|The Experimental Impulse
| Yet there too harmful experiments were done. Bruno Weber,
the chief of the Hygienic Institute,* determined blood groups on certain
inmates and injected some with blood from different blood groups in order to
study the degree of the resultant harmful agglutination of blood cells. More
serious than these results were the consequences of collecting blood, whether
for this or other experiments or for use in transfusions for German personnel.
Not only was the blood at times collected from very weak inmates, but it was
sometimes done cruelly or even murderously, by entering the carotid artery in a
few prisoners and causing them to bleed to death. Dr. Michael Z. described one
SS noncommissioned officer, house painter by trade, [who would take] from
each patient 700, 800 and up to 1,000 cc. of blood, and as a physician
doubted very seriously that any of these patients were able to withstand
Dr. B. explained, probably truthfully, that the
intent was to take blood needed for producing the serum for the various blood
groups; and while he seemed to defend his chief, he admitted that Weber told SS
men to go to the camp, fetch yourselves a few fat capos, and tap
[zapft] them with the result that the SS men did not limit
themselves to well-nourished inmates but tapped blood wherever they could
get hold of it because it was much less work that way.
addition, prisoner doctors soon discovered that the Hygienic Institute was
using human, rather than animal, muscle for its culture media. Dr. Marie L.
told how, hearing the sound of executions across the courtyard (the
muffled ... shots we were all too familiar with), she and others looked
through the crevices of Block 10 windows and saw four womens bodies
removed; then about a half-hour later, the bodies came back to their
place, but they were mutilated [and] ... had cut [out of them] large areas deep
into the flesh. Dr. L. could confirm what inmates working in a lab had
already suspected after noticing in the culture media pieces of meat with
hairless skin. The simple conclusion: Since the SS stole the meat
used to produce the culture media, the chief SS physician of the Hygienic
Institute found it very simple to replace it with human flesh. Dr.
Michael Z. told how the same SS noncommissioned officer who brutally took large
amounts of blood from inmates would accompany Dr. Weber to executions and
bring back trunkfuls of human flesh to prepare the culture media.
In Auschwitz, then, human flesh was more expendable than valuable
animal meat; using it could seem an acceptable, even sensible,
expression of Auschwitz medical science.
It turned out that
Dr. Weber was involved in other fatal experiments, having to do with what Dr.
B. described as brainwashing with chemi- [
* Langbein had the
impression that Weber was disgusted by the occurrences in Auschwitz, but
nonetheless preferred stay in an extermination camp to service at the front. He
constantly tried to emphasize the importance of his institute, for whose
enlargement he invested all his energies.47