On December 26, 1946, Brigadier General Telford Taylor stood before an American military tribunal in Hitler’s Palace of Justice in Nuremberg, Germany. Seated before him were 23 Nazi prisoners, all on trial for crimes against humanity. In many ways it was an unlikely group. These were not Hitler’s generals or even common Nazi soldiers. Most of them were doctors, including some of the most eminent and respected physicians in all of Germany. In his opening statement, Taylor—the chief prosecutor of the Nuremberg Trials—described their crimes: In the name of science, these men had performed a ghoulish series of medical experiments on human beings, some of which resulted in death, and others in permanent injury or mutilation. The doctors’ defense against these charges was uncomplicated. They had done their experiments, they said, for the good of humanity. Besides, their subjects were already condemned to die, so why not use them to learn how to alleviate the suffering of others? No one was impressed. After an eight-month trial, the court pronounced its verdict.1 Sixteen of the defendants were convicted of war crimes; nine of those were sentenced to prison. The rest were hanged.2
The full horror of Nazi atrocities was not uncovered until Allied troops began liberating the concentration camps in 1944. What they found literally stunned the world: dungeons, gas chambers, medical laboratories, and hundreds of reams of paper cataloguing the hellish experiments the Nazi doctors carried out on their “subjects.” They immersed them in freezing water, inflicted simulated battle wounds on them, injected them with malaria, exposed them to mustard gas, shot them with poison bullets, amputated their limbs and then tried to reattach them to another person. With the freezing water tests at Dachau, they intended to learn how best to reverse the hypothermia of German pilots who were shot down into the frigid waters of the North Sea.3
The Nuremberg tribunal recognized from the outset that the Nazi experiments had certain possible uses. The data collected from them might very well be used to alleviate human suffering or even to save people’s lives. No one, however, argued that the experiments were therefore justified. They had been conducted on human beings without their consent, so regardless of any medical benefit which arose from them, the experiments should never have been done. But the Nazis were blinded by scientific ambition and national self-protection. Fanatically bent upon advance, utterly ruthless as to the means or instruments to be used in achieving their goals, and callous to the sufferings of people whom they regarded as inferior, they were willing to gather whatever scientific bitter fruit their experiments might yield.
Perhaps no historical event has elicited such a unanimous verdict from all peoples of the world. The Nazi experiments were base and heinous crimes for which no amount of scientific data could ever atone. Even so, the lessons of Dachau, Buchenwald, and Auschwitz seem to be on the verge of being forgotten. Many are now clamoring for a new round of lethal experiments on human beings—in the form of embryonic stem-cell research. The logic is the same as it was in 1940s Germany: We have much knowledge to gain from their deaths. One advocate of embryonic stem-cell research stated it callously—speaking of unborn human beings, he said, “We have a tool [here] that is a near-miracle. It would be a criminal waste not to use them.” It does not require much to imagine those very words, in the clipped cadence of a Nazi doctor, ringing off the walls of Dachau.4
1 “Opening Statement of the Prosecution by Brigadier General Telford Taylor, December 9, 1946,” United States Holocaust Museum Website, http://www.ushmm.org/research/doctors/telford.htm (accessed May 4, 2005).
2 “Sentences,” Ibid.,
3 “Crimes Committed in the Guise of Scientific Research,” Ibid., http://www.ushmm.org/research/doctors/research.htm.
4 See also Kairos Journal article, "Nazi Racial Cleansing: the American Link."
Thursday, June 28, 2007
For the Good of Humanity
The Following is taken from The Karios Journal, June 2007. It is worth contemplating. We live in an Orwellian age where language is abused and history is forgotten. Let us not forget that there is nothing new "under the sun" (Eccl. 1:9).