Dachau Trials

US vs. Martin Gottfried Weiss, et al

Dr. Klaus Karl Schilling on the left, Lt. Col. Denson in the center

Dr. Klaus Karl Schilling, a 74-year-old medical doctor in the Dachau camp, was charged with a war crime for conducting medical experiments on the prisoners in an attempt to find a vaccine and/or a cure for malaria. As part of the "common design" charge, Martin Gottfried Weiss, the former Commandant, was also responsible for the medical experiments at Dachau, which were considered to be among the main atrocities committed at Dachau.

According to "The Official Report by the U.S. Seventh Army," published shortly after the camp was liberated, Dr. Schilling had retired from the practice of medicine in 1932. He had been the Professor of Parasitology at the University of Berlin Medical School and for the last 20 years, he had been particularly interested in malaria.

The following quote is from "The Official Report by the U.S. Seventh Army":

In 1936, he was summoned by a Dr. Conti , Minister of Health, to appear personally before Himmler. Schilling stated he was ordered by Himmler to proceed to the Dachau Concentration Camp for the purpose of research in an attempt to find a method of specifically immunizing individuals against Malaria. This he did since 1936, and in this period of time he inoculated some 2,000 people with malaria.

In the photo below, Dr. Klaus Schilling is shown in the center with Rudolf Heinrich Suttrop on the left. Suttrop's crime was that he was the adjutant to the Commandant of Dachau.

Dr. Klaus Schilling is shown in the center of the photo

The photograph below shows Dr. Sigmund Rascher, on the right, dressed in his Luftwaffe uniform, as he attends to a man who is lying in a vat filled with blocks of ice. Dr. Franz Blaha, a former prisoner at Dachau, testified that the victims of these experiments were "put into a big basin without clothing," but the photo shows the subject fully dressed, in order to simulate the conditions that would have been endured by a downed pilot. On the extreme right, you can see the hand of another man who is holding what might be a thermometer. During the cold water experiments, Dr. Blaha said that the temperature of the subject would be taken periodically. Frau Rascher would sometimes attend the experiments and take official photographs.

Dr. Siegmund Rascher, on the right, doing a cold water experiment

Dr. Franz Blaha testified as follows, regarding the cold water experiments done by Dr. Sigmund Rascher for the Luftwaffe to find ways to revive pilots who were rescued from the ocean:

The prisoners were put into a big basin of cold water without clothing, and they were kept there up to 38 hours. By means of a thermometer in the rectum, the temperature was measured and noted on a clipboard. Every time the body temperature dropped ten degrees, blood was taken from an artery at the throat, and it was examined in the laboratory, usually first as to sugar content, calcium, and nonprotein nitrates. At 25 degrees Centigrade, the people usually died, but one of them could stand it to 19 degrees. Sometimes the experiment was interrupted to warm the subject before proceeding again. They did this either with heat apparatus or animal heat. There were two women in a bed, and they took the frozen person in between them, and they had to warm him up. Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler was present at one of these experiments. Mostly Polish and Czech Jews, then the Russians, were used.

Dr. Blaha testified that many of the subjects died during these experiments, which he said took place in 1942 and 1943 during the time that Martin Gottfried Weiss was the Commandant. All of the bodies were dissected in the presence of Dr. Rascher. The organs were taken out immediately, sometimes while the subject was still alive, and were then quickly dispatched to the Pathological Institute in Munich. Some prisoners were kept from 4 to 6 hours, and some for 24 to 26 hours, in the cold water. Almost everyone died, according to Dr. Blaha's testimony, and the time that each subject remained in the freezing water was noted on a clipboard by Dr. Rascher.

Mizyla Tzepla, a prisoner who survived the cold water experiments, also testified. He said that he was in the prison hospital for 42 days afterwards. A prisoner who worked in the hospital told Tzepla that he was one of only ten who survived out of 300 who took part in the experiment. Walter Neff, another witness who was a former prisoner, testified that there were only 150 subjects used in the medical experiments.

After the subject's body had reached a certain temperature, Dr. Blaha testified that the man would die, but sometimes the experiment would be stopped and the subject would be warmed up again, sometimes "with a heating apparatus" and sometimes by placing the frozen man in a bed between two women.

According to the Dachau Museum, Dr. Sigmund Rascher was murdered on April 26, 1945 by Theodor Bongartz, an SS man at Dachau, who shot him in the head in Cell #73 in the bunker. Dr. Rascher had been arrested after it was learned that he had illegally adopted a child, but claimed that the child had been born to Frau Rascher, who was actually too old to bear a child.

Heinrich Himmler's wife had only borne one child before she was too old to have any more, and Himmler had taken a mistress so that he could father more children. Before she married Sigmund Rascher, Nini Diehl had been a concert singer and she was a very good friend of Himmler. She was the one who recommended Dr. Rascher to Himmler for these experiments, which were done for the German Air Force, under Himmler's direction.

Other Defendants

Kaufering Sub-camp

Prosecution Summation

Dachau gas chamber

Opening of the Trial

Martin Gottfried Weiss

Friedrich Wilhelm Ruppert

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This page was last updated on September 10, 2009