Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • Former Luftwaffe pilot, now SS doctor, Sigmund Rascher, chooses two prisoners from a lineup,

  • Russian men barely out of their teens.

  • These strong men have no idea that they are about to become test subjects in Rascher's

  • profoundly unethical medical experiment bearing the innocuous title, “Warming Up After Freezing

  • to the Danger Point.”

  • A few hours hour later, Rascher jots down in his notebook, “Subject 115763-naked:

  • Time of death: 64 minutes.

  • Subject 115306-clothed.

  • Time of death: 102 minutes.”

  • This was not unusual.

  • Those that underwent the Nazi's freezing experiments rarely escaped with their life

  • intact.

  • We know a little bit about the experiments of doctor Rascher due to the fact that many

  • of the letters the Nazis wrote while they were experimenting on prisoners were later

  • used in evidence during the Nuremberg Trials.

  • Take for instance this letter, dated October 9, 1942.

  • The correspondence is between Rascher and Heinrich Himmler, the Reichsführer SS.

  • After Adolf Hitler, Himmler was the most powerful Nazi that ever shoutedSieg Heil!”

  • The letter started with, “I ask for leave to submit to you the second interim report

  • concerning the freezing experiments.”

  • Interestingly, lower down, he also wrote that Professor Holzloehner declined to perform

  • the freezing experiments on humans out ofshame”.

  • Rascher then added, “I shall take over the exploitation of them”, meaning the humans.

  • It seems not all Nazi doctors were happy about experimenting on humans.

  • In the testimony of SS officer Rudolf Brandt, he talked about Himmler, stating, “He further

  • asked Rascher to submit the names of people who were opposed to experiments on human beings

  • and stated that such peoples were to be considered as traitors.”

  • Still, if there were such traitors, they were in a very small minority.

  • They did exist, though, with Himmler writing to Rascher in one letter, “I regard those

  • people as high and national traitors who, still today, reject these experiments on humans,

  • and would instead let sturdy German soldiers die as a result of these cooling methods.

  • I shall not hesitate to report these men.”

  • Such was the mindset of the inner circle of Nazis.

  • Being outside all day during the winter in some parts of the world could easily be lethal.

  • Ending up in the bitterly cold waters could be lethal much faster.

  • The Germans wanted to know how to treat their soldiers when they were suffering from hypothermia.

  • These experiments happened at the Dachau camp from August 1942 until May 1943.

  • They consisted of freezing a person to the point of death, although sometimes that part

  • did end in death.

  • This was useful information for the Nazis since such experiments gave them an idea of

  • what a person could survive.

  • Another part of the experiment was calledwarming up”, in which the doctors used

  • various methods to warm someone, so they didn't just survive but were brought back to good

  • health.

  • It was almost as if the Nazis were playing God, trying to resurrect people from what

  • looked like certain death.

  • What's also interesting is that there seemed to be some competition going on between various

  • doctors, with some medical personnel expressing that experimenting on humans wasn't necessary

  • when animals could be usedin some cases, “shaved cats.”

  • Rascher told Himmler that humans were indeed better, saying in one letter that he needed

  • moreRussians”.

  • You might wonder why Russians.

  • The answer was the Germans had to fight on the Eastern Front, where temperatures could

  • get very low.

  • The Germans weren't used to this.

  • The Nazis wondered if the Russians had a genetic advantage when it came to surviving the cold,

  • and if they did, they wanted to know why.

  • Further down the letter, he wrote, “The experiments of rewarming by body heat, which

  • were ordered, will be carried out as soon as the women necessary for this experiment

  • arrive, in about two days.

  • I shall report the results of this experiment separately.”

  • This didn't mean that Rascher was now freezing only women, but that he was addressing Himmler's

  • contention that the best way to warm up a freezing man was to place him between the

  • bodies of two other men.

  • It was Himmler's contention that animal warmth, in this case, human warmth, was better

  • than artificial warmth.

  • He told Rascherthat a fisherwoman could well take her half-frozen husband into her

  • bed and revive him in that manner.”

  • This was actual testimony from a former Nazi during the Nuremberg trials.

  • The man who said the words was again Rudolph Brandt:

  • The report on the rewarming of an intensely chilled human being by animal warmth stated

  • that the experimental subjects were cooled until they all lost consciousness.

  • The test persons were then placed between two naked women in a spacious bed.

  • It was noted that several of the subjects revived sufficiently to perform sexual intercourse.”

  • These experiments were supposed to emulate what it would be like when one of their pilots

  • was shot down and ended up in the frigid North Sea.

  • To replicate this, sometimes prisoners were dropped into a bath of ice-cold water.

  • According to researchers, some of them were anesthetized, and others weren't.

