meeting I reported the operations in an open way using charts which demonstrated the technique used, the amount of sulfanilamide administered, and the condition of the patients. This lecture was the center of the conference. Professor Gebhardt spoke about the fundamentals of the experi-ments, their performance, and their results, and asked me then to describe the technique. He began his lecture with the following words:

"I carry the full human, surgical, and political responsibility for these experiments."

This lecture was followed by a discussion. No criticism was raised. I am convinced that all the physicians present would have acted in the same manner as I.

Subsequent to my repeated urgent requests, I went to the front as surgeon immediately after this conference. Only after I was wounded did I return as a patient to Hohenlychen. I never entered the camp Ravensbruck again. I protested vigorously against these experiments on human beings, endeavored to prevent them, and to limit their extension after they had been ordered. In order not to be forced to participate in these experiments, I repeatedly volunteered for front-line service. Insofar as it was in my power, I have tried to dissuade Doctor Koller and Doctor Heissmeyer from performing these experiments. I declined habilitation at the University of Berlin because I felt that it might result in my being obliged to carry on additional experiments at Ravensbruck. Since I succeeded in scientific discoveries of the highest practical importance, that is, the solution of the cancer problem and its therapy, I have not communicated this fact to Professor Gebhardt and have not published this work in order not to be ordered again to carry out experiments.

[signed] ] Fritz Fischer

Subscribed and sworn to before me this 21st day of November 1945.

[signed] John J. Monigan, Jr.

Document compiled by Dr S D Stein
Last update 26/03/02 12:08:46
S D Stein

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