War experiments

As German losses mounted during wartime, the SS approved human experiments to develop new ways of treating soldiers. Most experiments proved pointless, and only spread suffering. In Dachau, prisoners were put into freezing water tanks, to simulate the conditions of fighter pilots who crashed into sea. This murderous experiment was overseen by the ambitious young air force doctor Sigmund Rascher, who kept SS leader Himmler personally informed. Himmler regarded the experiments by the incompetent Rascher as vital for the war effort. So great was Himmler’s interest, he visited Rascher’s Dachau station in November 1942 to watch for himself.

074 – Heinrich Himmler to Dr Rascher, 24 October 1942

Dear Rascher!

[…] I read your report on freezing experiments on people with great interest. […]

I regard those who still reject these experiments, and instead would rather let brave German soldiers die from the effects of freezing, as traitors and I will not hesitate to report the names of these gentlemen to the appropriate authorities. I hereby authorize you to notify the relevant authorities of my views. I shall invite you to make an oral report in November because, unfortunately, despite my great interest in the matter, I shall not have time to receive you before then.

Heil Hitler!
H. Himmler

Source: H. Heiber (ed.), Reichsführer! (Munich, 1970), pp. 205–6

Translation: Lesley Sharpe and Jeremy Noakes