Of Using Medical Data From Nazi Experiments
Baruch C. Cohen
The Ethics Of
Using Medical Data From Nazi Experiments
Baruch C. Cohen1
Following World War II, leading Nazi doctors were brought to justice before the
International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg. Twenty doctors were charged with War Crimes
and Crimes Against Humanity. The Nuremberg trial of the doctors revealed evidence of
sadistic human experiments conducted at the Dachau, Auschwitz, Buchenwald and
Sachsenhausen concentration camps.
Since the Nuremberg trials, our society has had to confront the reality that the Nazi
doctors were guilty of premeditated murder masqueraded as research. Professional modern
medicine has had little difficulty condemning the Nazi doctors as evil men. But what is
being said of the continued use of the Nazi doctors' medical research? Many scholars are
now discovering in reputable medical literature multiple references to Nazi experiments,
or republished works of former SS doctors. These studies and references frequently bear no
disclaimer as to how the data was obtained. In recent years several scientists who have
sought to use the Nazi research have attracted and stirred widespread soul-searching about
the social responsibility and potential abuses of science.
These incidents prompt a number of questions for the scientific community. Is it ever
appropriate to use data as morally repugnant as that which was extracted from victims of
Nazism? If so, under what circumstances?
2. THE ETHICAL DILEMMA
This paper addresses the serious ethical problems of using tainted data from
experiments on patients who were murdered and tortured by the Nazis in the name of
"research." In particular this paper will address: the scientific validity of
the experiments; the medical competence of the experimenters; the social utility in using
the experimental data; case studies of proposed uses of the Nazi scientific data; the
policy consideration involved when scientists use immorally obtained data; the condition
and guidelines as to how and when the data is to be used; and the issue from the victims'
This project was undertaken with the utmost caution. The reader should be aware that
the moral climate in the Jewish community is unforgiving to those who find any redeeming
merit from the Nazi horrors. Anyone who dares suggest the historical lessons which can be
learned from the Holocaust, or from the victims' suffering, risks being labeled a heretic
or a sensationalist bent on distorting history for personal gain. Many in the community
seriously fear that insights might replace condemnation of the Nazi evil.2
Furthermore, after reviewing the graphic descriptions of how the Nazis conducted the
experiments, it became increasingly difficult to remain objective regarding its subsequent
use. The difficulty of objectively analyzing the use of Nazi data was further complicated
by the use of the amorphous term, "data." "Data" is merely an
impersonal recordation of words and numbers. It seems unattached to the tortured or their
pain. Once cannot fully confront the dilemma of using the results of Nazi experiments
without sensitizing one's self to the images of the frozen, the injected, the inseminated,
and the sterilized. The issue of whether to use the Nazi data is a smokescreen from the
reality of human suffering. Instead of the word "data," I suggest that we
replace it with an Auschwitz bar of soap. This horrible bar of soap is the remains of
murdered Jews. The image sensitizes and personalizes our dilemma. Imagine the extreme
feeling of discomfort, and the mortified look of horror upon discovering that one just
showered with the remains of murdered Jews. The ghastly thought of the Nazis melting human
beings (and perhaps even one's close relatives) together for a bar of soap precludes any
consideration of its use. How could any civilized person divorce the horror from the
carnage without numbing one's self to the screams of the tortured and ravaged faces of the
Holocaust? Indeed, it is only with this enhanced sensitivity to the suffering that one can
accurately deal with the Nazi "data."
Holocaust survivor Susan Vigorito found the use of the word "data" a sterile
term. She was 3 ½ when she and her twin sister, Hannah, arrived at Auschwitz. They
were housed for an entire year in Mengele's private lab in a wooden cage a yard and a half
wide. Without anesthetic, Mengele would repeatedly scrape at the bone tissue of one of her
legs. Her sister died from repeated injections to her spinal column. She claims that she
is the real data, the living data of Dr. Mengele.
Any analysis that fails to see realistically the Nazi data as a blood soaked document
fails to comprehend fully the magnitude of the issue.
These serious misgivings forced the author to reflect and confront some difficult
personal issues. May this disclaimer serve as a personal guarantee that the purpose of
presenting the Nazi data for consideration was not to dilute nor detract from the enormous
and unspeakable suffering of those who perished in, and survived from the death camps. The
purpose of this project was to learn more about rather than replace, the Nazi evil.
3. THE NAZI EXPERIMENTS
The Nazi physicians performed brutal medical experiments upon helpless
concentration camp inmates. These acts of torture were characterized by several shocking
features: (1) persons were forced to become subjects in very dangerous studies against
their will; (2) nearly all subjects endured incredible suffering, mutilation, and
indescribable pain; and (3) the experiments often were deliberately designed to terminate
in a fatal outcome for their victims.
The Nazi experiments fell into three basic categories: (1) Medico-Military Research;
(2) Miscellaneous, Ad Hoc Experiments; and (3) Racially Motivated Experiments.
a. MEDICO-MILITARY RESEARCH
Hitler's regime sponsored a series of inhumane experiments for alleged ideological,
military and medical purposes. They were undertaken under Heinreich Himmler's direct
orders to gain knowledge of certain wartime conditions faced by the German Luftwaffe. The
Nazi doctors considered "military necessity" adequate justification for their
heinous experiments. They justified their acts by saying that the prisoners were condemned
to death anyway. Their experiments included:
i. Freezing Experiments
Prisoners were immersed into tanks of ice water for hours at a time, often shivering to
death, to discover how long German pilots downed by enemy fire could survive the frozen
waters of the North Sea. It was generally known at the time that human beings did not
survive immersion in the North Sea for more than one to two hours.3
Doctor Sigmund Rascher attempted to duplicate these cold conditions at Dachau, and used
about 300 prisoners in experiments recording their shock from the exposure to cold. About
eighty to ninety of the subjects died as a result.4
Doctor Rascher once requested the transfer of his hypothermia lab from Dachau to
Auschwitz, which had larger facilities, and where the frozen subjects might cause fewer
disturbances. Apparently, Rascher's concentration was constantly interrupted when the
hypothermia victims shrieked from pain while their extremities froze white.5
ii. High Altitude Experiments
In 1942, Doctor Rascher began hazardous high-altitude experiments at Dachau. His goal
was to determine the best means of rescuing pilots from the perils of high altitude when
they abandoned craft (with or without oxygen equipment) and were subjected to low
Rascher used a decompression chamber to simulate high altitude conditions. He would
often dissect several of the victims' brains, while they were still alive, to demonstrate
that high altitude sickness was a result of the formation of tiny air bubbles in the blood
vessels of the subarachnoid part of the brain. Of the 200 prisoners so tested, 80 died
outright, and the remainder were executed.