  • Although we said that Professor Holzloehner may have felt some amount of shame regarding

  • the human experiments, we found a report with his name attached to it that beggars belief.

  • The other names were Rascher and Dr. Finke.

  • The letter concerned giving narcotics to a person before they were forced into the iced

  • bath.

  • It started, “If the experimental subject was placed in the water under narcosis, one

  • observed a certain arousing effect.

  • The subject began to groan and made some defensive movements.

  • In a few cases, a state of excitation developed.

  • This was especially severe in the cooling of head and neck.”

  • The report said the person then suffered from a kind ofrigor”, after which, the subject

  • started twitching.

  • The report concluded, “With still more marked sinking of the body temperature, it suddenly

  • ceased.

  • These cases ended fatally, without any successful results from resuscitation efforts.”

  • Some subjects were naked, but others were fully dressed, usually in German air force

  • uniforms to create a facsimile of natural conditions.

  • Rascher's letters illuminate the details.

  • He wrote in one report, “The experimental subjects were placed in the water, dressed

  • in complete flying uniform, winter or summer combination, and with an aviator's helmet.

  • A life jacket made out of rubber kapok was to prevent submerging.

  • In one experimental series, the occiput (brain stem) protruded above the water, while in

  • another series of experiments the occiput (brain stem) and back of the head were submerged

  • in water.”

  • We'll come back to why he didn't always fully submerge the person.

  • The doctors checked the person's body temperature throughout and also wrote down obviousclinical

  • manifestations”, which in simple terms just means the outward signs of what happened to

  • the freezing person.

  • They also checked for biochemical and physiologic changes, which again relate to the changes

  • in the body.

  • If the person died, an autopsy would reveal more information.

  • So, there was Doctor Rascher, thinking he was doing his bit for the cause.

  • During the Nuremberg Trials, his experiments were called inhumane and criminal, and of

  • course, they were.

  • But what's also strange about the man is he lied when he wrote down the findings of

  • his experiments, or at least, he lied from time to time.

  • This didn't help the cause at all.

  • It's now said that Rascher was operating under the orders of another person.

  • That was Erich Hippke, the Chief Medical Officer of the Luftwaffe.

  • Together they came up with the ice-cold water experiments, and they also left some prisoners

  • outside in the cold during the winter months at Dachauusually naked.

  • The reports we have now state that when left outside, they were usually there for around

  • 14 hours.

  • As for the tub of ice, that could be up to three hours, although most people died well

  • before that.

  • The prisoners were usually male, but of various nationalities and ethnicities.

  • We can't always be sure who was part of the experiments because the Nazis destroyed

  • much of the evidence when the war was lost.

  • But thanks to those letters, as well as a 228-page report from the investigator, Leo

  • Alexander, we know some things.

  • We know that the prisoners were forced to do the experiment most of the time, but sometimes

  • they volunteered on the promise that they would be awarded for their participation.

  • It's reported that those rewards weren't given if the person survived.

  • In total, there were between 360 to 400 experiments which amounted to between 280 and 300 victims.

  • The temperature of the bath that the people were dropped in was sometimes between 2 and

  • 12°C (35.6 F and 53.6F).

  • During the winter, the North Sea's temperature is usually about 6 °C (43 °F).

  • As for hypothermia, that occurs when the temperature of the body drops below 95 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • So, if a person sits in a bath of water that is around 40 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit, very

  • serious injury and death can happen pretty fast, within possibly 30 to 90 minutes or

  • around the one to three-hour mark depending on various factors.

  • It's these factors that the Nazis wanted to understand.

  • In some of the reports, the Nazis wrote that when a person was immersed in water that was

  • 5C (41 F), they could generally tolerate it for about one hour.

  • If the water was 15C (59F), they would usually last about four or five hours.

  • One report said that no test subject survived having their body temperature dropped to 25C

  • (77F) and then being heated up to 28C (82.4F).

  • Some prisoners who later testified to seeing the experiments said they saw around 90 people

  • die but noted that some did survive after being warmed up.

  • They also said two people became mentally ill, but we don't know when this mental

  • illness occurred.

  • The onset of severe reactions to the cold was fast, as was stated in another report.

  • It said, “The rapidity of which numbness occurs is remarkable.

  • It was determined that already 5 to 10 minutes after falling in, an advancing rigor of the

  • skeletal muscles sets in, which renders the movement of the arms especially increasingly

  • difficult.”

  • That report also said that those considerations had to be taken seriously, given that German

  • soldiers in cold water would likely lose most of their manual dexterity.

  • The report noted, “It is certainly extremely difficult even at the beginning of numbness

  • to climb into a rubber raft, to blow up a rubber raft for one person, or to make use

  • of instruments or to signal or call.”

