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Chapter 4

Medical Experiments


Like in all German concentration camps, in Dachau, prisoners were also used for medical experiments. They were the order of the day. In 1942 Himmler gave Professor Schilling carte blanche. He was a professor who specialized in the fight against tropical diseases, especially malaria. After working as Professor Emeritus, he started in Dachau. The professor saw that as a unique opportunity, because in the camp there was no shortage of guinea pigs!


On a monthly basis about thirty prisoners were infected with malaria. This included Dutchmen.


During that time, quinine, a tropical product, was the primary medicine used against this illness. Schilling thought that with his tests he could produce a new German medicine against malaria. The professor ordered all patients who were gravely ill with malaria to be segregated from the rest of the patients in the Revier, the sick-bay of the camp. If they died there, they were very careful to avoid mentioning malaria as a cause of death.


In 1942, a series of experiments was begun by order of the research laboratory of the Luftwaffe. This facility was headed by SS physician Sigmund Rascher. The first tests he performed were related to the problems pilots faced when they flew at high altitudes. To mimic the atmospheric circumstances that could be found there, a decompression chamber was installed in Dachau. About two hundred prisoners, a lot of them Russians, became intimately acquainted with this apparatus. Of the two hundred participants, at least eighty did not survive these tests.


The tests with hypothermia were notorious. The intent was to research how German pilots, who fell into the ocean could be kept alive longer. A lot of pilots who were rescued alive, died a short time later due to hypothermia. To facilitate these tests, a basin which measured six by nine feet, and was four and a half feet deep, was put in one of the barracks. One of the Dutch guinea pigs recounted: "A copper bullet, which was at the end of a long thread, was shoved up your hind end. The other end of this thread was attached to an apparatus that looked like a radio. This was operated by members of the "Grüne Polizei". They reported from time to time how long I had been in the water, and what my body temperature was."


Different methods were tried to warm the body again. One of them was to place the prisoner, who was chilled to the bone, between two naked female prisoners. The most effective method turned out to be a bath of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit. Soon Rasher appeared to be a pathological killer. The experiments he conducted almost always ended in death. He continued experiments long after it was obvious there would not be any new results. When he was ordered to stop the experiments, he still tried all kinds of different tests using prisoners, like afflicting gunshot wounds and exposing prisoners for long periods of time to extreme cold.


There were other experiments that were conducted with prisoners in Dachau. Tests to make seawater potable, homeopathic medications for TB patients and methods of healing staph infections of the bones, which had been artificially infected. Doctor Rasher was so out of hand, that in 1945 the SS arrested him. He returned to the scene of his crimes one more time. This time, not in a crisp clean uniform with polished boots, but in the blue striped uniform of the Dachau prisoner. On April 26, three days before the liberation, he was killed with a shot through the neck.

It is easy to say good riddance, but it is a shame he did not get to stand trial. He would have been able to explain to the judges why he continued his deadly experiments, when it was more than clear that they served no purpose whatsoever.

Now we will never know.