iii. Sea Water Experiments
Tests on the potability of sea water were conducted at Dachau on 90 Gypsy prisoners by
Doctor Hans Eppinger. The subjects were given unaltered sea water and sea water whose
taste was camouflaged as their sole source of fluid. Eppinger's infamous "Berka"
method was devised to test whether such liquids given as the only supply of fluid could
cause severe physical disturbance or death within six to twelve days. The Gypsies became
so profoundly dehydrated that they were seen licking the floors after they were mopped
just to get a drop of water. [Eppinger killed himself on September 25, 1946, exactly one
month before he was scheduled to testify in the Nuremberg trial. The New York Times
obituary stated that he had committed suicide by poison]6.
iv. Sulfanilamide Experiments
The German Armed Forces suffered heavy casualties on the Russian Front in 1941 to 1943
because of gas gangrene. These casualties and other combat-related infections created an
interest in a chemotherapeutic, rather than surgical treatment. The discovery of
sulfanilamide offered the possibility of a new and revolutionary treatment of wound
infections caused by the war. Wartime wounds were recreated and inflicted on healthy Jews
designated to be treated by the new drug. [Wounds deliberately inflicted on the
experimental subjects were infected with bacteria such as streptococcus, gas gangrene and
tetanus. Circulation of blood was interrupted by tying off blood vessels at both ends of
the wound to create a condition similar to that of a battlefield wound].
v. Tuberculosis Experiments
The Nazis conducted experiments to determine whether there were any natural immunities
to Tuberculosis ("TB") and to develop a vaccination serum against TB. Doctor
Heissmeyer sought to disprove the popular belief that TB was an infectious disease. Doctor
Heissmeyer claimed that only an "exhaustive" organism was receptive to such
infection, most of all the racially "inferior organism of the Jews."
Heissmeyer injected live tubercle bacilli into the subjects' lungs to immunize against
TB. He also removed the lymph glands from the arms of twenty Jewish children. About 200
adult subjects perished, and twenty children were hanged at the Bullenhauser Dam in
Heissmeyer's effort to hide the experiments from the approaching Allied Army.
b. MISCELLANEOUS, AD HOC EXPERIMENTS
The Nazis also conducted experiments which involved unspeakable varieties of torture
that carried no pretense of scientific inquiry. They included poison and wound
i. Poison Experiments
A research team at Buchenwald developed a method of individual execution through the
intravenous injections of phenol gasoline and cyanide on Russian prisoners. The
experiments were designed to see how fast the subjects would die.
ii. Wound Experiments
When Himmler discovered that the cause of death of most SS soldiers on the battlefield
was hemorrhage, he ordered Doctor Rascher to develop a blood coagulant to be administered
to the German troops before they went off to war. Rascher tested his patented coagulant by
observing the rate of blood drops that would ooze from freshly cut amputation stumps of
living and conscious prisoners at the Dachau crematorium. Rascher would also shoot his
Russian prisoners in the spleen whenever he needed extra blood to test. [At the
Ravensbrueck Concentration Camp, the shoulders and legs of inmates were amputated in
useless attempts to transplant the limbs onto other victims]7.
c. RACIALLY MOTIVATED EXPERIMENTS
The Nazi doctors also conducted experiments which were focused on anthropological,
genetic, and racial goals. These experiments included:
i. Artificial Insemination Experiments
Himmler was impressed upon hearing that Doctor Carl Clauberg successfully treated a
high-ranking SS officer's infertile wife. Himmler commissioned Clauberg to work in
Auschwitz and established Auschwitz Block 10 as Clauberg's laboratory. Block 10 was made
up of mostly married women between the ages of 20 and 40, preferably those who had not
There was a constant fear in Block 10 of being killed, sterilized, or inseminated by
Clauberg. He would often tease the female prisoners that they would all undergo sexual
intercourse with a male prisoner chosen especially for this purpose. At least one of the
Orthodox Jewish women who heard that Clauberg selected her to be a Block 10 prostitute
decided to poison herself8.
After inseminated the women, Clauberg would often taunt the strapped-in women by
stating that he had inseminated their wombs with animal sperm and that monsters were
growing in their wombs. Ultimately, 300 women prisoners were experimented on in Cell Block
ii. Sterilization Experiments
Himmler's real interest in Clauberg's Cell Block 10 was sterilization. He convinced
Clauberg to begin experiments on reversing his infertility treatments and to discover ways
to block the fallopian tubes. Clauberg redirected all of his energies toward the single
goal of effective mass sterilization.
Thousands of inmates had their genitals mutilated in order to discover cheap methods of
sterilization. The Nazis hoped that these methods could ultimately be applied to millions
of "unwanted" prisoners. Women at Auschwitz were sterilized by injections of
caustic substances into their cervix or uterus, producing horrible pain, inflamed ovaries,
bursting spasms in the stomach, and bleeding. Young men had their testicles subjected to
large doses of radiation and were subsequently castrated to ascertain the pathological
change in their testes.9
iii. Twin Experiments
Experiments on twins were performed by the infamous Doctor Joseph Mengele at Auschwitz.
Among Mengele's favorite experimental subjects were Jewish dwarves and identical twins.
Mengele's obsession with the Nazi ideology of racial purity and Aryanism led him to
believe that he could unlock the secrets of human reproduction and multiple births. His
goal was to help the Aryan "master" race multiply in even greater numbers and
eventually to repopulate the world with Germans. Of the 1,000 pairs of twins used, about
200 pairs survived.10
iv. Jewish Skeleton Collection
Doctor August Hirt, Professor of Anatomy at Strassburg University, wished to acquire a
large collection of Jewish skulls and skeletons to form a museum dedicated to the extinct
Jewish race. In 1943, 115 persons were gassed at the Natzweiller-Struhof Concentration
Camp. The corpses were immediately transported to the Anatomy Pavilion of the Strassburg
Torture, Starvation, Cruelty, Murder . . . the list goes on. The death toll in the name
of scientific research was horrific. In all of the experiments, the prisoners were forced
to become subjects against their will. They nearly all endured suffering, mutilation and
indescribable pain. In fact, the experiments were deliberately designed to end fatally.
4. PROPOSED USE OF NAZI SCIENTIFIC DATA
a. POZOS' CHILLING DILEMMA
Doctor Robert Pozos is the Director of the Hypothermia Laboratory at the University of
Minnesota of Medicine at Duluth. His research is devoted to methods of rewarming frozen
victims of cold. Much of what he and other hypothermia specialists know about rescuing
frozen victims is the result of trial and error performed in hospital emergency rooms.
Pozos believes that many of the existing rewarming techniques that have been used thus far
lack a certain amount of critical scientific thinking.
