The Holocaust: Medical Practices within Genocide

The Holocaust has been regarded as one of the most horrific mass murders of the 20th century. Unfathomable atrocities were committed against humanity in the name of science. The medical experimentations used against victims of the Nazi Regime have been documented as violations of basic human rights. Much of the documented research committed against marginalized communities under Nazi control resulted in the mutilation or death of the subjects.  The use of science against individuals that were demonized by Nazi propaganda tactics warranted criminal persecution and international reform. This site will uncover the scientific foundation for the execution of human experimentation during the Holocaust, an examination of the ethical questions surrounding scientific research committed under these circumstances, and the cultural shift of medical practice guidelines that resulted from the fall of the Nazi Party.  

The psychology involved in the development of individuals that were willing to authorize the mass murder of millions of civilians developed from political, cultural, economic, and scientific developments throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Scientifically, the publication of Charles Darwin’s 1859 thesis, The Origin of Species, is considered the basis for the systemic racism associated with the Holocaust. Within this text, Darwin concisely proved that the lineage of animals over time stemmed from a common ancestor and developed a concept of gene heredity. This scientific conclusion coincided with periods of industrialization and imperialism for European countries and the United States. From this crossover, a multiplicity of idealogical systems were born in the collective Social Darwinist movement. The most influential ideologies for Nazi Germany normalized and even endorsed racist notions of supremacy through scientific evaluation. Herbert Spencer published a paper of significance in 1873 connecting Darwin ideas of biological evolution to human society and “the survival of the fittest”. Karl Person (1901) and Benjamin Kidd (1902) extrapolated a European prerogative from Spencer to colonize races that were deemed inferior by Western culture [1]. These ideologies became widely accepted in both Europe and America and fueled the hierarchical stratification of race and genetic disposition.

Between 1933-1939, German mass propaganda during the early portion of the Nazi regime blamed the loss of the prior World War and the current socio-economic turmoil to lower races, primarily the Jewish population. This resulted in extreme cultural discrimination, eventually culminating in an official mandate to the medical community lead by Dr. Karl Brandt to survey and enlist millions into programs of euthanasia. This program, initially described as sterilization, developed into mass euthanasia through the T4 Program in 1939. After initially using pseudo-medical procedures, such as lethal injection and electrocution to exterminate individuals, the medical community moved toward asphyxiation tactics with either engine exhaust or carbon monoxide [3]. The gas chamber facilities developed for the T4 program in Hartheim, Sonnenstein, Grafeneck, Bernburg, Hadamar, and Brandenburg would become models for those implemented in concentration camps, hosting the mass murder of millions. The T4 Program was officially terminated in 1941 after the legal execution of over 70,000 individuals [2].

Victims of Aktion T4

Over the course of the Nazi regime, twenty-two concentration camps would be erected with six operating specifically for the purpose of large scale extermination [4]. Design features meant to psychologically dismantle inmates include narrow corridors and constant congregation which served to gather prisoners in compromising conditions which could be easily overwatched. Also, the narrow corridors made order acutely difficult to establish. This design feature allowed for the dissolution of inmates personal prerogative. Within the camps rigidly divided areas, the placement of taboo solitary camps within larger camps served to isolate and inspire fear within the inmate population. The lack of knowledge for inmates when traveling between corridors lead to doubt and paranoia, which dissolved inmates ability to resist and reason. In the words of psychoanalyst Raffaele Mantegazza these camps, “destroy space as a domain for acting and living”. For Wolfgang Softsfy, a psychoanalyst and Holocaust investigator,  “The absolute power transforms natural spaces into a space of social coercion, barricading all exits, marking out the area for control” [5].

Within these spaces, gruesome experimentation and torture was permitted and conducted by medical professionals, researchers, and soldiers. These experiments included inquiry into viral diseases, exposure to harmful settings, and testing the limits of the human body. Alfred Pasternak, M.D., an expert on Nazi experimentation, categorized the experiments by three main distinctions: either addressing a problem for the military, proving Aryan superiority, or addressing the curiosities of powerful individuals. A sample of procedures prescribed to inmates includes infection by incision, contagious lice, or in vivo injection of infected blood, exposure to explosion, removal of oxygen, and clinical starvation. Witnessing German commanders agree that test subjects were often not considered human, but merely referred to as objects of significant scientific value. These experiments commonly ended in the complete purging of all participants and involved tens of thousands of inmates [6]. The research and conclusions gleaned from these experiments are widely considered unethical and its use in further research is still an ongoing debate.

