Nazi Medical Experiments

The drive to create a superior race.

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Conducted on prisoners at Dachau by the SS and German air force, these included testing human potential for survival at high altitudes and at freezing temperatures, and seeing whether and how long humans could survive by drinking seawater.

Medical treatment experiments--still part of the group of experiments problematic mainly due to the way they were run, not their aims--tried to figure out how to treat certain battle injuries and victims of gas attacks, and tested various medicines and vaccination techniques, to learn more about preventing or treating contagious diseases. The chemical warfare experiments were sponsored by the German army.

The second major category of experiments, which violated medical ethics by both their means and their ends, included experiments that tried to prove the Nazis' racist ideas through biology. Those experiments seeking biological proof of the Nazis' racist beliefs included tests on dwarfs and twins, and the study of Jewish skeletons. Those experiments seeking to advance the destruction of the Jews included mass sterilization, meant as an alternative to immediate extermination.

Seeking Justice

After the war, one of the Nuremberg trials, called The Medical Case, dealt with these medical experiments. Twenty-three doctors and medical officials were tried and convicted of planning and implementing experiments on human beings against their will in a brutal fashion that included horrific torture, and of planning to murder some of the victims. Seven of the accused were sentenced to death, nine were sentenced to prison, and seven were acquitted. Other major players in the Nazi medical experiments were not tried, as they either committed suicide or escaped Europe.

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