Pozos points out that the major rewarming controversy has been between the use of
passive external rewarming (which uses the patient's own body heat) and active external
rewarming (which means the direct application of exogenous heat directly to the surface of
the body). Hospitals have thus far microwaved frozen people, used warm blankets, induced
warm fluids into body cavities (through the pertinium, rectum or urinary bladder),
performed coronary bypass surgery, immersed the frozen bodies into hot bath tubs, and used
body-to-body rewarming techniques.11 Some
victims were saved, some were lost. This might be due to the lack of legitimate
information on the effects of cold on humans, since the existing data is limited to the
effects of cold on animals. Animals and humans differ widely in their physiological
response to cold. Accordingly, hypothermia research is uniquely dependent on human test
subjects. Although Pozos has experimented on many volunteers at his hypothermia lab, he
refused to allow the subject's temperature to drop more than 36 degrees. Pozos had to
speculate what the effects would be on a human being at lower temperatures. The only ones
that put humans through extensive hypothermia research (at lower temperatures) were the
Nazis at Dachau.
The Nazis immersed their subjects into vats of ice water at sub-zero temperatures, or
left them out to freeze in the winter cold. As the prisoners excreted mucus, fainted and
slipped into unconsciousness, the Nazis meticulously recorded the changes in their body
temperature, heart rate, muscle response, and urine.12
The Nazis attempted rewarming the frozen victims. Doctor Rascher did, in fact, discover
an innovative "Rapid Active Rewarming" technique in resuscitating the frozen
victims. This technique completely contradicted the popularly accepted method of slow
passive rewarming. Rascher found his active rewarming in hot liquids to be the most
efficient means of revival.13
The Nazi data on hypothermia experiments would apparently fill the gap in Pozos'
research. Perhaps it contained the information necessary to rewarm effectively frozen
victims whose body temperatures were below 36 degrees. Pozos obtained the long suppressed
Alexander Report on the hypothermia experiments at Dachau. He planned to analyze for
publication the Alexander Report, along with his evaluation, to show the possible
applications of the Nazi experiments to modern hypothermia research. Of the Dachau data,
Pozos said, "It could advance my work in that it takes human subjects farther than
Pozos' plan to republish the Nazi data in the New England Journal of Medicine was
flatly vetoed by the Journal's editor, Doctor Arnold Relman.15 Relman's refusal to publish Nazi data along
with Pozos' comments was understandable given the source of the Nazi data and the way it
b. HAYWARD'S EQUALLY CHILLING DILEMMA
Doctor John Hayward is a Biology Professor at the Victoria University in Vancouver,
Canada. Much of his hypothermia research involves the testing of cold water survival suits
that are worn while on fishing boats in Canada's frigid ocean waters. Hayward used
Rascher's recorded cooling curve of the human body to infer how long the suits would
protect people at near fatal temperatures. This information can be used by
search-and-rescue teams to determine the likelihood that a capsized boater is still alive.
According to Kristine Moe's survey in the Hasting Center Report, Hayward justified
using the Nazi hypothermia data in the following way:
"I don't want to have to use the Nazi data, but there is no other and will be
no other in an ethical world. I've rationalized it a bit. But not to use it would be
equally bad. I'm trying to make something constructive out of it. I use it with my guard
up, but it's useful." [Emphasis Added]
Hayward continued to rely on the data even though the subjects were lean, malnourished,
and emaciated prisoners, with little or close to no insulating body fat (and therefore
unrepresentative of the general populace to be benefitted from the study). Hayward still
trusted the data because the general linear shape of Doctor Rascher's cooling curve (as
the prisoners neared death) appeared to be consistent with the cooling curve at warm
Since a better knowledge of survival in cold water has direct and immediate practical
benefits for education in cold water safety, and in the planning of naval rescue missions
at sea, Pozos and Hayward see it criminal not to use the available data, no matter
how tainted it may be.
c. EPA BARRED THE USE OF NAZI DATA ON THE STUDY OF PHOSGENE
In 1989, the Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA") considered air pollution
regulations on "phosgene," a toxic gas used in the manufacture of pesticides and
plastic. Approximately one billion pounds of phosgene is produced annually in the United
States.16 Tragically, phosgene was used in
chemical warfare in the Iran-Iraq War, and was anticipated to be used in Project Desert
As part of their research, the EPA scientists analyzed how different doses of phosgene
affected the lungs, particularly of the people living around the manufacturing plants that
process the gas. They found that except for local irritation to the skin, eyes and upper
respiratory tract, the lungs could be considered the target organ of phosgene gas. Even at
intermediate and low concentrations, phosgene destroys enzymes in the lungs. This causes
fluid build up, and can lead to death by "drowning."17
Until then, the EPA scientists depended solely on animal experiments to predict the
effect of the gas on humans. Human data would naturally be the ultimate preference to work
from, but it was rarely available. To date, no information about intentional exposure in
occupational settings exists for the EPA to analyze.18
Because of the lack of human data connected to the gas, scientists in the EPA's
Assessment Branch suggested using the Nazi data on phosgene, since the Nazi experiments
provided comparatively more data on humans, rather than the existing data derived from
An experimental study on the acute toxicity of phosgene on humans was performed during
World War II. Fearful of a phosgene gas attack by the Allies in Africa, Heinreich Himmler
ordered Doctor Bickenbach to experiment on humans in an effort to develop a means of
protecting the Germans against phosgene poisoning. Fifty-two French prisoners were exposed
to the toxic gas. Four of the prisoners died in the experiments conducted at Fort Ney,
near Strassburg, France. The remaining weak and emaciated prisoners developed pulmonary
edema from the exposure to the gas. Rumor had it, that Bickenbach herded the prisoners
into an air tight testing chamber, broke open a vial of phosgene gas, and counted how long
it took for the prisoners to die. This sordid report of the experiment was revealed during
the War Crimes trial in France.
Serious concerns were raised by EPA scientists that the recorded data was flawed. They
based their skepticism on the fact that Bickenbach's report failed to note how the
pulmonary edema was measured, nor what the victim's sex or weight was.
But Todd Thorslund, a Vice President of ICF-Clement, an environmental consulting firm
that used the Nazi data in preparing the draft study under contract with the EPA,
staunchly defended the accuracy of the Nazi data. He observed that the poor health of the
prisoners was not an important factor for consideration because the EPA was concerned
about the health of sensitive populations, and that using the Nazi data would provide a
conservative model. Also, the lack of information about the prisoner's sex and weight was
similarly irrelevant because phosgene is so toxic that it is the dose in the air that make
The Nazi phosgene data could have saved the lives of the residents who live near the
manufacturing plant. It had the potential to save the lives of our American Troops
stationed in the Persian Gulf, in the event of a chemical attack by Sadam Hussein.
