Nazi freezing experiments

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Performed between August 1942 and May 1943 at the Dachau Concentration Camp, primarily for the Luftwaffe, the nonconsual Nazi freezing experiments explored treatments for persons who had been severely chilled.

Experiments

After forcing the prisoners into a tank of iced water, or stripped naked in frigid air, various approaches to rewarming were used. Once the preliminary work had been done, Heinrich Himmler personally ordered that body warmth be used as an additional technique, and women from the Ravensbrueck Concentration Camp were pressed into this service.

Many of the prisoners died during the experimentation.

Experimenters

At the Medical Case (NMT), the following participants were tried: Hermann Becker-Freyseng, Karl Brandt, Rudolf Brandt, Karl Gebhardt, Siegfried Handloser, Joachim Mrugowsky, Helmut Poppendick, Oskar Schroeder, Wolfram Sievers, and Georg August Weltz.

  • Convicted: Rudolf Brandt, Handloser, Schroeder, and Sievers
  • Acquitted: Becker-Freyseng, Karl Brandt, Gebhardt, Mrugowsky, Poppendick, and Weltz were acquitted

Ethical questions

Relatively few of the Nazi experiments had any pretense of scientific validity, but there have been some arguments that the data collected here could benefit humanity, giving meaning to the deaths, by providing unobtainable data on hypothermia; this has been examined from the perspective of Jewish law. [1] A more common position, however, as described by Marcia Angell, is that the data are irrevocably tainted. While, she writes, it could be "tempting to overlook the ethical lapse. But to do so would be to regard the subjects as means to an end, albeit a worthy end,and judgments about the implications of research results would come to replace judgments about the study.[2] She quotes the Massachusetts General Hospital Guiding Principles for Human Studies (1981), "a study is ethical or not at its inception. It does not become ethical because it succeeds in producing valuable data."

References

  1. Baruch C. Cohen, "The Ethics Of Using Medical Data From Nazi Experiments", Jewish Law Articles
  2. Marcia Angell (1992), Editorial Responsibility: Protecting Human Rights by Restricting Publication of Unethical Research, in George J. Annas & Michael A. Griffin, The Nazi Doctors and the Nuremberg Code: Human Rights in Human Experimentation, Oxford University Press, p. 278