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(DV) Petersen: Angels of Death







Angels of Death
by Kim Petersen
May 21, 2005

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During World War II, a high-ranking Nazi physician, Dr. Josef Mengele, rose to infamy for carrying out evil, sadistic experiments on prisoners of the Nazis. In 1943, Mengele was stationed at Auschwitz-Birkenau -- concentration camps where numerous Poles, homosexuals, Soviets, Jews, and Roma met horrible and untimely deaths.


Mengele would inspect incoming camp prisoners and assign them to work, experimentation, and purportedly the gas chambers.


Mengele carried out his barbarism with indifference. His social Darwinist views called for the sterilization of those deemed genetically inferior, mentally deficient, physically deformed, or afflicted with other disorders.


Auschwitz was the cesspool in which the detached but demented mind of Mengele fed. The prisoners suffered the most unhygienic of conditions in their barracks. Typhus and diarrhea proliferated along with human parasites. In this gulag, Mengele sought to understand genetic engineering and thereby eliminate so-called inferior gene pools from the human population.


His sadistic perversity included the dissection of live infants, sterilization and castration without anesthetic, burning victims with incendiary bombs, and conducting high-voltage electric shock, hypothermia, malaria, mustard gas, poison, etc. experiments.


Mengele especially desired twins for his unethical experiments. Child subjects suffered such indignities as chemical injections into their eyes, amputations, and other grotesque surgeries. Surviving subjects were routinely murdered afterward for dissection.


A Nazi Legacy


John Hayward was a biology professor at the University of Victoria who pioneered hypothermia research. He looked for ways to protect people who had the mishap to be dunked into the extremely cold water off Vancouver Island. Hayward’s research generated controversy when he used hypothermia data from Nazi experiments.


Hayward defended his action: “I don’t want to have to use the Nazi data, but there is no other and will be no other in an ethical world. I’ve rationalized it a bit. But not to use it would be equally bad. I’m trying to make something constructive out of it. I use it with my guard up, but it’s useful.”


Hayward and associates later developed the Thermofloat jacket that is credited with saving “countless lives” of people exposed to cold water.


Angels of Death Resurrected


It was not just that the Nazi experiments were repulsive, but the very use of data from the experiments was ethically questionable.


Jews were among groups singled out for transportation to the Auschwitz camps, where Mengele’s depravity earned him the appellation Angel of Death. So, it would seemingly be unthinkable and flabbergasting for the victimized people of such horrors to resort to the dastardly deeds of their Nazi tormentors.


Yet, as reported in The Guardian, a foremost physician and medical ethicist, Dr. Jacques Michel, has urged the prosecution of Israeli doctors culpable for “thousands of unauthorised and often illegal experiments on small children and geriatric and psychiatric patients in Israeli hospitals.”


“These doctors should be punished very severely because they really are criminals,” said Michel.

An investigation by the state comptroller has disclosed that “researchers in 10 public hospitals administered drugs, carried out unauthorised genetic testing or undertook painful surgery on patients unable to give informed consent or without obtaining health ministry approval.”

The unethical experiments were described as “not an isolated phenomenon” but widespread throughout institutions.

Consent for the experiments was obtained from people deemed unfit to give informed consent or by taking thumbprints from patients “too senile to read or sign.” In some cases, consent forms couldn’t even be produced.

The reporting of some deaths was delayed. At least two female patients were reported to have died from infections that went unreported to the ministry and were not investigated.

Doctors cashing in on bribes offered by pharmaceutical firms has been implicated as a motivation for the unethical experimentation.

At the end of WWII, Mengele was captured, held, and released by unsuspecting Allies. This screw up allowed Mengele to escape to South America, where he eluded his hunters until his death from a stroke while swimming in 1979
. The Guardian article failed to draw the historical parallel, but it appears that Mengele’s legacy has been resurrected by some of the very people he once persecuted.


Kim Petersen is a writer living in Nova Scotia, Canada. He can be reached at: 


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