These spaces of absolute control and massacre affected major psychological trauma in those who experienced them. Holocaust survivors are some of the most psychologically analyzed individuals in the world with over five hundred published studies and many more articles and personal testimonies. In an attempt to summarize the knowledge gained from the study of these individuals, Ira Brannor developed the “three elements of massive mental trauma in Holocaust survivors.” This collection culminated the knowledge gained from over 1000 interviews and 40 years of research. The first element is catanoid reaction; the psychological process of being consumed by a robot-like state where one is consumed by a psychological death prior to actual death. People who experience a catanoid reaction are characterized by desensitization and identification with the dead. The next element is stimulus barrier which results from the over stimulus of major emotional trauma manifesting itself in the dissociation of senses including sight, hearing, touch, and taste. This element is commonly clinically diagnosed as dissociative identity disorder, as those who are afflicted will not actively repress their sense but will simply not be aware of its presence. The final element associated with massive mental trauma is disturbed memory which is manifested in four major ways: a fixation on the past, consistent shift of belief and disbelief in occurrence of events, split identify, and the splitting of self between victim and perpetrator. Furthermore, the coping mechanisms utilized by Holocaust survivors illustrated the themes of manic defense and omnipotent fantasy. These mechanisms result in dreams survivors have where they defeat particular oppressor figures or the active denial of events [7]. The trauma displayed by both victims and survivors of the Nazi Party’s experimentation tactics initiated an analysis of the ethical repercussions that they enlisted upon humanity.  

When considering the immense repercussions of the Holocaust and the Nazi’s reign of terror, it impossible not to wonder about the ethical questions that arise surrounding Hitler’s dictatorship and the ever-relevant modern consequences. The millions of hostages that were held in concentration camps and many of those lives that were lost has called for an extensive review Hitler’s unethical methodology. Many scholars believe that modern ethics are greatly impacted by historical tragedies such as the Holocaust, which is due to how morals were substantially challenged during this time period. However, to realize the changes of ethics that resulted from the Holocaust, it is necessary to first look at the challenges that occurred throughout Hitler’s time as dictator.

The ethical effects of the Holocaust are critically around the bioethics associated with the medical experimentation on human subjects that took place at concentration camps during Nazi Germany. While they were conducted 74 years ago, these experiments are still incredibly relevant to debates surrounding biomedical ethics today, especially regarding the use of data from these experiments as well as other unethically operated experiments. During the Nazi regime, there were at least seventy medical research projects involving cruel and often lethal methods of experimentation that were conducted on the prisoners of various concentration camps [8]. Some of the most recognizable were Mengele’s experiment on twins, freezing experiments, malaria experiments at Daschau and Auschwitz, mustard gas experiments and experiments involving poison and phosphorus burn experiments that took place at Buchenwald [9]. This is just a small sampling of the many virulent research experiments taking place in concentration camps all over Nazi Germany. Many of the experiments focused on protecting the health of military personnel while some focused on breeding a superior race [10]. The Nazi’s mindset during these experiments were of total utilitarian moral principles therefore rejecting the need for the informed consent of the subjects and viewing them as less than human for the good of the regime.   

During the beginning of the twentieth century, women throughout Europe and North America demanded voting rights which further highlighted the hot topic still debated of gender inequality. The Holocaust was no exception as to the degradation of women as a whole and their roles within society.  For example, Hitler’s Germany instituted sterilization as an accepted practice. Sterilization policies were driven by eugenics and the desire to improve the population by bettering the German gene pool. However, it was women who most affected by Hitler’s Law for the Prevention of Genetically Diseased Offspring. These treatments forced women to remain in hospitals for a week from the process of getting their fallopian tubes tied.  Nazi leadership saw women’s stays in the hospital as a waste of valuable time and resources, resulting in an even larger ethical dilemma. Rather than surgery, women were now injected with super-cooled carbon dioxide which lead to a scarification of their fallopian tubes. Not only did these experiments raise ethical questions surrounding the rights of the women being sterilized, but also to the elimination of the rights of potential offspring that could have been born without these methods [11].

