From Horror, Knowledge: How Nazi Science Helps Us Today

As I discovered when researching a history of the Nazis at war, much of what scientists did under the Third Reich was regarded as "normal science", subject to standard protocols of peer review in conferences and journals. The infamous Dr Josef Mengele regarded himself as a normal scientist, held seminars to discuss his experiments, got research funds from the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute in Berlin, and reported regularly to his teacher, the eminent scientist Otmar von Verschuer, on his progress.

Mengele's research at Auschwitz, in particular, shows how the system worked. His experiments there were intended to be a contribution to his second doctorate, the Habilitation, which all German academics needed to qualify for a university professorship. Under Verschuer's guidance, he selected twins from the trainloads of Jews who arrived and injected them with chemicals to see if they reacted differently from one another. He collected prisoners with physical abnormalities, such as heterochromia – having a different colour in each eye – to investigate if their condition was hereditary. He treated gipsy and other children for starvation-related diseases, using vitamins and sulphonamides, to see if there were hereditary differences in their response to the therapy.

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The answer springs from the fact that medicine was both dominant in the world of science under the Third Reich, and closely allied to the Nazi project. By 1939, almost half of all students at German universities were studying medicine; the others were spread across the whole range of other subjects. The Nazis poured resources into medicine, increasing doctors' pay, setting up new health care facilities for "Aryan" citizens, creating large numbers of new jobs in the rapidly expanding armed forces and opening new institutes for "racial hygiene" at many universities. By 1939, around two thirds of all German doctors had some connection or other with the Nazi Party.

The Telegraph

We learn through tragedy.

A man finds a new plant, eats it, and dies in horror as his liver disintegrates.

We pass on that knowledge so others may live.

Similarly, we torture lab animals to death every day for our learning.

Similarly, the Nazis mutilated and killed their lab subjects.

The article goes off track here:

What underpinned this behaviour was a widespread belief that some people were less than human, relegated to a lower plane of existence by their inherited degeneracy – or their race. For German doctors, a camp inmate was either a racially inferior subhuman, a vicious criminal, a traitor to the German cause, or more than one of the above. Such beings had no right to life or wellbeing – indeed, it was logical that they should be sacrificed in the interests of the survival and triumph of the German race, just as that race had to be strengthened by the elimination of the inferior, degenerate elements within it. After all, German medical science had uncovered the causes of several major diseases and contributed massively to improving the health of the population over the previous decades. Surely, therefore, it was justified in eliminating negative influences as well?

Yes, the Nazis were anti-Semites, but this author is anti-German -- notice how he switched from "Nazi" to "German" in the above paragraph? If you switched from "Black Panthers" to "African-Americans" in the same way, your career would be over.

I don't support the Holocaust or Nazis. But I also don't support this idiot's oppressive "human rights versus science" argument. Doctors perform experiments because they know that no human has a "right" to life. Rights are abstractions, little white lies we tell each other, and have no origin in nature. We sacrifice some so that others may live.

Those firemen who ran into the burning World Trade Center and got exterminated when it fell -- did we allow that because they were less than human? No: it's how the cookie crumbles. Life is full of horror, but from it we can take learning, and make life better.


  1. From Horror, Knowledge: How Nazi Science Helps Us Today
    While your article is interesting, I would like to suggest that no matter how well something ends, the means do not ever justify the means to reach that end. While I am sure many will disagree with my statement, I fail to find any science-true science- in the means employed by the Nazi Doctors and Scientist’s to achieve their so-called break-though in medicine and or science. That goes for today’s scientist and Doctor.
    I am not some wide-eyed youngster out to save the world from itself; I am an old man who has seen the marvels of Scientism and Technological advancements over the past 70 years. Most of these so-called marvels will be worthless with the first strike of a nuclear weapon and it’s Electrical Magnetic Pulse [I believe I spelled that wrong, but folks will know what I’m talking about], nothing that is controlled by computers will function, what few items that will continue to operate will have no electricity to run them as most power stations are run by computer.
    While I have gone off track with the last paragraph, the fact remains that whatever was gained in so-called breakthroughs by the Nazi, it was done at the cost of much human suffering and death. How can we as human beings justify using procedures that came at the cost of the lives of our fellow man?
    Perhaps I’m just too old fashioned to be impressed with artificial hearts, space travel, organ transplants and the like; perhaps somewhere I have missed the point. But I wonder if anyone in today’s world would sacrifice their son or daughter to go through what the Nazi put their victims through in order to gain what little knowledge was actually achieved. I would believe that at this point someone is saying “I wonder if this guy had incurable cancer would he say the same thing, well I do have cancer and there is no cure as yet, could I live with the knowledge that another human being paid with their lives to cure me, my answer is no I could not. The end never justify the means, we should have learned that from the Nazi’s and the old Socialist Republic’s, but I fear we now have an attitude of he who dies with all the marbles -wins and to hell with everyone else. It is a sad world we inhabit and we are but poor inhabitants of this world of our making.
    Respectfully Submitted
    Ben Johnson


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