People's lives were severely threatened. Should the EPA have used the Nazi data or ignore
This issue touched off a fierce debate among agency scientists concerning the propriety
of using data originally acquired by the Nazis. Upon learning of the draft study's
references to the Nazi data, former EPA Chief Administrator Lee Thomas decided that the
agency should not use the data. Thomas' decision came after he received a letter signed by
twenty-two EPA scientists protesting the use of the Nazi data.20
Thomas considered the use of the Nazi data to be at the very least "stupid"
because it would open the EPA to criticism. Similar information could have been taken from
other sources, like animal experiments and medical records of workers accidentally exposed
to the gas.
To date, it is unclear whether the Nazi human data would have predicted a different
dose-response effect compared to the animal research. Furthermore, it is equally unclear
how EPA Chief Thomas could continue to allow the manufacture of the gas, thereby putting
the residents at risk, without a complete and thorough analysis on the effects of the gas
on humans. Thomas' decision seemed unfair to those who are currently being exposed to the
gas. They would not appreciate the fact that the applicable data existed, but was not
Thomas' knee-jerk reaction to the prospects of the Nazi data's use is typical, but
unprofessional, especially when human lives are at stake. The Nazi data could be critical
to saving known victim's lives. If anything, Thomas' decision to reject using the Nazi
data when human lives are in serious jeopardy was at the very least "stupid."
d. THE TWO BRAINS OF THE VOGT COLLECTION
The past three case examples demonstrate scenarios where Nazi data could be critical to
saving victims' lives today. The brains of the Vogt Collection offer no immediate benefit
to any ailing victims. The brains were not collected for transplant purposes, but for
research and study. The potential to save lives from use of the study of the brains seems
as tenuous as the Nazi data.
At the 1986 meeting of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, Doctor Berhard
Bogerts presented his findings on schizophrenic brains based on the experiments of the
Brain Collection at the Vogt Institute of the Brain Research in Dusseldorf, West Germany.
Normal and schizophrenic brains were collected by the Vogts between the years 1928 and
Bogerts indicated the year of each subject's death, and noted that two of the patients
died during the dark Nazi era. It turned out that these two patients, Ernst and Klaus,
were twin brothers who died after their transfer to the Wittenau Medical facility. Bogerts
discovered that Ernst and Klaus may very well have been murdered through malnutrition and
neglect by the Nazi doctors at Wittenau. Indeed, the use of twins in experiments and the
mass murders of psychiatric patients during the Nazi regime were common. Bogerts raised
obvious suspicions as to the brains' origins.
Two doctors from the Clinical Neurogenetics Department of the National Institute of
Mental Health responded to the Vogt Brain controversy by warning Bogerts that moral and
ethical shadows would be cast on the entire medical profession should the brains be
accepted without a thorough inquiry and investigation into their origins. Until such
investigation, the doctors suggested that Bogerts exclude the two specimens from his
They further recommended that medical curators, generally, investigate every specimen
obtained during the Nazi years, and that any specimen that may have resulted from Nazi
murder or torture be removed from the collection. Such a review would support the
integrity of the collection. In the absence of such a review, the presence of the
suspicious brains would render the entire collection questionable. This would invariably
detract from the credibility of the medical profession.
The doctors' response was reassuring for many reasons. First and foremost, it showed
that there are still members of the medical profession who place professional integrity
above their personal ambitions. Second, their response echoed the basic premise of our
analysis, that when the medical crisis is real and the benefit to society is great, the
data should be used. When the medical problem is not pressing (schizophrenic brain
research) and the benefit to society is relatively marginal, the need to preserve the
integrity of the medical profession and the victims' memory outweighs the potential
benefit to society.
a. IF THE EXPERIMENTS WERE CONDUCTED IN AN UNETHICAL MANNER, CAN THE RESULTS BE
CONSIDERED SCIENTIFICALLY RELIABLE?
In recent years, there has been a sharp debate regarding the scientific validity of the
experiments and whether data gathered from lethal experiments on unwilling subjects could
be used in any way by the scientific community. To begin the analysis, one must address
the Nazi experiments' scientific validity, and the medical competence of the
i. Scientific Validity
Nazi Concentration Camp science is often branded as bad science. First, it is doubtful
that physiological responses of the tortured and maimed victims represented the responses
of the people for whom the experiments were meant to benefit. Second, additional doubts
about the scientific integrity of the experiments surface when we consider the Nazi
doctors' political aspirations and their enthusiasm for medical conclusions that proved
Nazi racial theory. Finally, the fact that the Nazi experiments were not officially
published nor replicated raises doubts about the data's scientific accuracy.
Doctor Jay Katz of the Yale University School of Law, who emphatically opposed the
re-use of the Nazi data, suggests nonetheless that the experiments be republished in full
detail so that no one may deny that they occurred. He would then condemn the data to
oblivion. Dr. Katz dismissed the Nazi experiments with one phrase: "They're of no
Katz's opinion brings to mind the words of Brigadier General Telford Taylor, Chief
Counsel for the prosecution at Nuremberg, when he argued that the Nazi experiments were
insufficient and unscientific, "a ghostly failure as well as a hideous crime . . .
Those experiments revealed nothing which civilized medicine can use."24 Arnold Relman, editor of the New England
Journal of Medicine, similarly stated that the Nazi experiments were such a "gross
violation of human standards that they are not to be trusted at all."
Doctor Leonard Hoenig, Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of South
Florida College of Medicine, categorized the Nazi experiments as
"pseudo-science," since the Nazis blurred the distinction between science and
sadism. The data was not recorded from scientific hypothesis and research, but rather, it
was inspired and administered through racial ideologies of genocide. Doctor Hoenig
maintained that nothing scientific could have resulted from sadism.
Allen Buchanan, Philosophy Professor at the University of Arizona, is also a member of
the Human Subjects Review Committee at the University of Minnesota. He believes that bad
ethics and bad science are inextricably linked together. He found that the human
experiments that were ethically sound were also scientifically sound. Therefore, he
concluded that since the Nazi experiments were unethical, they were, by equation,
Doctor Leo Alexander, a Major in the United States Army Medical Corps, and the
psychiatric consultant to the Secretary of War and to the Chief Counsel for War Crimes at
the Nuremberg Doctors' Trial, wrote a report evaluating the Nazi hypothermia experiments
at Dachau. Reading his synopsis was as chilling as the subject at hand. Doctor Alexander
was somewhat ambiguous as to the Nazi data's validity. On one hand, he stated that Doctor
Rascher's hypothermia experiments "satisfied all of the criteria of accurate and
objective observation and interpretation." He later concluded that parts of the Nazi
data on hypothermia were not dependable because of inconsistencies found in Rascher's lab
notes. According to Rascher's official report to Himmler, it took from 53 to 100 minutes
to kill the frozen prisoners. Alexander's inspection of Rascher's personal lab record
revealed that it actually took from 80 minutes to five or six hours to kill the subjects.
Historians have suggested several reasons for Rascher's inconsistent hypothermia data.