Citizens Protest the Sterilization Laws
Enforced by Hitler and Permitted by Buck v. Bell

The review of these experiments raised questions to consider in the ethical debate surrounding unethically obtained data. What qualifies an experiment as ethical? Should we separate data from the way it is obtained? Or does the unethical method of retrieval make the use of the gathered results unethical within itself. The findings from these experiments were not kept secret and in fact published frequently in scientific publications, giving the public and medical professions of the future access to an abundance of data found from human experimentation [8]. A main component of an ethical study is the consent of the participants. As these human subjects were prisoners of the Nazi regime they did not have the opportunity to grant or withdraw their consent to participate. Concern of using the Nazi collected data is voiced throughout the science world as scientists are worried the complainant use of such unethically obtained data without guidelines will open the door to future scientific abuses such as these experiments. A conference held in 1989 attempted to create these guidelines. The result was inconclusive and ended with some scientists believing this data should be taboo and others believing not using this data that could potentially help advance science would be just as unethical [10]. This issue was not only debated by scholars but by people affected by these atrocities such as the victims of these experiments. A survivor of the Mengele twin experiments, Eva Kor, wrote that the data should be given back the victims and not used for scientific advancement as “a lesson to the world that human dignity and human life are more important than any advance in science or medicine” [11].

The Twins of Auschwitz Await
Experimentation Performed by Dr. Mengele

In addition to the ethical complications surrounding the medical experiments practiced during the Holocaust, there are still resounding influences on morals today within the families and communities affected by Hitler’s reign as dictator. One man reflecting on his father’s participation in Hitler’s army confesses, “As a child, one tends to see the parents in a positive light. It is the drive for self-preservation. And then to find out that this person had some really terrible convictions, expressed some terrible views, and held onto them… how can one grasp it? How can you take him for a father?” [12]. This man’s words highlight that not only were the people who suffered through the concentration camps forever affected, but also the families of those who helped the horrific events during the Holocaust take place. Although thinking about tragic events such as Hitler’s Holocaust raises existential questions, it is essential to learn from the past in order to make the future a more hospitable place for successive generations. As more time passes, personal attachment to these events has faded and the reality of the era becomes harder and harder to present without distorting facts [13]. For example, many of the survivors and their families became desensitized to the torture they endured and are unable to accurately recall everything that occured. As a result, the criminal proceedings following the end of World War II depended on publicized documentation of medical experimentation committed by the Nazi Party.

The Holocaust affected the culture surrounding Hippocratic practice and teachings within research experimentation. The horrific crimes committed by the Nazi Party against marginalized communities of Western Europe called for a swift revision of experimentation practices. The true horror of these crimes is the subjugation of individuals to subhuman treatment. Once the Nazi Party was taken over by Allied Forces, these crimes were prosecuted within international court jurisdiction.  

Experimentation against Jewish and other persecuted societal groups was well documented under the leaders of the Third Reich. These experiments were used for testing in the name of winning World War II for the German forces. The victims of these war crimes were tested in conditions of hypothermia, altitude sickness, the viability of seawater as drinking water, and other extreme conditions.

Test Subject, Calf Muscle Was Removed
by a German Doctor for Experimentation

In addition, doctors and nurses of the Nazi Party were condemned for their participation in harmful experiments against physically and mentally handicapped prisoners. Trials against these individuals were documented under the Doctor’s Trial of 1947.

Doctor’s Trial of 1947

These were the first trials conducted under the American military indictment of the Nazi Party’s War Crimes. The prosecution of wrongful experimentation procedures created a need for international guidelines towards further humane research. This led to the requirement of informed consent within research studies and experiment trials. In addition, there was controversy surrounding the use of data collected by German doctors during the Holocaust [18]. Consequently, the Nuremberg Code was created to serve as a foundation for the advancement of scientific research.  

The Nuremberg Trials of 1947 introduced the Nuremberg Code [17]. This code of conduct was written by the winners of World War II, the Allied Forces, in order to protect against further misconduct within research practices. The main purpose of this code of conduct was to instill the value of informed consent [14]. Informed consent is predicated upon the adherence to patient education of the research they are participating in and the harmful effects that could result from their participation within a study. The nature of these trials implemented a new standard and culture surrounding research treatment on a global scale.  

The Nuremberg Code Statements

This code symbolized a change in power structure amongst the intersection of global and scientific fields. American officials took control of international regulation of human experimentation, illustrating a shift in the culture of scientific research. The integration of global politics and human research exemplified a new sphere for the domination of American culture. Furthermore, the world used the Nuremberg Code to solidify a new frontier for research that enhanced cooperation amongst nations. This code of ethical research has had profound effects on the guidelines used for the International Ethical Guidelines for Biomedical Research Involving Human Subjects [15]. While it was never adapted into any national law, the Nuremberg Code serves as the foundation of ethical requirements for the funding and publication of research projects of the last 70 years [16].

