Were any Nazi studies later used to advance science?

I’ll start with the obvious: I know that the Nazi scientific/biological tests were horrendous and inhumaine. I don’t want to underemphasize that.

However, that aside, did the Nazi’s tests make significant advances in the understanding of human biology? Were any of those tests later used to make advancements that we profit from today?

I recently did a study on Eugenics, and I came across a lot of information about the Nazi’s tests with twins, sick people, etc. The German scientists crossed a lot of lines that most other scientists would never (and for good reason, of course), and I’m wondering if we’re in some way better off for it now (in the sense that we can glean some minute good from such a horrible time in history, not in any way trying to portray the Nazis as forerunners or trailblazers).

Short answer: No.

Joseph Mengele was a piss-poor scientist, on top of being a sadistic, heartless monster. His experiments were of no genuine scientific value.

I had heard that there were some minor findings on hypothermia which were enlightening, but that’s about it.

Did Nazi “scientists” publish?

Are you sure? I was under the impression that, as terrible as they were, we learned a lot by going over the German “Medical Experiment” records, such as how long it takes to die from freezing, how much blood it’s possible to loose, etc. etc.

Any truth to that at all?

I was told by a former boss that when he worked at Edwards Airforce Base back in the fifties (i.e. the real life “The Right Stuff”) the Nazi experimental data was used in the to gauge how much stress the test pilots could substain without being injured. The seem to have had good data on how much stress it took to break a back. :frowning:

This is what I’ve heard too; that the experiments influenced design of lifejackets, specifically that a neck protector was included in the design as the Nazis discovered you survived longer if your neck was insulated.

Can’t find a cite except for sites repeating the rumour, so it’s probably not true.

Those came from the Japanese.

There is a new book out (within the last 12 months) called “Doctors From Hell.” It’s written by a woman who served as court reporter for the Nuremberg trials, and it provides some detailed accounts of what happened by the doctors who were there. After reading this, I think there can be no doubt that the so-called “Nazi medical experiments” were simply acts of barbarism. There was no scientific investigation going on, just ghoulish torture. There was absolutely no scientific insight gained from these “experiments.”

This is a subject that was also covered extensively in Robert Jay Lifton’s book, “The Nazi Doctors.” I will spare readers the gruesome details of the “experiments” that were conducted, but either of these two books provide a pretty full picture. It seems to be a common opinion that despite the barbarism, some valuable insight was gained about hypothermia, altitude sickness, and other limits of human endurance. That just ain’t true.

We discussed this once in one of my graduate anthropology seminars. By “Nazi science,” we were discussing experiments conducted in the concentration camps, such as the infamous twin experiments. Everyone agreed that the “science” was so atrocious (injecting dyes into eyes to see if eye color changed), that the question was generally moot.

The *real *discussion occured when it was asked what if the experiments had been useful, even though they were war crimes? Would it have been ethical to use the results? If not, what about the people who could have potentially been helped from the data?

We never did come up with a consensus on that one.

A good overview of some of the major experiments being done:
From the article:

“The Nazis attempted rewarming the frozen victims. Doctor Rascher did, in fact, discover an innovative “Rapid Active Rewarming” technique in resuscitating the frozen victims. This technique completely contradicted the popularly accepted method of slow passive rewarming. Rascher found his active rewarming in hot liquids to be the most efficient means of revival.”

"Doctor John Hayward is a Biology Professor at the Victoria University in Vancouver, Canada. Much of his hypothermia research involves the testing of cold water survival suits that are worn while on fishing boats in Canada’s frigid ocean waters. Hayward used Rascher’s recorded cooling curve of the human body to infer how long the suits would protect people at near fatal temperatures. This information can be used by search-and-rescue teams to determine the likelihood that a capsized boater is still alive. "
In addition, Hubertus Strughold, the “father of modern space medicine”, performed tests on concentration camp inmates, and it is speculated that he used the research there to build the theories he would later develop for NASA.

So, yes, there were a few Nazi studies used to advance studies. Many studies were complete garbage and little more than innovations in sadism, such as nearly all of Mengele’s experimentation on twins. Some studies procuded data, such as the gangrene experiments, that was never used due to the nature of how it was obtained, and because the information was available in other forms.

But the Nazi experiments in reviving hypothermic victims were immediately put to use by the countries that found out about them.

I understand that the US used Japanese germ-warfare results after the war, which included pardons for Japanese scientists involved in outrageously awful experiments on prisoners-of-war. Not one of our more shining moments.

But the question isn’t whether anybody used the Nazi data, it’s whether the data had any scientific validity. There’s a whole section in the document you cited that concludes there it did not. Medical experts are cited as calling the experiments “pseudo-science” and saying “They’re of no scientific value.”

They specifically addressed the dubious data from Rascher’s hypothermia research (which is inconsistent and shows data being changed to fit the desire conclusions).

The section concludes: “The experts agree that the Nazi experiments lacked scientific integrity. …Some have suggested against terming them “experiments,” since they were really brutal beatings and mugging.”

Probably the closest you’re going to get to is someone who tested one of the “findings” of the Nazi junk science – I don’t want to say “replicated” because of the poor scientific methodology the other posters have noted. More like taking the same question and starting over.

That’s a long way from saying the Nazi scientists actually came up with anything useful, though.

Some posters have mentioned the immoral medical experiments conducted on prisoners by the Japanese in the WWII era. From what I once read, some of that work proved useful. One piece of standard first-aid advice that every schoolchild knows today, for example, came from those cruel studies, namely that the best way to treat a modest burn is with cold water. I don’t doubt that some unlucky individuals paid a high price for that knowledge, but at least it did not go entirely to waste.


didn’t they do some work with altitude exposure that was picked up by the soviets and used for early jet pilots? In fact, I wonder how much is truly known about camps liberated by the red army.

Having said that, I’d put all the “research” done for the sake of racial issues in an entirely different catagory then work designed to help save german soldiers lives.

Apparently it didn’t come from those studies, or at least not definitively, since it was still being reported on by medical journals as something novel in 1961. (This case is cited by Cecil on a column on the subject, but it doesn’t appear to be online.)

Just to be clear: the reason the “data” was not acceptable was that it was highly tainted. For instance, they threw people into freezing water, ostensibly to see how long they could survive. But when someone did survive, they were shot while still in the water. Or pushed and held under by some soldier’s boot. So such “data” as was obtained was useless because they treated (usually killed) different individuals differently in what was supposedly the same “test.”

[QUOTE=C K Dexter Haven]
Just to be clear: the reason the “data” was not acceptable was that it was highly tainted.QUOTE]

That’s one reason. These so called experiments didn’t use any of the scientific methods that we would consider standard: They didn’t document their testing methods; they didn’t accurately record their data; they didn’t publish the results; the tests aren’t repeatable; there was no attempt to control for variables. In short, nothing about what they did qualifies as science.

But there are other reasons. In some cases, they changed the data to suit their pre-conceived conclusions. In some cases (as C K Dexter referred to), they killed the subjects out of mercy (or sadism) before the “experiment” was completed.

Thirdly, its worth noting that the subjects they used were malnourished, psychologically traumatized, subject to physical abuse, and in many other ways, perfectly unsuitable for any kind of medical experimentation.

At the very best, what comes out of the Nazi experimentaion are anecdotes, and that’s a long way from being useful in any scientidic way.

There’s a lot of “I think I heard” comments in this thread, and frankly that’s not helpful. These events are well documented, and there is ample commentary from informed sources as to their scientific validity. With all due respect, speculation from folks who haven’t read any of the books or looked at any of the source material doesn’t really advance the discussion.