Horrifying Nazi Experiments Conducted On Humans

For those born after the Cold War era, it's hard to imagine a time when the entire world wasn't aware of the medical experiments conducted in World War II-era Germany. When looking back on the medical experiments of WWII, it may be easy to feel like we're reading science fiction. However, the actions committed by military scientists in WWII Germany were very real.

Decades later, researchers still debate whether or not there's a moral quandary in using the findings of Third Reich scientists in modern medicine. From seemingly innocuous experiments on eye pigmentation to procedures involving the creation of conjoined twins and the examination of internal organs, all of the worst experiments the Nazis conducted on people are on this list.

  • Artificial Insemination
    Photo: Alexander Voronzow/Mikhael Oschurkow / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Artificial Insemination

    Heinrich Himmler, a leading SS member, ordered Dr. Carl Clauberg to artificially inseminate concentration camp prisoners through various experimental methods. Clauberg artificially inseminated about 300 women at Auschwitz, who were restrained and made to endure verbal abuse throughout the process. Reportedly, Clauberg told his victims that he had used semen from animals - not humans - to create monsters. However, Clauberg's true aim was to attain information on treating sterility.

    The women selected for the experimentation were between the ages of 20 and 40 and still experiencing menses. These tests were conducted in conjunction with sterilization experiments.

  • Head Injury Experiment
    Photo: Zoltan Kluger / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Head Injury Experiment

    In the autobiography Remember Us, survivor Martin Small recounted an experiment conducted in 1942. Small witnessed an SS security officer named Dr. Wichtmann perform an experiment on a boy who was approximately 11 or 12 years old.

    The incident took place inside a building behind the officer's residence in occupied Poland. According to Small:

    A boy was kept prisoner inside a room, tied to a chair. This boy was repeatedly struck on the head with a mechanical hammer every few seconds which reportedly caused the boy to become insane.

  • Freezing Experiments
    Photo: Lt. Arnold E. Samuelson / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Freezing Experiments

    Called the Dachau hypothermia experiments, the tests were conducted on men in order to simulate the conditions the armies suffered on the Eastern Front. The experiments were divided into two parts: first, to establish how long it would take to lower the body temperature before death, and second, how to best resuscitate a frozen victim.

    The test subjects were either placed in an ice bath, or their clothes were removed and they were forced to lay on a stretcher before being left outside in the Auschwitz winter. Approximately 200 prisoners were used throughout the experimentation process.

  • Mass Malaria Experiments

    During WWII, over 1,000 prisoners were either bitten by malaria-infected mosquitoes or had extracts from the mucous glands of malaria-infected mosquitoes injected directly into their bloodstream. 

    Father Leo Miechalowski, who was subjected to the malaria experiments, wrote of the traumatic event, "All of a sudden my heart felt like it was going to be torn out."

  • Seawater Desalinization Experiments
    Photo: Karl-Friedrich Höcker / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Seawater Desalinization Experiments

    Of massive interest was how to make seawater safe to drink. If the Third Reich could leave soldiers away at sea for long periods of time without having to provide food and water, it would be one less thing to worry about.

    At Dachau, a group of approximately 90 Romani subjects were forced to drink seawater and were deprived of food, causing great amounts of suffering and bodily harm.

  • High-Altitude Experiments
    Photo: Jürgen Stroop / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    High-Altitude Experiments

    In 1942, victims at the Dachau concentration camp were subjected to experiments designed to test the absolute limits of human endurance in order to benefit the German Air Force. Special low-pressure chambers were built to simulate altitudes as high as 68,000 feet

    Eightly test subjects perished as a result of the experiments; another 120 were executed after the tests had concluded.