The Nazi Party is infamous for attempting cruel medical experiments during the Holocaust. Among the medical professionals brought on by the party were the monstrous Josef Mengele and his colleague, Sigmund Rascher.
Sigmund Rascher performed experiments at Dachau, one of Germany's largest concentration camps, from 1942 until 1944. He killed hundreds of his human subjects, all while insisting that he needed to use humans instead of lab rats or apes for his research.
Rascher's time in the Nazi SS was filled with chilling moments, such as the murder of his lab assistant, his arrest for kidnapping three children to pass off as his own, and that time he crafted saddles out of human skin.
Rascher Was One Of Himmler's Favorite Scientists
Heinrich Himmler was the head of the Nazi SS from 1929 until 1945, and expanded the overall aim of the program from simply acting as Hitler's bodyguards to conducting "innovative" scientific experiments.
Rascher was one of "Himmler's darlings," at least in the beginning. Rascher's wife was an old friend of Himmler, and Himmler was very impressed with the couple and their three sons. He often sent the family gifts and goodies like fruit and chocolate.
Air Pressure Experiments
Rascher began conducting experiments with air pressure to address the hazards of parachuting out of planes at very high altitudes. At the time, German planes attempting to discretely deposit agents would have to do so from 45,000 feet or higher, a very dangerous hight to drop a person from, considering parachutes couldn't be opened until the wearer reached 4,000 feet.
Rascher used prisoners from the Dachau concentration camp to conduct his experiment, placing them in a special pressurized chamber that mimicked the atmospheric conditions that paratroopers faced.
Rascher knew that the air pressure experienced at 45,000 feet was extremely hazardous to human beings, but that didn't stop him from running 200 subjects through his machine. In the end, around 80 of them died from a variety of causes, namely heart and brain embolisms, though one man's lungs exploded.
Rascher took notes on his subjects' reactions as they went through the cruel experiments:
“agonal convulsive breathing”
“clonic conclusions, groaning”
“convulses arms and legs”
“grimaces, bites his tongue”
“does not respond to speech"
“gives the general impression of someone who is completely out of his mind”
The next problem Rascher tackled was how to revive a pilot that had been shot down in frigid waters. His methodology was simple: submerge his human subjects (sourced once again from Dachau) in near-freezing water for around three hours, and then try to revive them. He experimented with multiple methods for revival, including hot baths, heat lamps, and even placing the person between two naked women.
As might be expected, many of the subjects died. Later on, the findings of the study caused a bit of an ethical problem: should scientists use results that were found through such unethical methods? In terms of hypothermia research, Rascher's findings actually had some merit, though, to be clear, that doesn't make him any less evil.
As much as some scientists struggled with the moral issue, the United States jumped right on board. Operation Paperclip employed around 800 former Nazi scientists, including some that had worked with Rascher.
Blood Coagulant Experiments
Rascher used a substance called Polygal, made of beet and apple pectin, in experiments involving blood coagulation. He believed that if soldiers took tablets of this natural coagulant before battle, they would lose less blood if they were shot.
To test this hypothesis, he would feed Dachau prisoners the tablets, shoot them, and essentially watch them bleed out. He also would routinely cut off limbs without anesthesia.