The most revealing theory was that Rascher was under strict orders, by Himmler himself, to
produce hypothermia results, or else. Apparently, Rascher dressed up his findings to
forestall confrontations with Himmler. Shortly before the German surrender, Himmler
discovered Rascher's lies, and had Rascher and his wife (Himmler's mistress) murdered
because of Rascher's deceptions.25
The experts agree that the Nazi experiments lacked scientific integrity. The Nazis even
perverted scientific terminology. Their experimental "control subjects" suffered
the most and died. "Sample size" meant truck loads of Jews.
"Significance" was an indication of misery, and "response rate" was a
measure of torment. Behind the niceties of their learned discourse were the horrors of
Nazi torture. Some have suggested against terming them "experiments," since they
were really brutal beatings and mugging.
ii. Scientific Competence of the Nazi Doctors
The debate over the scientific validity of the Nazi experiments must include the
scientific and medical competence of the Nazi doctors. Our general impression of a Nazi
doctor conjures up an image of a deranged madman working in an isolated dungeon. In
certain instances, the Dr. Frankenstein stereotype is an accurate one.
For example, consider Dr. Otto Prokop's critique of Doctor Heissmeyer and of his
tuberculosis experiments. Dr. Prokop was Germany's Forensic authority, and his criticism
illustrated Heissmeyer's limited medical competence:
"One characteristic feature of Heissmeyer's experiment is his extraordinary lack
of concern, add this to his gross and total ignorance in the field of immunology, in
particular bacteriology. He did not then, nor does he now, possess the necessary expertise
demanded in a specialist TB diseases . . . He does not own any modern bacteriology
textbook. He is also not familiar with the various work methods of bacteriology . . .
According to his own admission, Heissmeyer was not concerned about curing the prisoners
who were put at his disposal. Nor did he believe that his experiments would produce
therapeutic results, and he actually counted on there being detrimental, indeed fatal,
outcomes to the prisoners."26
Author William Shirer reported that Nazi medical incompetence was not limited to a few
isolated instances. Shirer felt that the Nazi Doctors were generally murderous
"quacks," and were people of the "lowest medical standard."27
Shirer's image of the Nazi Doctors as irrational psychopathic butchers, on the fringes
of professional medicine, failed to appreciate that these doctors were actually among the
top professionals in their fields. Their experimental results were presented in scientific
journals and in prestigious conferences and academies. The following examples will serve
to demonstrate the Nazi doctors' scientific and medical competence.
(1) At three conferences in the Fall of 1942, results of Rascher's hypothermia
experiments, titled "The Medical Questions in Marine & Winter Emergencies,"
were presented to several hundred doctors including leading authorities and hospital
(2) In May, 1943, the Military Medical Academy in Berlin was "honored" by
sponsoring Nazi Doctors Karl Gebhart and Fritz Fischer on the effectiveness of the new
drugs produced by the Bayer Pharmaceutical Group of the IG Farben Industry.29 The two doctors reported the findings of SS
Captain Doctor Helmuth Vetter's research conducted on 200 female prisoners of Auschwitz.
The Doctors boasted as to how Vetter injected the women's lungs with gas/bacilli and
streptococcus, and cause them to die from pulmonary edema. Their presentation was hosted
at the Ravensbrueck Concentration Camp, which published and distributed their findings to
the German Health Care Profession.
(3) Even Mengele (known as the Angel of Death) once boasted a respectable professional
career. An article pertaining to Doctor Joseph Mengele's work at the Institute of Heredity
& Racial Hygiene of the University of Frankfurt was listed in the 1938 edition of the
prestigious Index Medicus.30 Mengele's
earlier work in oral embryology and in the developmental anomalies of cleft palate and
harelip have been cited in several texts and articles on the subject. Additionally, in
recognition of Mengele's work with his mentor Von Verschuer, the German Research Society
provided a generous financial grant to Mengele, enabling him to continue his work on the
study of inmates with eyes of different colors.
iii. The Irrelevance of the Argument
Ultimately, the arguments as to whether the experiments were scientific or not, or
whether the doctors were medically competent or not, leaves one with the impression that
had such experiments been "good" science and the doctors medical professionals,
these facts would somehow change our impression of the doctors and their experiments. This
is not true. The sadistic evil of the Nazi butchery is in no way lessened by its
scientific value. Conferring medical or scientific validity on the Nazi murderers is not
an option for consideration.
b. BENEFITS TO SOCIETY
Despite the arguments that the Nazi experiments were unscientific, the data does exist.
Although the data is morally tainted and soaked with the blood of its victims, one cannot
escape confronting the dreaded possibility that perhaps the doctors at Dachau actually
learned something that today could help save lives or "benefit" society.
Author Kristine Moe suggested that by using the hypothermia experimental data,
"good" would be derived from the evil:
"Nor, however, should we let the inhumanity of such experiments blind us to the
possibility that some "good" may be salvaged from the ashes."31
What kind of "good" could be salvaged from the victims' ashes? What societal
benefit, if any, could be so compelling to justify using the Nazi data? Arguably, when the
wickedness of the experiment has been very great, then only a colossally important
objective can justify its use. Those that wish to use the data have to satisfy the burden
of proof, which becomes greater in proportion to the wickedness of the experiment.
It is easy to see the futility of advocating the data's use when the intended benefit
to society is trivial and moderate. Conversely, if the intended benefit is to save lives,
most would agree that the data should be used.
i. Using the Data to Save Lives - Transplanting a Murdered Heart
Consider the following hypothetical: suppose that a recipient and likely donor have
been selected for a heart transplant operation. Usually, a donor is chosen among accident
victims, close to death. Immediately after death, a donor's heart must be quickly removed
because his heart must still be alive or at least capable of living again to save the
recipient's life. Prior to death, a donor is in the halachic category of a terminally ill
patient, and one must be very careful not to do anything that might hasten his death.
Given, then, that A is the donor, and that B is the worthy recipient, it would
certainly be unethical to remove A's heart while he is still alive (thereby killing him)
with the intent to transplant it into B's body. B's blood is not redder than A's, and both
A and B deserve an equal chance to live. But what if a doctor disobeyed our warning, and
removed A's heart anyway? Can he transplant A's murdered heart to save B's life? B still
needs a new heart or he will die. The moral problem is: what do we do with A's murdered
heart? Do we throw it away because it was immorally obtained? If so, must the needy
recipient (B) suffer and die because of A's unfortunate death? If so, is it ethical to
have B's death on our conscience? And what of the doctor? Suppose he transplanted A's
murdered heart into B. Would the doctor be considered A's murderer or B's hero? Could he
be both? Would B's renewed life suffer because of A's death?
