1946 | Nuremburg

Nazi Science

Human experimentation during World War II.

Between September 1939 and April 1945 all of the defendants herein unlawfully, willfully, and knowingly committed war crimes, as defined by Article II of Control Council Law No. 10, in that they were principals in, accessories to, ordered, abetted, took a consenting part in, and were connected with plans and enterprises involving medical experiments without the subjects’ consent upon civilians and members of the armed forces of nations then at war with the German Reich and who were in the custody of the German Reich in exercise of belligerent control, in the course of which experiments the defendants committed murders, brutalities, cruelties, tortures, atrocities, and other inhuman acts. Such experiments included, but were not limited to, the following:

High Altitude Experiments: From about March 1942 to about August 1942 experiments were conducted at the Dachau concentration camp for the benefit of the German Air Force to investigate the limits of human endurance and existence at extremely high altitudes. The experiments were carried out in a low-pressure chamber in which the atmospheric conditions and pressures prevailing at high altitude (up to 68,000 feet) could be duplicated. The experimental subjects were placed in the low-pressure chamber and thereafter the simulated altitude therein was raised. Many victims died as a result of these experiments and others suffered grave injury, torture, and ill treatment.

Freezing Experiments: From about August 1942 to about May 1943 experiments were conducted at the Dachau concentration camp primarily for the benefit of the German Air Force to investigate the most effective means of treating persons who had been severely chilled or frozen. In one series of experiments the subjects were forced to remain in a tank of ice water for periods up to three hours. Extreme rigor developed in a short time. Numerous victims died in the course of these experiments. After the survivors were severely chilled, rewarming was attempted by various means. In another series of experiments, the subjects were kept naked outdoors for many hours at temperatures below freezing. The victims screamed with pain as parts of their bodies froze. 

Malaria Experiments: From about February 1942 to about April 1945 experiments were conducted at the Dachau concentration camp in order to investigate immunization for, and treatment of, malaria. Healthy concentration-camp inmates were infected by mosquitoes or by injections of extracts of the mucous glands of mosquitoes. After having contracted malaria, the subjects were treated with various drugs to test their relative efficacy. Over 1,000 involuntary subjects were used in these experiments.

Bone, Muscle, and Nerve Regeneration and Bone Transplantation Experiments: From about September 1942 to about December 1943 experiments were conducted at the Ravensbrueck concentration camp for the benefit of the German Armed Forces to study bone, muscle, and nerve regeneration, and bone transplantation from one person to another. Sections of bones, muscles, and nerves were removed from the subjects. As a result of these operations, many victims suffered intense agony, mutilation, and permanent disability.

Sterilization Experiments: From about March 1941 to about January 1945 sterilization experiments were conducted at the Auschwitz and Ravensbrueck concentration camps and other places. The purpose of these experiments was to develop a method of sterilization which would be suitable for sterilizing millions of people with a minimum of time and effort. These experiments were conducted by means of X-ray, surgery, and various drugs. Thousands of victims were sterilized.

About This Text

From a transcript of the Nuremberg Trials. In 1945–1946 the International Military Tribunal conducted 216 court sessions in the Palace of Justice of Nuremberg. The Tribunal consisted of one member and an alternate from each of the four major Allied nations. Twenty-four former Nazi leaders were charged with war crimes, twelve of them sentenced to die by hanging.