Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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create records of the conditions caused. The prisoner nurse discussed the large “black closet” used as part of the photographic equipment, within which experimental subjects had to remain still and upright for long periods, resulting in further suffering, moans of pain, and near collapse: “Often I had to carry inanimate beings to their beds.”57

A third set of experiments required ingestion by mouth of a powder in order to study the symptoms of liver damage it caused: nausea, loss of appetite, jaundice, and discolored urine. This research was thought to follow upon Himmler’s expressed interest in various forms of liver disease and jaundice because of problems they created for the German military.

This series of experiments on Block 28, then, reflects mainly official interest in conditions affecting the military but probably involved a certain individual “scientific curiosity” as well. Auschwitz provided a relatively technologized (in terms of the photography) research laboratory where a young neophyte physician was encouraged to serve the cause and make his medical name by means of experiments.
Finally, a series of surgical demonstrations were performed in various parts of the camp.

There was one report of the appearance, on Block 41 in Birkenau, of “three well-known German professors” to carry out vivisections in the form of exposing leg muscles followed by test application of various medications.58 Another report involved medical students themselves performing experimental surgery on a female hospital block: the sudden appearance of  “many young doctors in white coats (later identified a students) … [who] walked through the wards and looked us all over, who, through orders to the prisoner doctor, chose certain women, put anesthesia masks on them, and had them taken to an operating area, from which they returned hours later to wake up in their beds, each with wounds differing from the others.” The women concluded that “each of the students performed an operation as an experiment in his specialty: throat, eyes, stomach, or, gynecology,” the last being the case of the woman who gave the testimony; and only much later did she discover that her uterus and ovaries had been removed.59*

We know of the SS doctors’ tendency to gain surgical experience by attempting various operations, with or without the supervision of more experienced Jewish or Polish prisoner doctors, and often on prisoners who had no real medical need for surgery. The SS doctors systematically combined hospital files or identified at roll call prisoners with specific diseases or disease histories of a potential surgical nature — gallbladder, appendix, kidney stones, etc. — and had them report to the hospital. “If at a certain time a German doctor was studying gallbladder operations,
* Given the Auschwitz atmosphere, in which any kind of experiment was considered possible, descriptions such as these could include inaccuracies or distortions, but it is very likely that something close to what was described really occurred.   
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

Robert J. Lifton
ISBN 0-465-09094
© 1986
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