The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Last-Modified: 1996/12/28

Although Rascher was of the preliminary opinion that
rewarming by women's bodies would be too slow, means for
conducting such experiments were nevertheless placed at his
disposal. A letter from the Reichsfuehrer SS, signed
Himmler, 16 November 1942, and addressed to Lt. General
Pohl, the head of WVHA, read as follows:

     "The following struck me during my visit to Dachau on
     the 13 November 1942 regarding the experiments
     conducted there for the saving of people whose lives
     are endangered through exposure (Unterkuhlung) in ice,
     snow, or water and who are to be saved by the
     employment of every method or means:
     "I had ordered that suitable women are to be set aside
     from the Concentration Camp for these experiments for
     the warming of these who were exposed. Four girls were
     set aside who were in the Concentration Camp due to
     loose living, and being prostitutes, they formulate a
     danger of contagion. ***" (1583-PS)

To insure the continuance of Rascher's experiments, Himmler
arranged for his transfer to the Waffen SS. A letter dated
November 1942 from the Reichsfuehrer SS addressed to "Dear
Comrade Milch," stated:

     "You will recall that through General Wolff I
     particularly recommended to you for your consideration
     the work of a certain SS Fuehrer, Dr. Rascher, who is a
     physician of the air force on leave (Arzt des
     Beurlaubtenstandes der Luftwaffe) .
     "These researches which deal with the behavior of the
     human organism at great heights, as well as with
     manifestations caused by prolonged cooling of the human
     body in cold water, and similar problems which are of
     vital importance to the air force in particular, can be
     performed by us with particular efficiency because I
     personally assumed the responsibility for supplying
     asocial individuals and criminals who deserve only to
     die (todeswuerdig) from concentration camps for these
     "I beg you to release Dr. Rascher, Stabsarzt in
     reserve, from
                                                  [Page 217]
     the air force and to transfer him to me to the Waffen-
     SS. I would then assume the sole responsibility for
     having these experiments made in this field, and would
     put the results, of which we in the SS need only a part
     for the frost injuries in the East, entirely at the
     disposal of the air force. However, in this connection
     I suggest that with the liaison between you and Wolff a
     "non-Christian" physician should be charged, who should
     be at the same time honorable as a scientist and not
     prone to intellectual theft and who could be informed
     of the results. This physician should also have good
     contacts with the administrative authorities, so that
     the results would really obtain a hearing.
     "I believe that this solution -- to transfer Dr.
     Rascher to the SS, so that he could carry out the
     experiments under my responsibility and under my orders
     -- is the best way. The experiments should not be
     stopped; we owe that to our men. If Dr. Rascher
     remained with the air force, there would certainly be
     much annoyance; because then I would have to bring a
     series of unpleasant details to you, because of the
     arrogance and assumption which Professor Dr.
     Holzloehner has displayed in the post of Dachau -- who
     is under my command -- about me in utterances delivered
     to SS Colonel Sievers. In order to save both of us this
     trouble, I suggest again that Dr. Rascher should be
     transferred to the Waffen SS as quickly as possible."

Rascher's experiments were by no means the only experiments
in which the SS was interested. Without attempting even to
outline the whole extent of the experimental program, one
further illustration of this type of SS activity may be
mentioned. That is a report prepared by the
Chief Hygienist in the office of the Reich Surgeon of the SS
and Police, SS Oberfuehrer Dr. Mrugowsky, 12 September 1944,
relating to experiments with poisoned bullets.

     "On 11 September 1944, in the presence of SS-
     Sturmbannfuehrer Dr. Ding, Dr. Widman and the
     undersigned, experiments with Akonotinnitrate bullets
     were carried out on five persons who had been sentenced
     to death. The caliber of the bullets used was 7.65 cm
     and they were filled with the poison in crystal form.
     Each subject of the experiments received one shot in
     the upper part of the left thigh, while in a horizontal
     position. In the case of 2 persons, the bullets passed
     clean through the upper part of the thigh. Even later
     no effect from the poison could be seen. These two
     subjects were therefore rejected ***
                                                  [Page 218]
     "The symptoms shown by the three condemned persons were
     surprisingly the same. At first, nothing special was
     noticeable. After 20 to 25 minutes, a disturbance of
     the motor nerves and a light flow of saliva began, but
     both stopped again. After 40 to 44 minutes a strong
     flow of saliva appeared. The poisoned persons swallowed
     frequently, later the flow of saliva is so strong that
     it can no longer be controlled by swallowing. Foamy
     saliva flows from the mouth. Then, a sensation of
     choking, and vomiting start." (L-103)

