Tuesday, 24 April 2012


An incredibly controversial area of the Holocaust is the experimentation that took place at camps such Auschwitz. This issue is so sensitive, that the barracks the experiments were performed in at Auschwitz, are closed to the public.

We are currently reading a book, called 'I Was Dr. Mengele's Assistant' and it is this book that has inspired us to write about the Nazi experiments. The book tells the story of a Jewish doctor who was forced to assist the infamous Dr. Mengele in his disgusting experiments on innocent prisoners. For those of you who do not know, Dr. Mengele was a physician who conducted experiments on concentration camp victims. He had a special interest in twins and dwarves, so often sought them out to experiment on. It is of course important to note that these experiments were conducted without the consent of the victim and were often carried out without any anaesthetic. It is also important to undestand the context of these experiments. They were conducted in concentration camps so the clean, clinical word of 'experiment' does not truly reflect what took place, nevertheless, without a better word, we shall use this word when describing the events that took place.

The experiments carried out were absolutely horrendous and included sewing twins together to see if they could create Siamese twins. A set of Hungarian twins in 1943 were subjected to the cruellest and most painful treatment to track hair patterns. We do not need to write exactly what happened to these poor men but it is suffice to say that they were not treated with any dignity or respect and were subjected to the most humiliating and cruel treatment, before eventually being murdered. Another interest of the Nazis was the ways in which the body responds to freezing. People would be forcibly submerged into vats of ice water for hours at a time or made to stand naked outside in the freezing Polish winter. The results were then used to understand the situation of the Nazi forces in the Soviet Union.

Another story tells us of a woman who had a new-born baby with her when she was in Auschwitz. Dr. Mengele bound her breasts so she could not feed her baby. This went on for several days, and Dr. Mengele came to inspect the baby every day. One day, Dr. Mengele said that he would take the baby to his laboratory.  The following day, his assistant then came to the mother and offered her a syringe, telling her to kill her child. Her mother obviously responded that she could not but the assistant insisted simply stating 'it will be worse what happens to the child when Mengele gets her'. Dr. Mengele forced a mother to murder her own new born baby.

The reason that we are writing about the experiments, is because of the controversy with what to do with the information garnered by these instances of medical torture. These experiments although according to the Nazis, were carried out to 'further humanity’; they were carried out with extreme cruelty and without any anaesthetic so the question is should the information be used? Should we benefit from the torture of innocent people, including many children? It is hard to say. Some would argue that any good that can come from the torture these poor people faced should be utilised. 
Despite the difficulty that has arisen from this situation, some do argue that we should use the information. If we do not, then absolutely nothing positive has come from these people's torture and although that is no consolation to the victims, it perhaps is for humanity. After all we must learn from the past to create a better tomorrow. Others would argue that we should completely disregard any information that we receive from the Nazis. It was not gained through honest or humane methods and to use the information is an insult to the memory of the victims and to humanity.

What do you think?

1 comment:

  1. I am unaware of anything to come out of Mengele's work. Other than deaths by his practices: though the general effects of freezing or sewing foreign bodies together are known to me and are not groundbreaking or in any way original.

    So what research was conducted by Mengele that could make a contribution to modern medicine? His experiments took place about 70 years ago, hasn't medicine caught up to and gone beyond the existing knowledge at the time of Mengele's practices? Is there still something his "work" could contribute?

    And considering the conditions and practices - not in keeping with medical standards or World Health Organization codes of conduct - any and all resulting research is very much void.

    Ethical codes would also forbid further experimentation and research based on initial findings resultant from such dodgy work.

    Still, if the findings do provide justification for further research, then researchers will have to go about finding pretext without acknowledging Mengele's findings as a source (because this is unethical). This can be done, one will just need to be clever - no disrespect to Mengele's patients intended.

    Furthermore, if there are grounds for further research, it should be conducted, because if there is anything that your six weeks in Eastern Europe has shown it is that life is precious and should be protected, and I believe this protection should be from curable diseases as well as from prejudice and hate crimes.