Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • It's a warm sunny day in August 1944. Hans  Eppinger is sitting in his office jotting down  

  • some notes in a well-worn book. He pushes his  spectacles farther up the bridge of his nose,  

  • exhales, and puts down his pen. Just a few feet  away are a group of emaciated Romani people.  

  • They are his subjects, his human Guinea pigs. Some of them are already close to death,  

  • so dehydrated they are on all fours licking  water that was just used to mop the floor.  

  • Suddenly the door to their hut opens. In walks  Eppinger. Pointing with his finger, he says,  

  • 'You, you, and you, come with me.” They won't be seen again

  • That was the Sea Water Torture Experiment we  just talked about, and as you'll see today,  

  • it was just one of many infinitely appalling  experiments that happened in those camps

  • 5. Thirst Let's finish the  

  • story we started. Eppinger was an Austrian  physicist whose name among many others is  

  • written in the annals of human depravity. He  was employed by the Nazis during the Second  

  • World War to conduct odious experiments on  human beings at the Dachau concentration camp

  • Eppinger used mainly Romani people, a nomadic  group sometimes referred to asgypsies” – a  

  • term they don't like. Back in the war, about 90  of them were chosen for the water experiments

  • These weren't exactly technical. The Nazis wanted  to know what would happen if you deprived someone  

  • of food and drinking water and had to survive  on seawater. How long would it take to die? What  

  • would happen during the passage to death? In the  war, this could happen to one of their pilots

  • We know the answer thanks to a survivor of those  camps named Joseph Tschofenig. He watched the  

  • experiments with his own eyes, saying later  that the victims were so desperate they  

  • licked the floor and sucked on damp ragsThe outcome was the people usually died

  • Prudence demanded that Tschofenig kept his mouth  about this, with him not even showing sympathy to  

  • the victims when any German soldiers were aroundHe also pretended not to see anything. He later  

  • noted that he'd seen another worker in the camp  take too much interest in an experiment and for  

  • that, he was sent straight to the gas chamberThe experiment was related to how humans deal  

  • with extreme low-pressure. 4. The doctor of death 

  • The low-pressure experiments were conducted  by a man often called a monster. This was  

  • Sigmund Rascher, an SS doctor of death  whose depravity seemed to know no limits

  • He'd been a pilot in the Luftwaffe and that made  him think about the effect of high-altitude on  

  • pilots. The problem was, as he wrote inletter to Nazi SS boss Heinrich Himmler,  

  • it wasn't exactly easy to get people to sign  up for experiments. He wrote that he'd already  

  • tried using monkeys, but that didn't go down  too well. He needed humans, he told Himmler,  

  • stating that the experiments would likely  end their life. No problem, replied Himmler

  • Humans he got, and during the Spring and the  Summer of 1942 he rounded up a bunch of prisoners  

  • at the Dachau camp. One by one, he told them  to enter a pressure chamber. Once they were in,  

  • Rascher played around with the pressuremaking it so low that it corresponded with  

  • being at a very high altitude. He would then  quickly change the pressure in an attempt to  

  • see what it might be like for a German pilot  parachuting from a plane without any oxygen

  • According to reports, the people used in  these experiments were mostly Poles and  

  • Russians. Some of them died, and some of them  survived. When Rascher told Himmler about this,  

  • the boss said if they survive then spare  them the gas chamber. Just give them life  

  • in prison. Rascher then quickly wrote backreminding Himmler who those people were

  • Some of the letters survived the war. Here's part  of one Rascher wrote to Himmler in April 1942: 

  • Only continuous experiments at altitudes  higher than 10.5 Km resulted in death. These  

  • experiments showed that breathing stopped  after about 30 minutes, while in two cases  

  • the electrocardiographically charted action of  the heart continued for another 20 minutes.” 

  • He said after four minutes the people started  towiggleand move their head around.  

  • A minute later, they would cramp up in various  parts of the body. Then their breathing would  

  • become rapid and at around 10 minutes they lost  consciousness. At around the 30-minute mark,  

  • the subjects would only be taking about three  slow breaths per minute. Death came soon after

  • He wrote this in May of the same year: “After relative recuperation from such a  

  • parachute descending test had taken placehowever, before regaining consciousness,  

  • some experimental subjects were  kept underwater until they died.” 

