Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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Chapter 15 

The Experimental Impulse 
  I have no words. I thought we were human beings. We were living creatures. How could they do things like that?   
  Auschwitz survivor   
Nazi doctors are infamous for their cruel medical experiments. And no wonder: those experiments killed and maimed; as tangible medical crimes, they were given considerable prominence at the Nuremberg Medical Trial. Yet they were no more than a small part of the extensive and systematic medicalized killing. And it is that aspect of the experiments — their relation to the Nazi biomedical vision — that I shall mainly discuss.

Generally speaking, Nazi medical experiments fall into two categories: those sponsored by the regime for a specific ideological and military purpose, and those that were done ad hoc out of allegedly scientific interest on the part of an SS doctor.

For example, extensive sterilization and castration experiments in Auschwitz, conducted mainly by doctors Carl Clauberg and Horst Schumann, were encouraged officially as a direct expression of racial theory and policy; the experiments with typhus contagion (injecting people with blood from others with active typhus) and with the effectiveness of various preparations of sera (in treating experimentally induced cases of typhus) were connected with military concerns about typhus epidemics among German troops and civilian personnel in the East;* while the study of pre-cancerous conditions of the cervix reflected a scientific interest of Dr. Eduard Wirths, the chief SS Auschwitz doctor, and his gynecologist brother Helmut. But the categories overlapped. (Mengele’s research on twins, which we shall discuss in chapter 17, grew out of his specific scientific interest but was also strongly affected by Nazi ideology.) Here we shall focus on the extensive sterilization and castration experiments, in which Auschwitz more or less specialized, and which were a
* Typhus experiments were conducted only to a limited degree at Auschwitz, but on a much wider scale at other camps.   
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

Robert J. Lifton
ISBN 0-465-09094
© 1986
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