The analysis of the scientific, ethical, and cultural ramifications of the human experiments conducted during the Holocaust forces humanity to examine the true impacts of the subhuman treatment of individuals in the pursuit of scientific discovery. Through the use of psychological strategy, the Nazi Party was able to rationalize these acts of evil and we are now forced to evaluate the detrimental capacity of human nature.  The lack of ethics used in the torture of marginalized groups in the name of science has allowed for the revaluation of basic guidelines for further scientific research. The publication of these unethical experiments has called into question the validity of their publication and review. An examination of the cultural implications of international code of ethics concerning scientific research has revealed the underlying effect of global politics within medical research.

Mass Murders and Murderers, Pod 3: Madison Bencini, Alex Kopp, Kristen Lennon, and Kyndal Robbins

 

Footnotes

[1] Hawkins, Mike. 1997. Social Darwinism in European and American thought, 1860–1945. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

[2] Barenbaum, Michael. “T4 Program.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., September 10, 2018. https://www.britannica.com/event/T4-Program

[3] McMillan, Dan. How Could This Happen: Explaining the Holocaust. New York: Basic Books, a member of the Persus Books Group, 2014.

[4] Wyman, David. The World Reacts to the Holocaust. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996.

[5] Mantegazza, Raffaele, and Cinzia Donatelli Noble. The Smell of Smoke : Auschwitz and the Pedagogy of Annihilation. Milan: IPOC, 2008.

[6] Pasternak, Alfred. Inhuman Research: Medical Experiements in German Concentration Camps. Budapest: Akademiami Kiado, 2006.

[7] Akhtar, Salman, Harold P Blum, Pa Margaret S. Mahler Symposium on Child Development (34th : 2003 : Philadelphia, Pa Margaret S. Mahler Symposium on Child Development (38th : 2007 : Philadelphia, and Henri Parens. The Unbroken Soul : Tragedy, Trauma, and Human Resilience. Lanham, Md.: Jason Aronson, 2008.

[8] The Ethical Considerations of Medical Experimentation on Human Subjects. Accessed April 03, 2019. http://www.qcc.cuny.edu/SocialSciences/ppecorino/MEDICAL_ETHICS_TEXT/Chapter_7_Human_Experimentation/Reading-Nazi-experimentation.htm

[9] “The Thirteen Nuremberg Trials.” Nuremberg. Accessed April 03, 2019. http://nuremberg.law.harvard.edu/trials

[10] Wilkerson, Isabel, Special To The New York Times. “Nazi Scientists and Ethics of Today.” The New York Times. May 21, 1989. Accessed April 03, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/1989/05/21/us/nazi-scientists-and-ethics-of-today.html

[11] Caplan, Arthur L. When Medicine Went Mad: Bioethics and the Holocaust. Totowa, NJ: Humana Press, 1992.

[12] “We Suffered Too”: Nazi Children’s Inability to Relate to the Suffering of the Victims of the Holocaust.” SAGE Journals. Accessed April 01, 2019. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0022167891314006

[13] Bennett, Rab. Under the Shadow of the Swastika: The Moral Dilemmas of Resistance and Collaboration in Hitler’s Europe. Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002.

[14] Annas, George J. 2018. “Beyond Nazi War Crimes Experiments: The Voluntary Consent Requirement of the Nuremberg Code at 70.” American Journal of Public Health 108 (1): 42–46. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2017.304103.

[15] Shuster, Evelyne. “Fifty Years Later: The Significance of the Nuremberg Code.” New England Journal of Medicine337, no. 20 (1997): 1436-440. Accessed April 1, 2019. https://www.nejm.org/doi/10.1056/NEJM199711133372006?url_ver=Z39.88-2003&rfr_id=ori%3Arid%3Acrossref.org&rfr_dat=cr_pub%3Dwww.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

[16] “The Doctors Trial.” The Nuremberg Code. Accessed April 07, 2019. https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/the-nuremberg-code.

[17] “The Nuremberg Code.” United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Accessed April 05, 2019. https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/the-nuremberg-code

[18] Weindling, Paul. “Human Guinea Pigs and the Ethics of Experimentation: The BMJ’s Correspondent at the Nuremberg Medical Trial.” The BMJ. December 07, 1996. Accessed April 05, 2019. https://www.bmj.com/content/313/7070/1467.full

25 Comments

  1. I didn’t know about the fact that women had to be sterilized, and get their fallopian tubes tied (or corroded – yikes). That was disturbing to read about. It would be interesting to see the women’s stance on this, and especially for someone that was for this practice.

    I connected the human experimentation to another experiment from the 1900s. The Stanford Prison experiment found that when people were placed in a position of authority, they are likely to abuse their power and grow desensitized to others. I feel as if this could also explain why human experimentation carried on for so long under Hitler’s regime. When we consider figures such as the Dr. Josef Mengele, also known as the Angel of Death, who not only chose who was to be sent to the gas chambers, but also was a leading figure in human experimentation.

