|The Experimental Impulse
|been a locus not only for the planning of murderous medical
experiments but for the technology of mass murder in the death camps. And even
in Auschwitz, that little Hygienic Institute laboratory on Block 10 was a
frequent site for phenol killings (see chapter 14).
Institute on Block 10 is an especially concrete example of combined healing and
killing. The same can be said of Wirthss relatively benign and yet
dangerous experiments on Block 10, discussed in chapter 15. The unusually
constructive arrangements among prisoner physicians and SS doctors saved many
lives, even as the malignant central designs (of Himmler, Mrugowsky, and
Grawitz) combined with Auschwitz medical authority (of Wirths and Weber) in
lethal experimentation and in supporting the killing project.
| Auschwitz applied most of its energies to killing people,
but its openness to virtually any form of human manipulation inevitably
resulted in a wide variety of additional experiments. Eduard Wirths, as chief
doctor, was the Auschwitz sponsor and facilitator of most of these experiments,
particularly those in which there was interest from Berlin at a higher level.
An example here is the continuous experimental activity of SS Captain Dr.
Helmuth Vetter, a key figure in pharmacological trials in Auschwitz
and elsewhere. He was employed for many years with Bayer Group WII of the I. G.
Farben Industry, Inc., Leverkusen, and, at Auschwitz, retained his connections.
He ran medical trials for Bayer in Auschwitz and Mauthausen (and possibly in
other camps) on several therapeutic agents, including sulfa medications and
other preparations whose content is not exactly known.*
between Auschwitz and Mauthausen in order to supervise the study of the effects
of ruthenol and 3582 on many different serious medical
conditions (typhus, typhoid, paratyphoid diseases, diarrhea, tuberculosis,
erysipelas, and scarlet fever among others); but of the 150 to 250 patients he
gave these medications to on the contagious disease ward in Auschwitz, about 50
were suffering from typhus. The impression of prisoner doctors was that these
agents were of no therapeutic use, and some patients seemed to die quickly
after receiving them. Vetter was reluctant to accept these negative findings,
always insisting that better results had been obtained in other camps.50
Vetter drew other SS doctors into his
research, including Eduard Wirths. The latter became not only what one observer
* Among these preparations
were ones numbered 3582 (a nitroacridine preparation), V1012, and ruthenol (a
combination of preparation 3582 and arsenic acid).