This hypothetical provides us with the perfect scenario in which life can actually
emerge from death, and good can emerge from evil. Medical statistics predict that a
transplanted heart could increase the recipient's chances of living by up to 80%. The
potential to save the recipient's life is almost guaranteed. The murdered heart (although
tainted) must be transplanted to save the recipient's life. Withholding the
murdered heart from the worthy recipient would be tantamount to murder. Our underlying
rationale in using the heart is to focus prospectively on the present medical crisis. The
recipient desperately needs a transplanted heart, or else he dies. This murdered heart
will save his life.
Does the Nazi data share that same definite guarantee for saving human lives as does an
available organ to a needy recipient? If it does, then one could theoretically agree that
it should most definitely be used. Perhaps justice would ultimately be served if we were
to allow life to emerge from the Nazi murders. Although the data's untested potential to
save lives seems to be a bit more tenuous than that of the healthy heart, the potential to
save a life might still be present. Therefore, the data should be used when lives are at
ii. Does the Analysis End When Lives Are at Stake or Is There a Higher Ethical
For Jews, there are times when saving a life is not the ultimate good to be achieved.
While it is true that saving a life overrides all other commandments, a Jew is commanded
to sacrifice his life rather than transgress the three cardinal sins (idolatry, murder,
and sexual immorality).32 In fact, if one
had the opportunity to save a life through the use of idolatry, he would be forbidden to
The Babylonian Talmud relates the incredible story of the late King of Israel,
Hezekiah, to instruct us that a life might not be worth preserving, if that person's
future plans with that life are repulsive to God.
There was a publication in existence titled, "Sefer Harefuah" (Heb.
"The Book of Cures"). Many famous Rabbis ascribe the authorship to King Solomon.
Maimonides states that the book contained remedies based on astrological phenomena and
magical incantations, and prescriptions for the preparation of poisons and their
antidotes. King Hezekiah hid the Book of Cures because people were cured so quickly and
effortlessly that illness failed to promote a feeling of contrition, humility and
recognition that God is the true healer of the sick. Furthermore, corrupt people used this
information to kill their enemies by poisoning them.34
What wouldn't doctors give to have Hezekiah's Book of Cures? King Hezekiah certainly
knew of the Book's definite potential to save lives, especially his own.35 He certainly understood the infinite value
of life. Yet, he condemned the Book to oblivion and the Sages of Israel agreed with his
decision. Hezekiah concluded that the lives that would have been saved, but for the
idolatrous use of the book, were not worth preserving. They were better off dead than
living under the destructive influence of idolatry.
Perhaps the same conclusion could be made with regard to the Nazi data? Perhaps certain
illnesses were not meant to be cured, if the victim's cure was to be found through
tampering with the results of wholesale slaughter and torture? Perhaps the modern-day
frozen hypothermia victims that were unsuccessfully rewarmed by normal conventional
methods were just not meant to survive? Such an important conclusion could only be made by
a completely righteous individual such as King Hezekiah. Without such authority, the Book
of Cures cannot be analogized to the Nazi data, and one would have to use the information
to save lives.
It is the grey areas between life-shattering and mundane benefits that continue to
puzzle experts. Would the benefits of saving a life be the only acceptable scenario to
justify the data's use? Would benefits to the legal profession justify its use? Would the
Supreme Court be justified in using Dr. Clauberg's findings on the development of the
human fetus in determining the Roe v. Wade abortion decision? Would the court's
opinion to use Nazi data benefit or harm the legal society?
c. HALACHIC PRECEDENT FOR USING TAINTED DATA
Historically, one can trace the treatment of this dilemma back to the Babylonian
Talmud. The Babylonian Talmud was the written edition of the Oral Law (believed to have
been transmitted by God to Moses on Mount Sinai, and was later transcribed to prevent its
being forgotten). The Talmud originally explored the issue of human experiments. Let us
look, then, at some Talmudic examples:
i. Cleopatra's Experiments on Embryo Formation
The Babylonian Talmud in Niddah (30b) relates the legal controversy between Rabbi
Ishmael and the Rabbis concerning the amount of time it took a male and female embryo to
formulate. R. Ishmael referred to Cleopatra's experimental data to prove his theory
that a male fetus takes 40 days to fashion fully and a female fetus takes 80 days.
When Cleopatra's handmaids were sentenced to death under government order, she
subjected them to insemination and subsequent operations. Upon opening their wombs,
Cleopatra discovered that the male embryos were fully fashioned on the 41st day after
conception and the female embryos were fully fashioned on the 81st day.
The Talmud questioned the scientific accuracy of Cleopatra's experiment. Assurances
were made that the experiments were conducted and recorded in an accurate manner, because
prior to the handmaid's insemination, they were forced to swallow a destructive serum
designed to obliterate and scatter any existing semen in their wombs. This abortive
precaution served as a guarantee against prior inseminations and embryo formations before
the experiments began. Furthermore, a warden was appointed to carefully monitor the girls,
to prevent them from being inseminated before the commencement of Cleopatra's experiment.
In attempting to discredit Cleopatra's experiment and results, the Rabbis argued that:
"no one adduces proof from fools." This seems to mean that one should not trust
the results of a murderous "quack" on the fringes of professional medicine. The
Talmudic passage concluded in favor of Rabbi Ishmael's original premise, that boys
formulate in 40 days and girls formulate in 80 days. However, no comment was made as to
the propriety of quoting and relying on Cleopatra's unethical research. We are left to
ii. Rabbi Ishmael's Students Experiment on a Human
The Babylonian Talmud in Bechorot (45) related that the students of Rabbi Ishmael
dissected the body of a prostitute who had been condemned to be burnt by the King. They
examined her body and found a total of 252 joints and limbs. The students returned to R.
Ishmael (who claimed that the human body contains 248 joints and limbs and told him of
their experiment and conclusion, and challenged him for an explanation of the 6 limb
discrepancy, which he provided.
R. Ishmael offered no comment at to the propriety of his student's experiment. Again,
we are left to speculate.
iii. Rabbi Gamliel's Test to Determine Virginity
The Babylonian Talmud in Ketuboth (10b) related that a Groom came before Rabbi Gamliel
stating that he had sexual intercourse with his newly-wedded bride, and did not find any
traces of virginal blood (thereby accusing his bride of not being a virgin). R. Gamliel
asked his attendant to bring to the court one virgin and one girl that was no longer a
virgin. He had each girl sit on top of an open barrel of wine. When the girl who was not a
virgin sat on the barrel, the smell of the wine was noticeable from her mouth. When the
virgin sat on the barrel, the smell of the wine did not go through her body and did not
emerge from her mouth.
R. Gamliel placed the bride in question on the barrel and the smell of wine was not
noticeable from her mouth. R. Gamliel assured the Groom that his experiment conclusively
proved that the bride was a virgin.