The next three paragraphs describe in coldly scientific
fashion the reactions of the dying persons. That description
then concludes:

     "At the same time there was pronounced nausea. One of
     the poisoned persons tried in vain to vomit. In order
     to succeed he put 4 fingers of his hand, up to the main
     joint, right into his mouth. In spite of this, no
     vomiting occurred. His face became quite red.
     "The faces of the other two subjects were already pale
     at an early stage. Other symptoms were the same. Later
     on the disturbance of the motor nerves increased so
     much that the persons threw themselves up and down
     rolled their eyes and made aimless movements with their
     hands and arms. At last, the disturbance subsided, the
     pupils were enlarged to the maximum, the condemned lay
     still. Massetercramp and loss of urine was observed in
     one of them. Death occurred 121, and 129 minutes after
     they were shot." (L-103)

The fact that SS doctors engaged in such experiments was no
accident. It was consistent with an ideology and racial
philosophy which, to use Himmler's own words, regarded human
beings as lice and offal. But the most important factor was
the fact that only the SS was in a position to supply
necessary human material. And it did supply such material
through WHA. A letter from the Department Chief of Office
Group D of WVHA, 12 May 1944, addressed to the commandants
of all concentration camps dealt with the assignment of
prisoners for the experimental purposes:

     "There is cause to call attention to the fact that in
     every case permission for assignment has to be
     requested here before assignment of prisoners is made
     for experimental purposes.
     "To be included in this request are number, kind of
     custody, and in case of aryan prisoners, exact personal
     data, file number in the Main Reich's Security Office
     and reason for detainment into the concentration camp.
                                                  [Page 219]
     "Herewith. I explicitly forbid assignment of prisoners
     for experimental purposes without permission." (1751-PS)

It was on the basis of its ability to supply such material
that the Ministry of Finance was prepared to subsidize the
SS experimental program. This matter was discussed in a
series of letters between the Ministry of Finance, the
Reichs Research Department, and the Reich Surgeon of the SS
and police (002-PS). The first is from the office of the
Executive Council of the Reichs Research Department,
addressed to the Reichs Surgeon SS and Police, 19 February
1943, and signed by Mentzel, Chief of Bureau. SS Brigade

     "The Reichs Minister of Finance told me that you
     requested 53 leading positions (BES. GR C3-C8) for your
     office, partly for a new research institute.
     "After the Reichsmarshal of the Great German Reich had,
     as President of the Reichs Research Dept., entrusted
     himself with all German research, issued directives
     among other things, that in the execution of military
     important scientific tasks, the available institutions
     including equipment and personnel should be utilized to
     the utmost for reasons of necessary economization (of
     "The foundation of new institutes comes therefore only
     in question in as far as there are no outstanding
     institutes available for the furtherance of important
     war research tasks." (002-PS)

To this letter the Reich Surgeon of SS and Police replied on
26 February 1943:

     "In acknowledgment of your correspondence of 19
     February 1943, I am able to reply the following to it
     "The appropriation for the 53 key positions for my
     office which you made the basis of your memorandum was
     a veritable peace plan.
     "The special institutes of the SS which are to be
     partly staffed through this appropriation are to serve
     the purpose to establish and make accessible for the
     entire realm of scientific research, the particular
     possibilities of research only possessed by the SS."


     "I will gladly be at your disposal at any time to
     discuss the particular research aims in connection with
     the SS, which I would like to bring up upon the
     direction of the Reichs Director SS."

An interview between the Reich Surgeon and Mentzel took

                                                  [Page 220]
place, and on 25 March 1948 Mentzel wrote the following
letter to the Reich Minister of Finance:

     "In regard to your correspondence of the 19th Dec (J
     4761-174 I g III. Ang) to which I gave you a
     preliminary communication on the 19th Feb, I finally
     take the following position: "The Surgeon General-SS
     and Police, in a personal discussion, told me that the
     budget claim which he looks after is used primarily in
     the pure military sector of the Waffen SS. Since it is
     established on a smaller scale for the enlarging of
     scientific research possibilities, they pertain
     therefore exclusively to such affairs that are carried
     out with the material (Prisoners -- 'Haflinge') which
     is only accessible to the Waffen SS and are therefore
     not to be undertaken for any other experimental purposes.
     "I cannot object therefore on the part of the Reichs
     Experimental Counsel against the budget claims of the
     Surgeon General, SS and Police." (002-PS)

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