Nazi torture and medical experimentation

Types of torture used by the Germans throughout their occupation of Western Europe, Poland and Russia are summed up by the Supreme Allied Headquarters’ Psychological Warfare section in a thirteen-volume report of the German atrocities in France:

There is a shocking catalogue of German torture methods: putting people’s hands in boiling water until the skin and fingernails came off like gloves; stamping on a man’s foot for ten minutes with a special steel boot and repeating the process for two weeks; pressing a hot poker into the hands; hanging persons by their hands behind their backs until their shoulders were out of joint, then gashing the soles of their feet and making the victims walk on salt; pulling teeth and cutting and twisting off the ears; running electric current through the victims’ bodies and other fiendish devices too horrible to describe. These tortures and other brutalities, the list of which is too long to include, were used by the German occupation forces …{rn 6}

So carefully worked out was the Nazi program of destruction of undesirable ethnic and national groups that their minutely detailed plan included the elimination of children who might present a future threat to German imperialism. Those who were undesirable racially were exterminated, those whose nationality had not marked them for death the Nazis tried to win over to their ideology.


Many commandants of concentration camps actually singled out children for particular cruelty. The commandant of the Janowski camp in Lvov, Obersturmfuehrer Wilhaus especially enjoyed this form of sport. He was in the habit of standing on the balcony of the camp office and taking pot-shots at the prisoners working below to amuse his wife and nine-year-old daughter. Sometimes Wilhaus would order someone to throw three- or four-year-old children into the air while he shot at them. His daughter would clap her hands and cry: “Do it again, Papa, do it again.” And he would go on shooting.{rn 8}

The statement of the Extraordinary Soviet State Committee after the investigations of the Oswiecim camp{rn 9} contains a section dealing with the treatment given children and the testimony of some of them after they were set free by the Red Army:

Sami Mudianov, aged 15, said: “We were forced to work in groups of fifteen or twenty, hauling carts of all kinds of freight, but mostly dead bodies, which we brought to a special wing where they were piled up for cremation. We worked from four in the morning until night. At the end of October 1944, the Germans who inspected our work ordered us to be punished because the wing was not clean enough. One hundred and fifty of us were lined up in the street and taken to a swimming pool. They made us strip and poured cold water on us and then led us back naked. Many of the children got sick after that.”

Andreas Larinciakos, a nine-year-old boy from Cles, Hungary, testified: “When we were taken to Wing No. 22 in the camp, we were beaten by German women under whose charge we were. They beat us with sticks.

“While I was in the camp, Doctor Mengele took my blood many times. In November 1944, all the children were transferred to Camp A, the gypsy camp. When they counted us, one was found missing, so Branded, the manageress of the women’s camp and her assistant Mendel, drove us out into the street at one in the morning and made us stand there in the frost until noon the next day.”

Children born in the camp were taken from their mothers and put to death by the SS. Pregnant women among new arrivals were immediately sent to a special barracks, where premature birth was induced. Women who resisted were sent to the gas chamber.

Sofya Isakovna Flax, an ex-prisoner from Cracow, testified: “Many of the women who arrived in August 1944 had children aged between five and twelve. All of them, together with their mothers, were sent to the crematoriums. I was in the seventh month of my pregnancy. SS Dr. Koenig, who examined me, sent me to barracks V-3, Birkenau. There were sixty-five women there in similar condition. Three days later I was given an injection in the hip to induce premature birth. The injections were given four days in succession. On the fifth day I gave birth, and my child was taken away.”


Medical experimentation by the Nazis on prisoners in the concentration camps was practised throughout occupied Europe. However, evidence collected after the German retreat shows that in Poland and Russia the scale of experimentation was unsurpassed in its horror and magnitude.

The Extraordinary Soviet State Committee in its report on the crimes committed by the Germans in the Oswiecim death camp states that the Nazis displayed “monstrous inventiveness” in the medical experiments practised on living persons in the name of science.


German doctors played a leading role in selecting prisoners for gassing and cremation. The weak, sick and disabled were dispatched to the gas chambers.

In addition to experimentation undertaken in the name of medical science, the German admitted to a policy of ridding themselves of all whom they considered unworthy to live. In 1941 they set up a special institute in Kiev where persons “unworthy to live” were murdered to further the cause of Nazi science. An account of what occurred in this “annihilation institute” was given to a United Press correspondent when Dr. Gustav Wilhelm Schuebbe, head of the institute, was captured in Germany by U.S. First Army troops in April 1945.{rn 10}

Dr. Schuebbe stated that during the nine months he worked at the institute in Kiev, from 110,000 to 140,000 persons had been put to death. Those “unworthy to live” included epileptics, schizophrenics, Jews, members of foreign races and gypsies. Victims were killed by injections of EMM which, Dr. Schuebbe said, was a preparation of morphium tartrate.

“Of course we, the circle of German physicians,” he said, “were aware of the importance of this job. I still maintain the following: that just as one prunes a tree by removing old, undesirable branches in the spring, so for its own interest, a certain hygienical supervision of the body of a people is necessary from time to time. This also includes sterilization.”

The victims of “hygienical supervision” must be reckoned in many hundreds of thousands; the victims of Nazi theory and science are reckoned in the millions.

Hitler, and Hitler’s Germany have been defeated. But in 1945 there is no rejoicing for world Jewry. Two-thirds of Europe’s pre-war Jewish population have been wiped out. The blood of six million men, women and children cries out for justice. There can be no victory for anti-fascists, Jews and non-Jews alike, unless justice be done for crimes that cannot be forgotten.

Reference Notes (page 534)

Note 6. New York Times, May 4, 1945.
Note 7. New York Herald Tribune, November 18, 1944.
Note 8. Soviet Extraordinary State Committee, report December 1944.
Note 9. Report of February and March 1945.
Note 10. New York Herald Tribune, May 1, 1945.


The Black Book of Polish Jewry, 1946 (English-language edition), pages 245-249.

Webmaster note: This was one of the winning entries in the 5th Annual David McCalden Most Macabre Halloween Holocaust Tale Challenge in 2008.