Appendix 47a - Nazi Doctors

by Michael Greger, MD and United Progressive Alumni

[ Medical School Resources | Appendices | Discussion ]

"I have no words. I thought we were human beings. We were living creatures. How could they do things like that?" - Auschwitz survivor.[507]

From Healer to Killer

Not just doc Joe Mengele and the 23 physicians tried at Nuremberg, over 45% of German doctors joined the Nazi party.[508],[509] Physicians joined the Nazi party not only earlier, but in greater numbers than any other professional group - the same with the SS and the storm trooper units.[510] As a 1933 editorial from the National Socialist (Nazi) Physicians' League boasted, the Nazi movement was, "the most masculine movement to appear in centuries."

Employment Enhancing Strategy

Some physicians saw the elimination of Jews as a way to advance their careers.[511] As Jewish physicians were disenfranchised, opportunities for non-Jewish physicians opened up and were avidly seized.[512]

From the title page of the German Medical Association journal:

The Chancellor [Adolph Hitler] recognized the economic distress and hardship often existing in the medical community and especially among its young doctors. By energetic actions to remove racially alien elements, employment opportunities and a space to exist must be generated for these young Germans.[513]

The executive director of the German Medical Association claimed that the elimination of Jewish doctors was designed as, "an employment enhancing strategy." Within five years over 90% of non-Aryan doctors were "eliminated" and physician salaries rose 60%.[514]

The Noble Profession

According to an article in JAMA, physicians were essential in running the death camps.[515] Indeed the first commandant of Treblinka was a physician.[516] The euthanasia program, for example, was planned and administered by leading figures in the German medical community. Unlike in the Milgram study, physicians were never ordered to harm anybody. No euthanasia law was ever formally enacted by the Third Reich. No direct orders were given and refusal to cooperate didn't result in any legal or professional sanction.[517] Rather, physicians were empowered to carry out "mercy killings," but never obligated to do so. They went about killing psychiatric patients, disabled children, etc., without protest, often on their own initiative.[518] In some cases the inducement for physicians to name candidates for euthanasia was a financial reward. Quoting from an article published in JAMA, "In short, the medical profession served not only as an instrument of Nazi mass murder, but was involved in the ideological theorizing and in the planning, initiation, administration, and the operation of the killing programs."[519] They were, writes another commentator, "extraordinarily importan[t] in general for the Nazi killing...."[520]

But there did exist a daring medical student underground. Appendix 47b.

At Least the Psychiatric Profession was Concerned

The first political killings were done by psychiatrists.[521] 70,273 psychiatric patients were gassed.[522] Quoting from an American Journal of Medicine article, "Psychiatrists became concerned about whether there would be enough patients left to keep their specialty alive."[523]

Nur ein guter Mensch kann ein guter Arzt sein (Only a good person can be a good physician) - Rudolph Ramm, the leading Nazi medical ethicist

Eminent neuropathologist J. Hallervorden - described as "a small cheerful man," "warm, friendly" - in his own words:

I heard they were going to do that and so I went up to them: 'Look here now, boys, if you are going to kill all these people at least take the brains out so that the material can be utilized'.... There was wonderful material among these brains, beautiful mental defectives.... They asked me: 'How many can you examine?' and so I told them an unlimited number - the more the better.... They came bringing them in like the delivery van from the furniture company. The Public Ambulance Society brought the brains in batches of 150-250 at a time. Where these brains came from and how they came to me was really none of my business.[524]

Natural Childdeath

Children selected for death were transported to one of 28 institutions equipped with extermination facilities.[525] At one such hospital, Dr. Hermann Pfannmuller was credited with the policy of starving to death those selected for the children's euthanasia program rather than wasting medication on them. "We do not kill... with poison, injections, etc.," he was reported as saying. "No, our method is much simpler, and more natural, as you see." The good doctor went on to explain that the sudden withdrawal of food was not employed, rather than a gradual decrease of rations.[526]