    It’s amazing what can be rationalized in a group setting. It is kind of ironic how group polarization ultimately lead to this normalization of supremacy and genocide in Germany. I think it would add more to the articles if you were to consider and add details about people who were once part of the Nazi party to see what their view on human experimentation for the purpose of furthering medicine was.

  2. Although some parts of this paper were hard to read due to the disturbing nature, it was extremely interesting and informative. Many of these practices were unknown to me though I knew that Nazi’s performed experiments on those most vulnerable at this time. One thought that kept reoccurring throughout my reading of the post was regarding the U.S.’s reaction following the end of WWII and the fall of Nazi Germany. I remember from an Astronomy class that many Nazi scientists were not prosecuted (not sure if they were given amnesty) following the war and were integrated into U.S. programs such as NASA. It would be interesting to look more into this following your ethical discussion of using Nazi research.

  3. Madeleine Smith

    April 22, 2019 at 5:36 pm

    I have never thought that a possible point of debate would be using the research from the human experiments performed by the Nazis. That whole topic had never really occurred or resonated with me but reading this post really made me question what would be the moral and ethical thing to do. The post says that many scientists believed the data shouldn’t be used and then many others thought it would be just as unethical not to use it. I think I would side on the latter opinion but also who really has a right to say except for those who were forced to endure the horrific experiments and torture. I think that at least the Nuremberg Code was created and some bit of good came out of it because now there is a focus on ethically conducting research but it’s still terrible that it had to go this far in the first place. I also found the three elements of massive mental trauma really interesting especially the catanoid reaction. I cannot even imagine going through something that leaves you psychologically dead and I think those three points really encapsulate how horrible the Holocaust was. Overall the post presented an interesting perspective on the Holocaust and the medical practices and how they still affect us today.

  4. You all wrote a very informative article and it made me think of the Holocaust in a slightly new way, so thank you for that.

    I would say that one new way I’m looking at the Holocaust is in something you mentioned early on. I’ve had various people teach me things about the Holocaust, but never did I think to connect it to the teachings of Charles Darwin. That was a very interesting observation and the thought of his teachings and the survival of the fittest makes sense to the Nazi’s systematic elimination of a race/religion they deemed unfit. Although I question why the Nazis believed they had the sole power to make the decision of who was fit and who was unfit.

    Something else I wanted to bring up in terms of your article is in regards to the research data that was collected and whether it should be used in further studies or not. To some degree, I agree with what the one quote in your article stated in that the data should be handed back over to the survivors of this horrific crime. However, I disagree with that same statement in the sense that we have and can learn a lot about psychology from what happened in the Holocaust. If you look into the research and articles that were done on the topic of the Holocaust you often see the term intergenerational trauma (sometimes also transgenerational trauma) appear. Basically, intergenerational trauma is the trauma that one experiences and then passes down onto their children and even grandchildren by way of changing their genes. To go further, this means that the offspring of trauma survivors deal with the trauma of their parents or grandparents even though they themselves did not experience the trauma itself. Given what you mentioned about the crimes of the Holocaust it is no wonder why survivors and their offspring would experience this phenomena. But by no means is the Holocaust the only event that we can see the issue of intergenerational trauma in. I believe it was also brought up with POWs during the Civil War.

  5. Although, the Holocaust is a subject matter that many of us have been taught throughout our educational career, I feel like this post shed a new light on the Holocaust and the effects on the victims. I was interested in the psychological side effects of victims of the Holocaust and how most of them could not recall their suffering in great detail because they’ve completely detached themselves from their memories. I also was never fully aware of the ramifications made from the scientific experimentations done in the concentration camps. It is especially important that scientists were made to reevaluate the need for consent before experiments are preformed, as well as introducing the Nuremberg Code to set ethical boundaries on research. To bring up the comment of a twin who survived the research done by Mengele, proved to be very insightful as to how victims of the horrific research wanted to have rights to the scientific logs made and how they shouldn’t be published to respect human life and dignity post the inhumane practices of the Holocaust.

  6. My research for this project lead me to current methods of euthanasia and physician assisted suicide. For a majority of euthanasia carried out today, it is thought to be done out of beneficence as the patient is highly suffering due to a terminal illness. In the context of the Holocaust, I never thought that physicians, not the military, were the ones being forced to carry out the killing of Jewish citizens. The portion about the T4 Program was haunting as doctors, those we often trust to make decisions to increase our longevity, were being forced to sentence people to their death. In today’s society the regulations on euthanasia are very strict and highly debated due to the fears that many still have that tragedies like the Holocaust may arise again.