R. Gamliel was questioned for experimenting on the two handmaids. Perhaps he should
have examined the bride from the very beginning. He answered that he had heard a tradition
that the wine barrel experiment was a reliable test, but that he had never seen it done in
practice. He felt that it would have been improper to test the effectiveness of the wine
barrel experiment on a Jewish woman, so he experimented with the handmaid. Again, we are
left to speculate.
It has been asserted that the Talmud's silence as to the propriety of quoting and
relying on the data from the above-mentioned experiments suggests that the Talmud had no
moral qualms about using the data for the advancement of legal, medicinal and factual
determinations. Some Talmudic experts have held that the Talmud's silence regarding the
propriety of quoting these experiments shows that the Rabbis were only concerned with: the
issue of embryo development, the number of limbs in a body, the determination of a woman's
virginity, and not sufficiently concerned with the propriety of the experiment at that
time to merit a comment. That is not to say that the Rabbis were not concerned at all
about it. It just means that there were more pressing concerns that merited their comments
on that day. It is therefore unclear whether the Talmud's use of these experiments
justifies use of the Nazi data.
If the Nazi data could be used to benefit society it remains questionable whether it
can be derived by analogy from the Talmudic account of these three experiments.
iv. Rabbi Moshe Feinstien's Responsa
In Igres Moshe, Even Haezer, Rabbi Moshe Feinstien ("Reb Moshe") was
asked whether one can listen and give credit to the songs composed by a heretic
(apikorus). In response, Reb Moshe distinguished between holy and non-holy matters. He
held that holy objects such as Torah scrolls, Tfillin, and Mezuzos, etc., that were
prepared by an apikorus cannot be used. The moral character and level of religious
observance of the scribe is very relevant to the holy object's subsequent use (perhaps
because of the many fundamental religious laws and prayers that are incorporated in the
Songs, however, are devoid of any holiness and therefore can be listened to and enjoyed
in lieu of its composer's beliefs. While it is not advisable to listen to the words of a
wicked person, there is no halachic sanction against it. Reb Moshe compared the
non-holiness of songs to other mundane objects such as machines, inventions and
medicines. In such cases the religiosity and moral fiber of the composer,
mechanic, inventor and scientist is completely irrelevant to the object's subsequent use.
People have no religious expectations, nor do they seek any religious fulfillment from
inanimate objects. Therefore, Reb Moshe allows their use, even though they were created by
Therefore, there is a potential halachic basis to permit the use of: the German
Mercedes Benz and Volkswagen automobiles, the "Dachau" rewarming techniques, the
"Clauberg" fertility treatment, the "Heissmeyer" tuberculosis
treatment, and even the "Mengele" data on genetics. Halachically, the data could
be used in lieu of its abominable origins.
6. POLICY CONSIDERATIONS REGARDING THE SCIENTIFIC USE OF MORALLY TAINTED DATA
a. ABSOLUTE CENSORSHIP AND ITS DETERRENT EFFECT
One might argue that since footnotes are among the few rewards scientists get for their
research and that citation or use of the Nazi data would constitute a scientific
recognition of the Nazi doctors, sanctions against the citation of Nazi data would deter
the doctors from abusive practices.36
However, the individual deterrent effect of non-citation would at best be minimal,
because the Nazi doctors who performed the experiments are either dead or are presumably
too old to be practicing medicine. They cannot be deterred.
Perhaps the deterrent effect of non-citation would apply to other would-be-Mengeles of
the world who are contemplating the re-creation of the Nazi experiments, or publishing
their own collection of the Nazi medical horrors. Recall that King Hezekiah hid the Book
of Cures to deter corrupt individuals from using the data to kill their enemies by
It is still unclear whether the threat of non-citation would serve to deter future use
of the data. Insofar as a scientist is motivated by the advancement of science and
medicine, or of his own career, the threat of non-citation might have some deterrent
effect regarding his future unethical research. But in the situations where experiments
are performed because the scientist is being paid or ordered to administer them, the
threat of non-citation will not deter them.
b. THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS
Others argue that should scientists use the Nazi data, it would constitute some sort of
ceremony of respect or scientific acceptability of the Nazi doctors, and of disrespect
towards the victims' memory. But would use of the Nazi data necessarily imply both
results? Perhaps a compromise position exists. It has been suggested that scientists be
allowed to make full use of the Nazi data (to benefit medicine) and simultaneously
denounce and condemn the Nazi doctors and their experiments (thereby preserving the
victims' memory).37 This compromise
solution would serve to give those plagued by the dilemma the "best of both
Despite its attractions, this compromise seems to carry with it more than a touch of
moral hypocrisy. When the medical profession uses Nazi data, or when a court of law uses
tainted evidence, legitimacy is indirectly conferred upon the manner by which the
data/evidence was acquired. The policy guidelines deploring the means used in acquiring
the tainted evidence would be undercut by the mere fact of its use. This would not result
in the best of both worlds.
c. BEECHER'S ANALOGY - THE EXCLUSIONARY RULE
Similarly, Dr. Henry Beecher, the late Harvard Medical School Professor, analogized the
use of the Nazi data to the inadmissibility of unconstitutionally obtained evidence.38 Dr. Beecher said that even though
suppression of the data would constitute a loss to medicine in a specific localized sense:
"this loss, it seems, would be less important than the far reaching moral loss
to medicine if the data were to be published."39
Beecher's analogy is to be given serious consideration. Although use of the Nazi data
might benefit some lives, a larger bioethical problem arises. By conferring a scientific
martyrdom on the victims, it would tend to make them our retrospective guinea pigs, and
we, their retrospective torturers.
d. SCIENTISTS NEED TO BE SENSITIVE TO THE VICTIMS' SUFFERING
As indicated earlier, one would squirm at the unpleasant thought of bathing
with a bar of human soap form Auschwitz. Assume for argument's sake that one bathed with
the soap and actually knew of its ugly origin. One's initial suspicion would be that the
bather probably approved of the Nazi atrocity by mere virtue of the fact that he used the
soap in his shower.
But suppose the bather clearly condemned the Nazi evil, and rationalized his actions in
the following way: that this use of the Auschwitz bar of human soap did not harm the dead
Jews nor did it reward the dead Nazis. It will not encourage further acts of Nazism, and
in fact, the bather is convinced that the soap's use has no moral relevance for the
future. Instead, the Auschwitz bar of soap is a perfectly good bar of soap for cleaning
his body, so that there would not be any reason why he should not be allowed to use it.
The bather's argument seems logically sound; however, something seems terribly wrong with
his conscience. To say the least, he is insensitive and has extremely poor taste.