  • One of the ways the Nazis warmed prisoners up was by immersing them in hot water, but

  • that too is very dangerous.

  • It produces a kind of shock, what we now callre-warming shockor theafter-drop

  • effect”.

  • You can look at any medical website these days and it will tell you that if you're

  • dealing with a person suffering from hypothermia then DO NOT put them in a hot bath.

  • Instead, passively warm them using dry, unheated blankets.

  • Doctor Rascher disagreed with this, stating that passive re-warming didn't work.

  • He wrote in one report, “Re-warning by animal warmth-animal bodies or women's bodies-would

  • be too slow.”

  • He explained this by saying, “During attempts to save severely chilled persons, it was shown

  • that rapid re-warming was in all cases preferable to slow re-warming, because after removal

  • from the cold water, the body temperature continued to drop rapidly.”

  • According to research, the Nazis used at least seven different procedures to warm a person.

  • We know that in two experiments a warm bath was used, although some witnesses later said

  • they saw someone being immersed into boiling hot water.

  • We also know that massage was used in some experiments, as were heated light sources,

  • but again, there isn't much data as to how they worked.

  • We should say here that in Rasher's reports there are lots of inconsistencies, which is

  • one reason why things didn't end too well for that guy.

  • Rascher's report also stated heart failure was the reason for freezing experiment deaths,

  • but that's also come into question.

  • As has his conviction that if a person is not immersed above the neck, he won't become

  • hypothermic.

  • Academics now state that Rascher was not even qualified to conduct such experiments, which

  • is why it seems they were either botched or the results were made up or exaggerated.

  • One scientist later wrote, “The Reichsführer expressed special interest in the hypothermia

  • project and traveled to Dachau several times to witness experiments.

  • Thus, the study represents a private venture by two unqualified ideologues, conducted in

  • a prison setting quite alien to the standards of an academic environment.”

  • We now know that because Rascher was so close to Himmler, no other scientists dare question

  • what he did even though they knew full well he was somewhat of a charlatan.

  • At the Nuremberg Trials, it was said that theirconnections were so strong that practically

  • every superior trembled in fear of the intriguing Rascher who consequently held a position of

  • enormous power.”

  • When you hear this next bit of information, you'll agree that he certainly fitted the

  • glove of what we call mad scientists.

  • With so many dead bodies around him, Rascher made use of some of the human skin.

  • With it, he createdsaddles, riding breeches, ladies' handbags, and other personal items.”

  • He sold what he'd made to some of his colleagues.

  • But his end soon came when it was discovered that some of his children weren't his and

  • he'd actually abducted them.

  • He was also accused of killing his lab assistant and of being a scientific fraud.

  • For those reasons, he ended up in Dachau himself.

  • Himmler felt this guy he'd protected and supported for so long had not only lied to

  • him but made a fool of him.

  • On Himmler's orders, on 26 April 1945, Rascher was killed by firing squad in his cell.

  • The last words that Rascher heard were, “You pig, now you've got the punishment you deserve.”

  • Well, that's if he lived long enough to hear them.

  • In the 1980s, some scientists said the data might be useful to help save lives.

  • Baruch Cohen, a Holocaust researcher, had something to say about that.

  • He said, ''Although use of the Nazi data might benefit some lives, a larger bioethical

  • problem arises.

  • By conferring a scientific martyrdom on the victims, it would tend to make them our retrospective

  • guinea pigs, and we, their retrospective torturers'.”

  • For some time, it was assumed that Rascher's experiments could be of some use, but academics

  • were quick to state that there was great risk thinkingthese grotesque Nazi medical exercises

  • yielded results worthy of consideration and possibly of benefit to humanity.”

  • It's thought the number of victims was around 27,000 for all the various experiments, with

  • about twice as many men as women.

  • About 20 percent of the victims were Jewish, with about two percent being Roma and Sinti.

  • Other ethnicities were stated asotherorunknown.”

  • When we look at nationalities, there were many.

  • The countries with the most victims of experiments were Germany, Poland, Russia, Hungary, and

  • Austria, although over 6,000 cases were marked asunknownnationality.

  • Then there were some countries' residents picked out for lesser-known experiments, such

  • as the handful of British commandos who were captured in Norway.

  • The Nazis tested new kinds of amphetamine on them inhigh performanceexperiments.

  • Now you need to watchThe WWII Nazi Breeding Plan.”

  • Or, have a look at...

Former Luftwaffe pilot, now SS doctor, Sigmund Rascher, chooses two prisoners from a lineup,

Subtitles and vocabulary

Operation of videos Adjust the video here to display the subtitles

B1 report nazi water wrote warmth warming

Freezing - Nazi Camp Experiments

  • 1 1
    Summer posted on 2021/09/29