  • You can see just how little concern these people  had for human life. But it gets even worse

  • Rascher, likely following the orders of Luftwaffe  chief surgeon Erich Hippke, experimented on people  

  • to see just how cold you could make themThese were called thefreezing experiments.” 

  • They wanted to know what would happen ifGerman pilot survived his fall from the sky  

  • and landed in the freezing cold ocean? How best  to warm someone up who had hypothermia? In a world  

  • not eclipsed by evil, you couldn't  conduct such an experiment on humans

  • Rascher used people from the Dachau camp, this  time putting prisoners in a tank of freezing  

  • cold water for up to three hours. Others he  made stay outside in the cold weather while  

  • they were naked. Throughout their ordealthey were monitored to see the effects the  

  • cold had on the body. One experiment was called,  “Warming Up After Freezing to the Danger Point.” 

  • In a letter shown at the Nuremberg  trials, Himmler gives his approval of  

  • thewarming upexperiments, signing  off, “Kind Greetings, Heil Hitler!”

  • The victims were almost frozen to death and  then were warmed up, but we are not talking  

  • about being given a blanket and a steaming cup of  tea. They were immersed in hot water, sometimes  

  • boiling water. This was of course a massive shock  to the system, and some people subsequently died

  • The warming by water was not a good way to  treat people suffering from hypothermia was  

  • the conclusion, so Himmler told Rascher to  go and ask fisherman who worked in the cold  

  • North sea what they would do. Himmler  reportedly said that “a fisherwoman  

  • could well take her half-frozen husband  into her bed and revive him in that manner.” 

  • After that, Romani people were frozen  half to death and then placed in between  

  • two warm Romani women. They had to be naked of  course. The victims were monitored throughout,  

  • and if they died, autopsies were performed. You can see the actual reports. They state  

  • if a person is immersed in water at 5 C it  can usually be tolerated for an hour. When  

  • they raised the temperature to 15 C the victim  could tolerate the water for four or five hours

  • The reports also state that even after the people  were taken out of the water their temperature  

  • would continue to drop. They often died soon  after, even when revival attempts were made. We  

  • now know about things such asre-warming shock”  and theafter-drop effectand we know you should  

  • not warm a hypothermic person up using warm waterbut back then the science wasn't up to speed

  • The reports state that people whose body  temperatures were reduced to 25 C and then  

  • warmed up to 28 C died. No number was written  down as to how many died. One report just said  

  • they ALL died. They usually died anywhere  between 53 and 106 minutes of cooling. But  

  • then those were the water experiments only. During the trials, two people who said they  

  • witnessed these experiments said 80 to 90  people died. They said they saw only two  

  • people actually get through the experiment, but  noted that they becamemental casesas a result

  • Finally, this same doctor conducted what was  called theblood coagulation experiments.”  

  • Basically, the Nazis wanted to know if you took  a pill made from beet and Apple pectin would the  

  • blood clot after being shot, therefore  possibly saving the life of a soldier

  • Again, in a normal world, you could never conduct  this experiment on humans, but the Nazis simply  

  • used victims of the camps. They shot them and  then gave them the drug. What's even worse,  

  • they sometimes amputated people's limbsThis was an attempt to try and duplicate  

  • a person losing a limb on the battlefield due  to a bomb. They made it as real as possible,  

  • removing the limbs sometimes without  giving the victim any kind of anesthetic.  

  • After that, they got the blood-clotting drug. In his notes, Rascher wrote, “The tests of this  

  • medicine showed no failures under most varied  circumstances.” This got back to Hitler himself,  

  • who was impressed with the experiment. As for what happened to the dead, it was  

  • later revealed that Rascher had a thing for human  skin, using it to make handbags, gloves, slippers,  

  • saddles, pants, and other items. He sometimes sold  these things to his colleagues, according to the  

  • book, “Medicine, Ethics, and the Third Reich.” Since those reports were released to the world,  

  • scientists have said that Rascher lied in them and  there were many contradictions and inaccuracies.  

  • The Nazis also realized he'd lied at times. Rascher was arrested in 1944 on the order of  

  • Himmler after it was revealed he'd kidnapped three  children. He was accused of scientific fraud and  

  • even murdering his assistant. He ended up being  a prisoner himself at Dachau and then in 1945,  

  • he was executed by firing squad. Ok, now for something very short,  

  • but extremely terrifying. 3. Head injury 

  • This account of one single experiment was told  by a Holocaust survivor named Martin Small,  

  • who wrote that one day he and another prisoner  were working at the house of a Nazi named Dr.  