Suffer the Little ChildrenÉ

At these institutions, whether children were killed by withholding basic care (food, heat) or more actively eliminated by a variety of means (gassing with cyanide, injections of morphine), standardized fabricated letters were sent to parents informing them of both their child's transport to a different facility (for reasons of advanced care) and sudden unexpected death (appendicitis, pneumonia, septicemia, etc.).[527] An estimated 5000 children got such so-called Sonderbehandlung (special treatment).[528]

Loving Care

"To serve this State must be the sole objective of the medical profession" - Dr. Haedenkamp, executive director of the German equivalent of the AMA. Their journal published a regular column called "Solving the Jewish Question."[529] The Sterilization Act - instructing that sterilization, "must be performed even against the will of the person to be sterilized," - was heralded in the journal, "as an expression of loving care for the coming generation, and as an act of altruism."[530]

Joy and Gratitude

The German Society for Internal Medicine telegraphed Hitler, "[The Society] sends to the Fuhrer of the New Germany their most sincere congratulations and their genuine admiration." The Prussian Chamber of Physicians unanimously declared, "readiness to place all its energies and experience at the service of the Government... which it salutes with joy and gratitude."

Proper Gasses

The conditioning of petty criminals with the whip, or some more scientific procedure, followed by a short stay in hospital, would probably suffice to insure order. Those who have murdered, robbed while armed with automatic pistol or machine gun, kidnapped children, despoiled the poor of their savings, misled the public in important matters, should be humanely and economically disposed of in small euthanasic institutions supplied with proper gasses. A similar treatment could be advantageously applied to the insane, guilty of criminal acts.

The man who wrote this was American surgeon and biologist Alexis Carrel (1873-1944), member of the Rockefeller Institute in New York, and the recipient in 1912 of the Nobel Prize in physiology and medicine.[531]

Nazi doctors - American style Appendix 47c.



[507] Panush, RS. "Upon Finding a Nazi Anatomy Atlas." The Pharos 1996(Fall):18-22.

[508] O'Reilly, M. "Nazi Medicine." Canadian Medical Association Journal 148(1993):819-821.

[509] Drobniewski, F. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine 86(1993):541-543.

[510] The Pharos 1996(Fall):18.

[511] Bruwer, A. "Thoughts After Reading Robert Jay Liftons 'the Nazi Doctors.'" Medicine and War 5(1989):185-196.

[512] Barondess, JA. "Medicine Against Society." JAMA 276(1996):1657-1661.

[513] Hanauske-Abel, HM. British Medical Journal 313(1996):1453-1463.

[514] Hanauske-Abel, HM. The Lancet 2 August 1986:271-273.

[515] Sidel VW. Journal of the American Medical Association 276(1996):1679-1681.

[516] Hanauske-Abel, HM. The Lancet 2 August 1986:271-273.

[517] Shevell, M. Neurology 42(1992):2214-2219.

[518] Barondess, JA. "Medicine Against Society." JAMA 276(1996):1657-1661.

[519] Ibid.

[520] Bruwer, A. Medicine and War 5(1989):185-196.

[521] Faria, MA. Medical Sentinel 3(1998):79-82.

[522] Shevell, M. Neurology 42(1992):2214-2219.

[523] Ernst, A. "Killing in the Name of Healing." American Journal of Medicine 100(1996):579-581.

[524] Shevell, M. Neurology 42(1992):2214-2219.

[525] Ibid.

[526] Macklin, R. Enemies of Patients New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.

[527] Shevell, M. Neurology 42(1992):2214-2219.

[528] Lifton, RJ. "Medicalized Killing in Auschwitz." Psychiatry 45(1982):283-297.

[529] Barondess, JA. "Medicine Against Society." JAMA 276(1996):1657-1661.

[530] Hanauske-Abel, HM. British Medical Journal 313(1996):1453-1463.

[531] Szasz, TS. The Theology of Medicine New York: Syracuse University Press, 1977.



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