Holocaust, a word derived from the Greek language meaning sacrifice by fire. The Holocaust was the systematic murder of over six million Jews and other groups such as the gypsies, disabled and homosexuals. The Germans came to power in 1933 under the leadership of Adolf Hitler, they believed that the German race was superior and all other races inferior, more specifically the Jews. During this genocide, two out of every three Jews were killed under the Nazi policy called the “Final Solution”.
The “Final Solution” was a euphemism referring to the mass annihilation of the Jewish population which spanned over a decade with increasing violence. The Nazi party sponsored the anti-Semitic behavior that later led to anti-Jewish legislation and boycotts, the sole purpose of this was to ostracize the Jewish community and make them leave. By 1939 the first ghettos were established and the remaining Jews were placed in overcrowded camps in unsanitary conditions where many became malnutritioned.
After the Germans invaded the Soviet Union in 1941 the mass killings begin, one of the many ingenious ways was by mobile gas van. The mobile gas vans were trucks that had been modified so that their exhaust pipes released the poisonous carbon monoxide gas into the sealed truck killing everyone locked inside. This was created to complement the police and the SS in their mass shootings. Operation Reinhard implemented the three major concentration camps: Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka. In these camps Jews became forced laborers until they were too weak to work, then they were killed by asphyxiation or shooting. However, these were not the only atrocities occurring within the concentration camps, the Jewish people were also subjected to unconsented experimentation. What experiments took place during the Holocaust and should the data that was gained be used today in modern medicine? The unethical medical experiments are divided into three different categories: experiments aimed at the survival of Germany’s, Italy’s, and Japan’s military, developing and testing pharmaceuticals and treatments for injuries and illnesses, and to advance the racial and ideologies the Nazis. Physicians from the German air force and from the German Experimental Institution for Aviation conducted high-altitude experiments.
In these experiments, a low-pressure chamber was used to determine the maximum altitude that soldiers could parachute to safety from. Jewish prisoners were subjected to the freezing temperatures to find an effective treatment for hypothermia, many died. In camps such as Dachau, Natzweiler, and Neuengamme, scientists tested immunization compounds for the prevention and curing of diseases, including malaria, typhus, tuberculosis, typhoid fever, yellow fever, and hepatitis. The Ravensbruck camp conducted bone-grafting experiments and other experiments to test the efficiency of sulfanilamide drugs. The most notorious experiments were Josef Mengele at Auschwitz.
Mengele conducted medical experiments on twins. He and Werner Fischer at Sachsenhausen experiments to determine how different “races” reacted to various contagious diseases. All of the following experiments violated the ethical considerations. The ethical considerations are informed consent, voluntary participation, no physical or mental harm, confidentiality, anonymity, and withdrawal.Data is facts and statistics collected together for reference or analysis. One of the many reasons why the public does not see it fit to republish Nazi data is because it seems to desensitize the fact that these results were gained at the unwillingness and suffering of others. There are a number of possible advancements in the medical and scientific fields if the data from Nazi experiments were available for use.
An example of this is Doctor Robert Pozos and his research in rewarming frozen victims. The rewarming controversy is the use of passive external rewarming, which is using the victim’s own body heat and active external rewarming, which is the direct application of heat onto the body of the victim. Today hospitals have conducted methods of trial and error such as: using warm blankets, injecting warm fluids into the body and immersing the bodies into hot bathtubs. Not all the patients treated lived and this is due to the lack of information on how cold affects the human body.
The data that scientists are working with is limited to how cold affects animals, the problem with this is that animals and humans react differently to exposure to the cold. Pozos has experimented on many volunteers but refuses to go below 36 degrees, the only people who have done extensive hypothermia research were the Nazis at Dachau. The Nazis immersed the victims into ice water or left them out to freeze in the cold, then while the victims excreted bodily fluids and fainted unconscious the Nazis recorded the changes in their body temperature, heart rate, muscle response, and urine. The Nazis concluded that the technique called “Rapid Active Rewarming” was the best method of resuscitation. The Nazi data on hypothermia experiments would fill the gap in Pozos’ research, Pozos said, “It could advance my work in that it takes human subjects farther than we’re willing.” From this perspective using the data from the Nazi Experiments appears to be beneficial because it has the ability to save countless lives today, but there is still the question of the validity of the Nazi’s results. For the following reasons: it is doubtful that physiological responses of the tortured victims accurately represent the responses of hypothermic people, there is doubt about the scientific integrity of the experiments because the Nazi’s could have fabricated results to fit their selfish agendas of proving the racial theory and because the Nazi’s experiments were not published or replicated casts suspicion over the scientific accuracy. The opinions on whether or not the data from the Nazi experiments should be used range dramatically.
Some scientists and doctors believe that “They’re of no scientific value” and are unethical, therefore, invalid. While some view it as using a tragedy for the ultimate good of others, in other words, the data combined with recent ethical results has a possibility of saving lives. The process of this investigation has allowed me to experience using different research methods while interpreting data and made me a victim to some challenges that historians are subject to. One of the first challenges was because of primary sources such as the research report of Dr. Sigmund Rascher, through this I learned the extreme difficulty there is in finding accurate and reliable historical knowledge. Although primary sources allow others to try and learn about the past through firsthand accounts, one should never fully rely on them because of the possibility of bias.
For example, Rascher and his colleagues write up about the hypothermia experiments contained biases that served to shift away the blame from Nazis and glorify the experiments they were doing. In doing this the events that took place could have been distorted, therefore, distorting the accuracy of them. In building an argument from the selected sources and facts, I considered another challenge historians face, interpretation. As referenced in my analysis the examinations of the Nazi experiments have been based strictly on whether they were ethical or unethical; although that is important new angles should be considered, as Dr.
Robert Pozos did with the attempt of republishing both the Nazi study along with his own research and analysis, avoiding the question of ethics and strictly interpreting the facts and data is something that I tried to incorporate in my work.