  • Wichtmann. He said the doctor took off  somewhere, so he did some looking around  

  • and at one point found himself looking into  a locked room by a window outside the house

  • In his own words, he said, “I placed my hands  on the ledge and put my face to the window. I  

  • was not prepared for what was inside and  at first sight, I could not find words to  

  • interpret what I was looking at…I put my hand to  my mouth as if trying to muffle my own outburst.  

  • I nearly vomited. 60 years later I still  cannot erase the vivid, terrible image…” 

  • Ok, so what was he looking at? He described seeing a young boy  

  • strapped to a chair. Above him was a mechanized  hammer that struck the boy over the head every  

  • few seconds. It wasn't hard enough to break the  skull, but you can only imagine what that must  

  • have felt like after say, an hour, a day, two  days, more. The guy said the boy was already  

  • driven mad, not dead, but not there, either. He said that this same doctor had actually  

  • saved him from being killed by another Nazi, so  he was surprised he was torturing a little boy in  

  • the worst kind of way. “I dropped to my knees in  sickness and disgust, and I trembled,” he wrote

  • It's hard to imagine a human doing that to  another human, but of course you are about  

  • to hear something even worse. Sorry, that's  just the way it's going to be with this show

  • 2. Surgery Surgery,  

  • it's an important thing during a time when many  men are being shot to pieces on the battlefield.  

  • The best surgeons practice of course, but who do  you practice on besides victims on your own side

  • The answer for the Nazis was prisoners at the  Ravensbrück concentration camp. Without any  

  • anesthesia at all, people had their bones removedtheir nerves pulled out, their muscles plundered,  

  • all in the name of medical experimentation. The Nazis had two reasons for this. Firstly,  

  • they wanted to know if you remove something how  does it regenerate, if at all. Secondly, they were  

  • interested in seeing how transplants worked. They  didn't seem to give a damn about making people  

  • disabled and putting them through what must have  been the worst kind of pain. Just imagine being  

  • tied down and having parts of you removedThat happened to a woman two times and she  

  • survived to tell the story. Her name was Jadwiga  Kamińska, and she said as a young girl she was  

  • sent into surgery and they did something to  her leg that led to crippling pain. She didn't  

  • know exactly what they did but said after she was  grievously injured and suffered from infections

  • It's hard to say how many people were mutilated  like this, but research shows there were a lot  

  • of victims trying to claim compensation after the  war. There are photos, too, such as the one of a  

  • Polish woman named Bogumiła Babińska-DobrowskaShe'd had a bit of her leg removed.

  • The National Institutes of Health wrote  that in all there were 27,759 known victims,  

  • made up of many nationalities, with about twice as  many male victims as female victims. These people  

  • suffered all manner of injuries and many died. Reports state that the victims were called  

  • 'rabbitsby the Nazis, given the nature of the  experiments. Some were cut deeply so it could be  

  • seen how quickly infections ensued. Sometimes the  Nazis would rub dirt, cloth fibers, wood shavings,  

  • and even broken glass into the open wound. This  was to accelerate the speed of infection. The  

  • victims were then given experimental drugs  to see if the infection could be dealt with

  • The NIH wrote, “They operated on Barbara  Pietrzyk five times in 1942 alone causing  

  • left lower limb paralysis. At 16 years of  age, she was the youngest of therabbits.” 

  • In another account, Nazi Professor Gebhardt used  24 Polish women for an experiment. He wanted to  

  • see what would happen if you cut off blood flow  in a limb, so he just tied something really tight  

  • around part of the limb. The result of course  was the area became necrotic. Experimental drugs  

  • were subsequently administered to the women. Nazi reports that were unearthed said in one  

  • experiment 13 people died from gangrene, while six  others were taken out and shot so they couldn't  

  • ever tell anyone about what had happened  to them. There is data to back all this up,  

  • so as unbelievable as it sounds, it happenedThere are names and photographs of survivors

  • Another NIH report stated, “The surviving  victims were permanently disabled,  

  • both physically and psychologically. Four of  the surviving Polish women, Maria Broel-Plater,  

  • Jadwiga Dzido, Wladyslawa Karolewska, and  Maria Kusmierczuk testified during the Doctors'  

  • Trial and exhibited the scars on their legs.” Then there was Dr. Ludwig Stumpfegger. He was  

  • partly responsible for bone graft experiments  using the tibias of victims. In some cases,  

  • the tibia would be harvested and  then transplanted to another victim  

  • who had also had their tibia removed. During those same experiments,  

  • they did something called a myomectomy. That's  removing the skeletal muscle, and as you know,  

  • nerves were also taken out. Again there  are names or survivors and photographs.