    This post also brings up the bioethics of the findings Nazi’s found during medical experimentation on human subjects. It is interesting that the results and methods of these experiments are still contested today in the field of biomedical ethics. Though the methods were unequivocally unethical, I would think that the findings and data would still be observed. The quote by Eva Kor however does change my mind about this idea as I agree that human dignity and life should be more important than data. A slippery slope is created if we allow the data from these horrific experiments to be published.

  7. This article did a great job highlighting a part of the Holocaust not often discussed. I think a clearer description of the T4 program would have been helpful, though, as the authors never clarified that it was the program specifically for the “euthanasia” (obviously, the killing of a non-consenting individual is murder, not euthanasia) of elderly, ill, and disabled individuals. As written, it appears as if the T4 program was the entire Holocaust, which is inaccurate. I would like to know how this program has impacted not just the medical profession but also the treatment of individuals with disabilities after the Holocaust.

  8. Before I read this research post, I had absolutely no idea that Darwin’s publication of The Origin of Species was the basis for the systematic racism involved in the Holocaust. It is crazy to think that a theory that was published in the 19th century had such an effect on the ideologies of Nazi Germany. However, I was a little confused as to how Darwin’s theory connected to Hitler, so upon doing a little research, I learned that Hitler believed that the human gene pool could be improved by using selective breeding similar to how some farmers bred superior animal strains. Additionally, in regards to the experiments that the Nazi’s performed on the Jews, I believe that in addition to the Nazi’s mindset of viewing the Jews as “less than human for the good of regime,” Nazi’s performed these experiments because of mere obedience. There have been studies done, for example, the Stanford Prison Experiment, where situational factors, such as anonymity and lack of monitoring/no consequences will force people to do things that they may not normally do.

  9. It was highlighted that the Nazi research was made very public, which is disturbing because that means 1. it became normalized in the German, and global culture, but also that 2. very educated people were committing these mass ethical crimes through research. After all of this, I am surprised they didn’t automatically pass new standards and protocol for researchers to follow. For example, the Tuskegee research and Stanford Prison Experiments were allowed to occur on American soil after the Holocaust. I’m not sure on the timeline of research ethic protocol, so if anyone has information on that, I’d love to hear it.

  10. Growing up and learning about the Holocaust, the main focus was always the gas chambers that were used for mass killings. I was not aware of other “scientific research” that was done on these victims. It was horrifying to read about but also opened my eyes to the other sides of the Holocaust that I had not heard of before. The most interesting part of this post is when Eva Kor said that the research that had been done should be given back to the participants rather than published as scientific research. Although I agree with their statement that “a lesson to the world that human dignity and human life are more important than any advance in science or medicine” it makes me wonder what kind of things were learned during these terrible experiments. Was any information gathered or were there any advances in medicine that would have not occurred without these experiments? Was there any “good” that came out of these experiments that have led to modern medical practices?

  11. Wow – you guys did a wonderful job of presenting information about such a devastating and relevant topic. I learned many new things from this post—first of all, I was unaware that the Nazi’s basis for discrimination began with Darwin’s work. Isn’t it crazy how we can twist information to fit our own agendas? It is absolutely heartbreaking how something created to help people—medicine—can be used in such a negative way. I found the topic of catanoid reaction especially fascinating: it reminds me of our discussions about social death prior to physical death. I also found your ethical discussion to be very interesting; clearly, scientists are interested in conducting research on Holocaust victims, but they should be extremely careful while conducting this research. Conducting research on these victims without their consent is certainly unethical, and above all, we need to remember that they are people with feelings—people who have experienced unimaginable atrocities. I love your point about how human feelings are more important than scientific advancement—this applied during the time of the Holocaust and continues to apply today.

  12. Nicole Salazar

    April 24, 2019 at 1:32 am

    I feel as though I can relate this post topics to my topic of human sacrifice. The victims of these horrible experiments were not seen as human just as instruments for the sake of science, much like the humans that were sacrificed in the Shang Dynasty were not seen as human but merely instruments for the sake of honoring their dead or gods. This post is disturbing and you make some great points that bring up the ethics and moral questions of whether the results of the experiments should be used to further scientific technology and answer questions about the human nature. Personally I side with the victim that was quotes in the post, there has to be a point where the wellbeing of individuals is placed before the want for the advancement of technology. Those victims have suffered enough, and if the results were used today they were blur the line if ethics and open the door for much worse experiments to be conducted in the name of science.

