World of Knowledge (Australia) - - History -

The atroc­i­ties of Adolf Hitler? How long have you got? The geno­cide of six mil­lion Jews dur­ing the Holo­caust, peo­ple he classed as Un­ter­men­schen (sub-hu­mans). At least three mil­lion pris­on­ers of war ex­e­cuted. Up to 500,000 Ro­mani (gyp­sies) slaugh­tered. The im­pris­on­ment of 100,000 ho­mo­sex­u­als. The eu­thana­sia of 75,000-250,000 men­tally hand­i­capped Ger­mans. The list is long, and re­pul­sive.

There’s also a strong case to be made over Hitler’s in­flu­ence on the deaths of 66 mil­lion peo­ple dur­ing World War Two, thanks to his ag­gres­sive war-mon­ger­ing and em­pire ex­pan­sion.

One of the most de­praved ex­ploits acted out un­der Hitler’s watch were the Nazi’s hu­man ex­per­i­ments, con­ducted on con­cen­tra­tion camp pris­on­ers dur­ing the early-1940s.

Hideous pro­ce­dures were per­formed un­der the guise of science, us­ing peo­ple as guinea pigs to ad­vance var­i­ous Nazi causes, in­clud­ing weapon de­vel­op­ment, the res­cue of mil­i­tary per­son­nel in com­bat and to fur­ther the regime’s twisted racial ide­olo­gies.

With­out ex­cep­tion, cap­tives were forced to take part, of­ten re­sult­ing in death, dis­fig­ure­ment or per­ma­nent dis­abil­ity.

Ger­man physi­cians such as Edu­rad Wirths (Auschwitz) had no time for sen­ti­ment – as well as Jews, Ro­mani, ethinic Poles and dis­abled Ger­mans, chil­dren were also con­sid­ered fair game.

At Auschwitz, Dr Josef Men­gele ex­per­i­mented on al­most 1,500 twins. Men­gele was keen to see if the hu­man body could be un­nat­u­rally ma­nip­u­lated, and whether there was a way to quickly mul­ti­ply the Aryan race. In do­ing so, he un­der­took var­i­ous macabre pro­ce­dures: injecting dyes into the eyes of kids to see if they would change colour, or sewing chil­dren to­gether in an at­tempt to ar­ti­fi­cially cre­ate con­joined twins. Around 200 twins sur­vived their or­deals.

Then there were the freez­ing ex­per­i­ments at Dachau in which vic­tims were sub­merged in icy wa­ter for up to five hours, to see if there was a way to treat Ger­man pi­lots who’d ejected into cold seas; the sea wa­ter ex­per­i­ments whereby groups were given noth­ing to drink (or eat) ex­cept sea wa­ter, re­sult­ing in ex­treme de­hy­dra­tion and sick­ness; the trans­plant ex­per­i­ments at Ravens­bruück that saw a vic­tim’s joints and limbs am­pu­tated, then im­planted onto some­one else; or the bomb ex­per­i­ments at Buchen­wald that in­volved scald­ing pris­on­ers with phos­pho­rus burns to test var­i­ous phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal treat­ments for bomb wounds.

But per­haps the low­est point – and an ex­am­ple of just how in­grained hu­man ex­per­i­men­ta­tion had be­come within the Nazi Party – was the pass­ing of the Law for the Preven­tion of Ge­net­i­cally De­fec­tive Prog­eny in July 1933, which le­galised the in­vol­un­tary ster­il­i­sa­tion of any­one with dis­eases deemed to be hered­i­tary (i.e. those with phys­i­cal de­for­mi­ties, men­tal is­sues, blind­ness, deaf­ness, al­co­holic de­pen­dence, and more). Within two years of the act be­ing rub­ber­stamped by par­lia­ment, around 1% of cit­i­zens aged be­tween 17 and 24 had been in­jected with io­dine and sil­ver ni­trate to stop them pro­duc­ing off­spring. By 1945, around 400,000 Ger­mans had been ster­ilised.

IN­HU­MANE TREAT­MENT Nazi physi­cians con­duct a freez­ing ex­per­i­ment on a pris­oner at Dachau in 1942. The use of hu­man guinea pigs for sick ex­per­i­ments was wide­spread dur­ing Hitler’s reign.

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