Although my book, When Darkness Prevails, deals with human experimentation and is pure fiction, there are real-life periods in history when the human race has performed evil experiments on its own kind. The darkest period occurring during the second world war.
The events of the Holocaust were some of the most horrific in modern history, leaving their mark on generations to come. Nazi scientists used excuses such as learning more about the human body and trying to develop cures for certain diseases, to torture many of the Jews. The experiments that took place in concentration camps can be placed into three major categories: trauma research with military applications, pharmaceutical and surgical research and long-term impact research which was aimed at validating pseudoscientific Nazi race theory.
Conducted on behalf of the German military, scientists would subject victims to brutal conditions to determine the damage that could occur during combat. These conditions include:
Sigmund Rascher was an SS doctor who was given the task of testing survival gear for the Luftwaffe. He would have prisoners dressed in pilot uniforms and dropped into water the same temperature as the North Sea. Their temperature was monitored rectally to determine the rate at which it would return to normal. Experiments were also conducted to determine the best methods to reheat prisoners including sex and warm colonic irrigation.
During the war, German planes were attempting to fly higher than they had been previously, and scientists used other prisoners to study the effects that these high altitudes and low pressure could have on pilots. Rascher had prisoners, both conscious and unconscious, hung from parachute harnesses and sealed inside low-pressure chambers. The air was then pumped out of the chambers causing the victims to claw at their own faces and chew their lips and tongues. Their swollen brains were then studied after, with many of them still alive and unanesthetized. These experiments were conducted on 200 people, with 80 directly dying as a result and the rest being executed after.
Hans Eppinger undertook the experiment to see how sea water consumption would affect officers. He isolated 90 subjects, giving them only sea water to drink. All of them died of dehydration, which Eppinger observed took the same course of action as high-speed kidney failure.
Pharmaceutical and Surgical Experiments
Sulfa drugs were new forms of antibiotics at the time, and their unpleasant side effects were being observed on prisoners. The legs of prisoners were cut and wood shavings, ground glass and infected matter rubbed into them. Gangrene was simulated by cutting or tying off blood vessels, after which they were given the medication. After the prisoners’ death, autopsies would be conducted to observe how well the antibiotics had worked.
Doctors also secretly poisoned inmates, then conducted autopsies on the bodies immediately after death to observe the effects, as well as shooting them with poisoned bullets to test how lethal they were.
Grafting and Transplants
Exposure to burning phosphorous from incendiary bombs was conducted between 1943 and 1944 to experiment with grafting techniques and burn treatments.
Unsuccessful bone, nerve and muscle tissue transplants were also done between prisoners, without the use of anesthesia.
Josef Mengele was also known as the Nazi ‘Angel of Death.’ Within a single year he had conducted experiments on over 3000 sets of twins. This included sewing them together to make conjoined twins, injecting blue dye into their eyes and infecting one twin with severe diseases, then killing the other shortly after the first’s death to conduct simultaneous autopsies.