  13. While I have learned about the Holocaust in various prior classes, this article shed a new light on certain aspects of the Nazi regime. I knew that prisoners in concentration camps were often experimented on but I had never considered how the knowledge gained from these unethical experiments could be applied. It is interesting that people have different views on whether this knowledge can ethically be used for further research or if it should be returned to the victims of these experiments or destroyed. As stated in the article, these experiments were conducted under the assumption that Jewish individuals were less human than individuals of another race. I would like to see research about other cases in history when experiments have been conducted on individuals viewed as subhuman and how this is prevented from happening today.

  14. As a history major, I thought I knew a lot about the Holocaust but this post opened up my eyes to a lot of facts I didn’t know before. I find it so interesting that a publication by Charles Darwin is considered the basis for the systemic racism associated with the Holocaust. That’s not something they teach you when you learn about evolution in a high school science class! It’s horrible to think that 22 concentration camps were constructed under the Nazi regime, where innocent civilians were starved, tortured, and experimented on. I remember seeing a documentary detailing what Allied soldiers experienced when they liberated some of these camps and saw thousands of dead bodies and others on the verge of death. It would be interesting to look at Americans perspective on Nazi Germany and their practices at the time. Did the United States really not know these unspeakable acts were going on? Or did they simply turn a blind eye? I think looking specifically at the ethical and cultural affects of the Holocaust on American society would be really interesting in relation to this post.

  15. This post was very informative on a topic that history teachers tend to gloss over when talking about the Holocaust. I never knew that Nazi Party leaders took their ideologies from Darwin’s publication earlier in the 1800s. One thing that I would like to know about is how the T4 program was different than the regular use of gas chambers and execution for concentration camp prisoners. Another thing that I think would be useful to include is more about the results of these unethical experiments. While, in my opinion, it certainly does not take away from the fact that these experiments were essentially torture and should not have been done, I wonder what kinds of results these experiments found or if they were complete failures. For instance, much of psychological research in the early 1900s was unethical, especially in the use of lobotomies, but it did end up teaching people quite a lot about the brain.
    An additional perspective to look at for future research could be to look at how other genocides, like the Armenian Genocide, or the Rwandan Genocide, compared to the Holocaust. Do survivors of these genocides have comparable symptoms listed in your post as the survivors of the Holocaust?

  16. I find the topic of the holocaust very psychologically interesting, mostly because I don’t understand how people could act so unethically. The majority of what I have learned in history classes focused on the Jewish victims and their families going to the camps, not what actually happened to the victims. This article gave a new perspective on how to think about what actually occurred during the holocaust. The sterilization of women was something I had never heard of and shocked me completely. You included the psychological effects of the victims after these traumas, but I would also like to know more about how the perpetrators were able to so completely disregard morals and human decency to carry out these horrors. What kind of mental disorders and effects did these officers have?

  17. I had never thought about the medicine that was involved in a mass murder like the Holocaust. The very first point of your paper that described the psychology that goes into carrying through with a mass murder such as this one was very strong and explained a lot. The psychological trauma that came to those experiencing the horrible events of the massacre was evident but the extent of the repercussions are immense. There was also a lot of unethical medical experimentation that occurred which contributed to the torture. My question is how have these ramifications impacted the survivors’ descendants?

  18. The stuff that Josef Mengele did was absolutely horrible, and stood out the most to me when it came to the Holocaust. He literally inflicted pain on people just to see how much they could take before the died, and all for the “name of science.” Although some discoveries did come from the treatment of people in the concentration camps, it was not worth the horrid treatment of innocent people. Its really terrible that these discoveries of the human body and what it could withstand had to come from war and hatred.

  19. This post was incredibly cohesive and thorough, especially on such a devastating topic. The fact that the entire basis for systematic racism was inspired by Charles Darwin’s book, The Origin of Species, was incredibly shocking to me. It is absolutely appalling how individuals who are so set on a goal can manipulate and reconfigure the words of an evolutionist to fit their atrocious cause. I felt as if this entire post was teaching me of the terrible atrocities that my history classes throughout my life were unable to teach me. As hard as this post was to read, I would love to know why these events aren’t taught in schools. To fully understand the Holocaust and the trauma it caused, I think that students–at least in middle and high school–must learn about these experiments and the gruesome manipulations they performed on the bodies of innocent men, women, and children.

