From 1933-1945 the Nazis built thousands of concentration camps around Europe. Almost everyone hears about the atrocities that Jews suffered in the camps during this time period. Many people do forget however that the Jews weren’t the only people who suffered “ the more we do to you, the less you seem to believe we are doing it” - Josef Mengele Doctors and Scientists like the infamous Josef Mengele used these camps and their prisoners to perform horrible experiments, that if performed today would disgust and terrify people everywhere. Many of these people died not from malnutrition like the other camp prisoners but from pain and diseases like malaria and typhus.
In the concentration camps numerous people arrived without any idea of what was going to happen to them. For doctors like Josef Mengele these people arriving presented multiple new experiments that he could now perform on them. Twins seemed to be something of great interest to Mengele. Upon arriving families often had to decide whether they thought it was better to announce their twins or to keep it a secret. None of these families knew what the doctor was truly planning for them.
Mengele believed that twins held the secrets to things like genetics and heredity. Concentration camps seemed like a great place for him to find these twin “specimens”.At selection twins where constantly searched for. (Out of the 3 thousand twins found only about 200 survived)
If twins were found they were immediately moved while everyone else was sent to their deaths.(if the twins were real young the mother would sometimes accompany them)
Mengele was a constant presence at selection,even when it wasn’t his day. No twins could be missed coming off the trains.
Twins weren’t the only people Mengele took an interest in. He also had his men look for dwarfs, giants and people with other odd genetic disorders
Once twins were found they were treated much differently from the other prisoners within the camp. They were referred to as “Mengele’s children” and were allowed much more freedoms and kept in better health. Much of the time they were permitted to keep their own clothes and their hair. Unlike the other concentration camp prisoners the twins were also allowed to play sports and they were given plenty of food. They never had to perform very hard tasks and were exempt from punishment.
Josef Mengele The appearance of Mengele to the children did not frighten them. When they did see him he was often referred to as “Uncle Mengele”. He always arrived with pockets filled with candies and sweets for the children. Occasionally he would talk or play sports with them as well. To the twins there wasn’t really much to fear from the sight of Mengele. He might have appeared nice but other than “Uncle Mengele” he was known as “ THE ANGEL OF DEATH”
Each day massive amounts of blood were taken from each twin (as much as ten cubic centimeters a day) Sometimes the blood was mass transfused between the two twins. In an attempt to create blue eyes, the twins would also be subjected to painful eye drops that could infections and temporary/permanent blindness. ( these drops or injections were chemicals that Mengele wanted to try) Other times one twin was purposely infected with a disease like TB. Once the infected twin died, the other was often killed by having chloroform injected into the heart which killed them instantly. The twins would then be dissected to compare the bodies. An example of experimentation: In an attempt to make conjoined twins, Mengele and other doctors had sewn together two Gypsy children. They became seriously infected which caused gangrene and they later died.
Twins weren’t the only people being experimented on in the concentration camps. Various experiments were conducted to help out the army and air force. Nazi scientists and doctors also used the prisoners to test out effective ways to treat diseases, as well as wounds that people got from war.
High altitude experiments and hypothermia experiments were conducted by the Nazis to help out their military. Since the Germans were fighting on the Russian front, scientists took great interest in how they could treat hypothermia. As part of their experiment, prisoners would be placed in freezing ice baths where the temperature was lowered until the prisoner passed out. They then used various methods to reheat the prisoner and tried to see which was most effective. High altitude experiments helped Nazi scientists determine at what high it was safe for pilots to parachute. The prisoners used would be placed in a low pressure chamber to simulate altitudes as high as 66,000 feet