  • One such person was named Wladislawa  Karolewska. She went through six  

  • separate surgeries each involving the  removal of bone, muscles, and nerves

  • She testified later, describing how people were  slaughtered and how she was experimented on.  

  • This is what she said happened to  her after she passed out from pain

  • “I regained my consciousness in the morning and  then I noticed that my leg was in a cast from the  

  • ankle up to the knee and I felt a very strong  pain in this leg and the high temperature. I  

  • noticed also that my leg was swollen from the  toes up to the groin. The pain was increasing  

  • and the temperature, too, and the next daynoticed that some liquid was flowing from my leg.” 

  • One day, she and other rabbits stood in line  to be executed. A German officer asked her,  

  • Why do you stand so in line as if you were to be  executed?” She replied, “The operations are worse  

  • for us than executions and we would prefer to be  executed rather than to be operated on again.” 

  • She explained in her testimony what  happened after the final operation

  • “I stayed in the hospital six months. I was  in bed. I could not stretch my legs. I could  

  • not move them. I could not walk either.” A doctor named Fischer later admitted to  

  • taking off entire limbs, saying he was just  following orders. He wrote of one limb removal

  • “I was ordered to go to Ravensbrück and perform  the operation of removal on that evening. I asked  

  • Doctors Gebhardt and Schulze to describe exactly  the technique which they wished me to follow.” 

  • In a sworn affidavit, a Czech doctor  named Dr. Zdenka Nedvedova-Nejedla, wrote

  • High amputations were performed; for  example, even whole arms with shoulder  

  • blades or legs were amputated. These operations  were performed mostly on insane women who were  

  • immediately killed after the operation byquick injection of Evipan.” That is a kind  

  • of barbiturate that can kill in high doses. She said eleven people died or were killed  

  • during these operations, and she also stated  that pain relievers weren't administered to  

  • the victims. We know this because she wrote: “After operations, no one except SS nurses was  

  • admitted to the persons operated on, whole nights  they lay without any assistance and it was not  

  • permitted to administer sedatives even against  the most intensive post-operational pains.” 

  • Ok, so this is a really depressing show, but  you all know the expression that history is  

  • doomed to repeat itself if we don't study itWe need to know the facts. You need to know  

  • that the Nazis purposefully gave people malariaThey tested mustard gas on prisoners. They gave  

  • tetanus to others, and they conducted many awful  experiments to see how people could be sterilized

  • They even poisoned people to the point of death  or actual death, and they burned people to see  

  • how bomb blasts work out for victims... but  even after hearing all that, there's one thing  

  • that sticks out. 1. Twins 

  • These were called the Twin experiments. The  Nazis were obsessed with twins, and so they  

  • captured about 1,500 sets and imprisoned them  at Auschwitz. About 200 of them survived,  

  • so that's how we know about what happened. They separated them so they could monitor  

  • what happened to each twin without them knowing  the same was happening to their sibling. Again,  

  • they did ad hoc surgeries on them, even trying  to change their eye color using dyes. This was  

  • mostly the work of doctors Josef Mengele  and Karin Magnussen. The latter made it  

  • clear how she thought, writing this in 1943: “This war is not just about the preservation  

  • of the German people, but is about the questionwhich races and peoples should live in the future  

  • on European soilthe Jew who enjoys life ashost in our country, is our enemy, even if he does  

  • not actively engage with weapons in this fight.” But why change the eye color, which was very  

  • painful by the wayThe reason was just to see  if they could. One survivor said Mengele looked  

  • at her mother and saw what he said were  "perfect Aryan features" and blue eyes,  

  • but her eyes were brown, which didn't impress  the doctor. His thoughts? Try and change them

  • Survivor Jona Laks said she saw Mengele remove one  twin's organs without giving him any anesthetic.  

  • Others said he sometimes just killed twins by  giving them injections to the heart. Mengele was  

  • obsessed with what he might have called purebloodand so he was obsessed with twins and genetic  

  • inheritance. After all, the Nazis wanted to  create a super race, partly and wrongly based on  

  • Friedrich Nietzsche's concept of theSuperman”. He even forced people to have sex,