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Holocaust on Trial

Doctors at Nuremburg The 23 defendant doctors in the dock at the Nuremberg "Doctors Trial," 1946-47.
What if you knew that the medical competence of the Nazi doctors has been questioned?

The Hippocratic Oath, penned by the father of medicine and held by medical professionals as a sacred tenet to this day, states in part: "I will use treatment to help the sick according to my ability and judgment, but never with a view to injury and wrongdoing...." The Nazi experimenters not only violated the oath in the foulest way, causing them to relinquish forever all rights to be considered doctors, but their expertise has been called into question, even by their own countrymen in their own day.
"Of course I am a doctor and I want to preserve life. And out of respect for human life, I would remove a gangrenous appendix from a diseased body. The Jew is the gangrenous appendix in the body of mankind."
—Dr. Fritz Klein, Nazi physician, responding to a concentration-camp inmate who asked, while pointing to smoking chimneys in the distance, "How can you reconcile that with your [Hippocratic] oath as a doctor?" [1]

"I wouldn't trust the man who produced the data [from the Nazi experiments]; how can you trust a man who would do that?"
—Seymour Siegel, Executive Director of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council [2]

"Their actions were clear, direct violations of both the Hippocratic Oath as well as the public's belief that doctors always look after their patients' well-being."
—Lauren Howell, in "Nazi Medical Experiments: Murder or Research?" [3]

"One characteristic feature of Heissmeyer's experiment is his extraordinary lack of concern, add this to his gross and total ignorance in the field of immunology, in particular bacteriology. He did not then, nor does he now, possess the necessary expertise demanded in a specialist [on] TB diseases ... He does not own any modern bacteriology textbook. He is also not familiar with the various work methods of bacteriology ... According to his own admission, Heissmeyer was not concerned about curing the prisoners who were put at his disposal. Nor did he believe that his experiments would produce therapeutic results, and he actually counted on there being detrimental, indeed fatal, outcomes to the prisoners."
—Dr. Otto Prokop, Germany's forensic authority, on the competence of Dr. Kurt Heissmeyer. Heissmeyer conducted tuberculosis experiments on 20 Jewish children from Auschwitz whom he later had hung so they could not bear witness. [4]
Based on what you now know, do you think doctors and scientists should be able to use data from Nazi death-camp experiments?
Yes | No

1. Lifton, p. 16.
2. Moe, p. 6.
3. See
4. Lifton, p. 457n.

Photo: Hedy Epstein, courtesy of USHMM Photo Archives

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