Ethical scientists and doctors cannot isolate the human agony from the bar of soap. In
fact, it is repugnant to any civilized individual. No one will question the fact that the
bather's skin was cleansed by the soap. However, it was the bather's conscience that was
severely tarnished. This is not an acceptable ethic for our doctors. The medical
profession should strive to maintain its integrity and the confidence of the public. It
should not operate with tarnished reputations.
a. PROPOSED GUIDELINES IN USING THE NAZI DATA
Absolute censorship of the Nazi data does not seem proper, especially when the secrets
of saving lives may lie solely in its contents. Society must decide on its use by
correctly understanding the exact benefits to be gained. When the value of the Nazi data
is of great value to humanity, then the morally appropriate policy would be to utilize the
data, while explicitly condemning the atrocities. But the data should not be used just
with a single disclaimer. To further justify its use, the scientific validity of the
experiment must be clear; there must be no other alternative source from which to gain
that information, and the capacity to save lives must be evident.
Once a decision to use the data has been made, experts suggest that it must not be
included as ordinary scientific research, just to be cited and placed in a medical
journal. I agree with author Robert J. Lifton who suggested that citation of the data must
contain a thorough expose' of exactly what tortures and atrocities were committed for that
experiment. Citations of the Nazi data must be accompanied with the author's condemnation
of the data as a lesson in horror and as a moral aberration in medical science. The author
who chooses to use the Nazi data must be prepared to expose the Nazi doctors' immoral
experiments as medical evil, never to be repeated.
b. ERASING THE PAST: EUROPE'S AMNESIA ABOUT THE HOLOCAUST
More than 40 years have passed since Nuremberg. Despite the preservation of Auschwitz's
barracks, railway tracks, barbed wire fences, and crematorium, there is a growing feeling
that all remaining traces of the Nazis should not be obliterated. A widespread desire
exists to suppress the nightmares of the Holocaust.40
Within West Germany itself, there has been a disturbing climate of professional denial
by its scientific medical community. The European medical profession's reluctant
condemnation of the Nazi doctors and their experiments suggests that perhaps the horrors
of Dachau and Auschwitz did not die on the gallows at Nuremberg, but continue to live to
this very day.
Europe's embarrassing amnesia of the Nazi atrocities enabled the unrepentant Clauberg
(upon his release form a Russian jail), to list on his professional business card his
position at Auschwitz. Upon returning to West Germany, he held a press conference and
boasted of his scientific work at Auschwitz. After survivor groups protested, Clauberg was
finally arrested in 1955; however the German Chamber of Medicine refused to divest
Clauberg of his license to practice medicine.
After the war, West Germany allowed Doctor Baron Otmar Von Verschuer to continue his
professional career. Doctor Von Verschuer was the mentor, inspiration and sponsor of
Mengele. After he executed his victims. Mengele would personally remove the victims' eyes,
while there were still warm, and ship them to Von Verschuer to analyze.
Germany's efforts to erase its Nazi-medical past is most recently illustrated by the
controversy surrounding a West German doctor, Harmut M. Hanauske-Abel. Dr. Hanauske-Abel
wrote an honest expose on the German health industry's apathy and complicity during World
War II. His expose was so unpopular in Germany that Dr. Hanauske-Abel was subsequently
fired from his hospital position and lost his license to practice medicine in Germany. The
same German Chamber of Medicine that staunchly upheld Von Verschuer's medical license
rigorously canceled Hanauske-Abel's license. Today he is a clinician and research
scientist at Boston Children's Hospital while his appeal for reinstatement awaits a review
in the Supreme Court of Germany.41
The most shocking and appalling example of the non-repentant Germany was recently
discovered by a West German television network (the "ARD") which broadcasted
claims that tissue samples and skeletons from the corpses of victims of the Holocaust were
being used for teaching purposes at the Tubingen and Heidelberg Medical Schools in West
The anatomy institute at Tubingen alone received 1,077 bodies from the execution site
in Stuttgart between 1933 and 1945. Tubingen officials said that "had been lulled
into a false sense of security" and believed that all remaining body parts from Nazi
victims had been disposed of in a dignified matter.
Officials at Tubingen found four slides that had been prepared form two corpses of Nazi
victims who were executed for political reasons. One was a woman of Polish extraction, the
other a man presumed to be German. In Heidelberg, three slides (out of about 1,500 in the
collection) were found dating back to 1941 and 1943. The names of the people from whose
corpses they were taken were not listed on the slides, but the indication 'decapitatus'
indicates that the people may have been victims of Nazi persecution.
The specimens were ultimately removed from the West German medical schools, buried in
the State of Israel, and given appropriate commemorations, primarily due to the effective
lobbying and negotiations of Doctor William Seidelman of Ontario and Doctor Arthur Caplan
Europe's collective memory is about to become history. Especially since most of the
witnesses have died, and the Nazi saga becomes subject to greater distortions and
reinterpretation. It is therefore incumbent on our society to confront the collective sets
of conflicting memories now, before the events of this era and its implications
a. A FINAL WORD ABOUT THE VICTIM'S MEMORY
It would only be appropriate to comment on the victims of the Nazi experiments. Would
the victims have approved of our analysis and conclusions? Would they be consoled to learn
that their deaths produced life, or would they be mortified to know that their suffering
is being exploited by others?
The questions is, unfortunately, an academic one, since the dead no longer have anyone
to represent them. Several experts professed to speak on their behalf.
Efraim Zuroff, the Israeli Representative of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los
Angeles, suggested that if Pozos, Hayward, Bogerts, the EPA and other researchers
dedicated their research to the memory of the 6,000,000 Jewish victims of the Nazis, it
would serve as a "nice" way of reminding people about the horrible experiments.42
Others have suggested that the use of the data would serve as a lesson to the world,
that the victims did not die futilely, and that a post mortem use of the data would
retroactively give "purpose" to their otherwise meaningless deaths.
Doctor Howard Spiro, of the Department of Internal Medicine a Yale University, insists
that no one honors the memory of the dead victims by learning form experiments carried out
on them. Instead, we make the Nazis our retroactive partners in the victims' torture and
Lord Immanuel Jakobovits, Chief Rabbi of the British Commonwealth of Nations and the
pioneer of Jewish Medical Ethics, said that using the Nazi data offers not a shred of
meaning to the 6,000,000 deaths. In fact, use of the data would serve to dishonor them
even more so.44
One would hope that our society need not look to the Nazi data to find
"purpose" in the victims' deaths. From the victims' ashes came moving
testimonials of faith in God and man: of a Jewish mother being marched to her death,
demanding a knife from a Nazi soldier with which to circumcise her newborn infant, that he
might die a Jew; a non-believer dying a martyr's death on Yom Kippur for the sake of
Jewish honor; Jews singing "Ani Maamin" (I believe) as they were being
led to the gas chambers. These and many other acts of spiritual heroism remain the
definitive legacy of genuine expressions of "Kiddush Hashem"
(sanctification of God's name). Use of the Nazi data adds nothing to the victims'
everlasting memory. Their beautiful legacy remains undimmed and