  20. I liked how this article delved into the medical torture that Holocaust victims experienced, especially as I don’t feel that this is a subject that is discussed in detail. Everyone has heard about the Holocaust at one point or another, but usually those history lessons tend to focus on the death count rather than those who survived. It also is interesting that we as a society seem almost fixated on this topic even though there have been many mass genocides throughout history. I hypothesize that this is because cameras and media allowed non-involved parties to get a much closer and more personal look at this genocide than was possible in the past. This article touched on forced sterilization, mass euthanasia, intentional spreading of viral diseases, starvation, and more unethical experimental practices. In this situation, the Jewish people were treated like less than lab rats. Further, another ethical issue arises when it comes to what to do with this data. To me, it is disconcerting that medical professionals gain something from data that was so unethically gathered. This situation provides a unique question that is yet to be answered about what to do with information from unethical experiments. Although one may have not taken part in it, in my opinion it feels offensive to the victims to acknowledge it as legitimate medical findings.

  21. While I feel like American culture has rightfully obsessed on education about the Holocaust, your post was very informative and revealed many things I had not learned or heard of before. Your connection between the publishing of Darwin’s thesis, the Origin of Species and how it created a socio-political climate that enabled the development of those willingly committing the atrocities in the Holocaust is fascinating as well as accurate.

    Your description of the concentration camp’s purposeful design of increasing paranoia and fear within the prisoners is, in short, haunting, while also providing beneficial information on how these people were broken down and manipulated into gruesome experiments. While understanding that these experiments were inhumanely cruel and extremely unethical, was there any information or results that could be applicable to today’s medicine or for the future? If so, would it be ethical to use that data, if found to be appropriate and unbiased, in future medical studies and advancements? You posts mention that there is debate if some data is too “taboo” to use in research and that the belief of human compassion should outweigh the advancement of any scientific or medical breakthrough. However, if taboo data did lead to breakthroughs that benefitted for those in the years to come, is it worth it. And in that case, what number of people would have to potentially benefit from that?

    Your post is extremely well written and organized. Great Job!

  22. The Holocaust is an atrocity that is significantly impactful to me, as I have relatives that both survived and passed away during the genocide. As a Jewish young adult, I find it necessary to educate myself on several aspects of the Holocaust, in order to see the oppression and torture that my ancestors were forced to face. Everyone has heard of the gas chambers and concentration camps, but many people are ill-informed on a variety of other methods of torture that were employed during the Holocaust. It does not surprise me that Darwin’s theory of natural selection was twisted to be used as justification for the mass murder of millions of people, since Hitler was attempting to create an Aryan race, which would be indicative of “survival of the fittest”. It is upsetting for me to see how scientific research in Nazi Germany was based upon stratification of individuals. Why is it that scientists must overcome so many ethical concerns when conducting any type of research or procedure, yet their inhumane approaches during the Holocaust went unnoticed and unpunished? It is sickening to see how science can be used in such evil ways.

  23. Though the Holocaust is widely taught in American schools, I never learned the specifics about medical practices of Nazi doctors. This article did a good job in informing me about these horrific actions taken by Nazi doctors. I found the “three elements of massive mental trauma” to be the saddest portion of the article because it showed how truly sick the actions of these doctors were and outlined how the victims were impacted. All of this trauma often led to the victims denying that anything even took place in the first place, which just shows how horrific these events were. Though the details mentioned in the article were sickening, I believe that it is important to know what happened and not forget the horrors these people went through.
    What I found most interesting was the argument presented in article on whether or not it was ethical to use data collected from experiments that are conducted unethically, such as the ones conducted by Nazi doctors on the victims of the Holocaust. This is an interesting argument because though scientific discovery is never as important as the value of human lives, I think there are also other sides of the argument. For example, this data can be shared in honor of these victims and their stories and horrors should be shared along with any scientific data that is used. It would interesting to see the perspective of victims who do want this data to be shared.

  24. I was unaware that Nazi scientific research had been published and is still considered outside of considering the immense trauma from that era of history. It is important to consider the means by which data is collected. Using unethical modes of data collection and experimentation go against all codes of doctor-patient relationships and patient autonomy. Having unethically sourced data makes subsequent findings invalid. I am curious to what extent Nazi discoveries are still considered today? Many Nazi experiments were testing the strengths of the body, or how much stress it could handle as you mentioned, and I wonder how these findings have been used in other experiments or discoveries. How much of our current medical knowledge was built upon the mangled bodies of victims of the Holocaust?

  25. Having done research on Mengele in the past I came in aware he had to be mentioned in this post. The experiments he carried out were no more then glorified torture. The holocaust would produce some benefits from the treatments that were discovered in the camps, however the intense amount of disturbing acts carried out outweigh this by a landslide. The majority of acts carried out during the holocaust end up fulfilling this same thing. This post did get lost at times in explaining just want went on behind closed doors but in all perfectly got its point across

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