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January 27, 2013

Survivors of the Ebensee subcamp of Mauthausen claimed to be subjects of medical experiments

Filed under: Dachau, Health, Holocaust — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 12:00 pm
Army Signal Core photo of Ebensee survivors, May 7, 1945

Army Signal Core photo of Ebensee survivors, May 7, 1945

You can check here to confirm that the photo above was taken by the US Army Signal Core at the Ebensee sub-camp of Mauthausen.

This quote, concerning the photo, is from the web page, cited above:

ARC Identifier: 531271
Title: Starved prisoners, nearly dead from hunger, pose in concentration camp in Ebensee, Austria. The camp was reputedly used for “scientific” experiments. It was liberated by the 80th Division., 05/07/1945

Creator: Department of Defense. Department of the Army. Office of the Chief Signal Officer. (09/18/1947 – 02/28/1964) ( Most Recent)

Type of Archival Materials:
Photographs and other Graphic Materials
Level of Description:
Item from Record Group 111: Records of the Office of the Chief Signal Officer, 1860 – 1982

Note that the description of the photo says that the camp (Ebensee), where this photo was taken, was reputedly used for “scientific” experiments. Reputedly?  Sorry, not good enough.

This same photo is shown on this web page, but without a caption.  The text adjacent to the photo reads as follows:

In Auschwitz experimental medicine was tried by doctors (namely Dr. Helmuth Vetter) on sick patients, mostly typhus.  However, even when it was obvious the patient was being hurt, the experiment would continue.  Many patients lost their lives and few were saved.  Even worse, the experiments were not trying to cure the patients but to see bodily reactions to the disease and different medicine.

(survivors from the medical ward)

In conclusion, by carrying out these experiments and trying them on inmates in the camps, the Nazi physicians broke their Hippocratic Oath (stated in the Introduction) that had been put in place and followed for almost two thousand years.  They not only broke their promise as a doctor but they killed and injured many innocent prisoners for the simple reason of wanting to find out how individuals would react to different amounts and types of medicines.

The photo of the Ebensee survivors is shown in the space next to the words (survivors from the medical ward).  The web page that shows this photo and identifies it as the “survivors from a medical ward” is from the website of the University of California at Santa Barbara, specifically from the website of faculty member Harold Marcuse.  The article, written by Professor Marcuse, concerns “The book Nazi Medicine: Doctors, Victims and Medicine in Auschwitz by Howard Fertig explores the role of medicine and those affected by it in the Auschwitz concentration camp.”

Even though the photo might show survivors of a medical experiment, the men in the photo are probably not survivors of the medical experiments in Block 20 in Auschwitz, which is what the article is about.  The survivors of the Auschwitz experiments might have joined the “death march” out of Auschwitz, and they might have ended up at Ebensee, where there was a typhus epidemic in progress, but it is highly unlikely.

The photo below, which is also included in the article about Nazi medical experiments, was taken in the typhus ward at Dachau; American doctors are caring for the typhus patients.

Prisoners in the typhus ward at Dachau

Prisoners in the typhus ward at Dachau

The above photo was taken by the US Army Signal Core at Dachau; yet it is used in a history course by the University of California at Santa Barbara to illustrate Nazi medical experiments.  What’s wrong with that, you ask?  Substituting photos is totally disingenuous and should be against the law.  The photo should be identified, on the UCSB website, as being a photo taken in a typhus ward at Dachau.

As for the Ebensee camp, here is the real story, which the students at Santa Barbara should have been told.

Gate into the Ebensee subcamp

Gate into the Ebensee subcamp

The photograph above was taken on May 6, 1945, after Ebensee, a sub-camp of the Mauthausen Concentration Camp, was liberated by soldiers in the 80th Division of the US Third Army on May 4th and 5th.

The banner, written in French, reads “The French prisoners Salute the Allies.” It was erected by the anti-Nazi resistance fighters who were imprisoned here after being captured and accused of doing acts of sabotage during the Nazi occupation of France.

German Ebensee prisoners welcome their liberators

German Ebensee prisoners welcome their liberators

The photograph above shows a sign that was erected by the German prisoners in the Ebensee camp. The English translation is  “We welcome our liberators.” Among the German prisoners were some who were condemned criminals that had been released from the regular prisons and sent to work in the concentration camps.

The prisoners at Ebensee worked in underground factories which manufactured Messerschmitt airplanes. German engineers and civilians also worked in these factories. The Ebensee site was chosen because there were natural caves which could be enlarged into tunnels so that the munitions factories could be protected from Allied bombing raids.

According to Martin Gilbert, the author of a book entitled Holocaust, Ebensee was an “end destination” for Jewish prisoners who were evacuated from camps farther east as the Soviet Army advanced toward Germany. In the last months of the war, the Ebensee camp was seriously over-crowded with these exhausted prisoners, many of whom had just arrived in the weeks prior to the liberation.

Children at the Ebensee camp after it was liberated

Children at the Ebensee camp after it was liberated

Martin Gilbert wrote the following regarding the evacuations and the death marches:

Jews who had already survived the “selections” in Birkenau, and work as slave laborers in factories, had now to survive the death marches. Throughout February and March [1945] columns of men, and crowded cattle trucks, converged on the long-existing concentration camps, now given a new task. These camps had been transformed into holding camps for the remnant of a destroyed people, men and women whose labor was still of some last-minute utility for a dying Reich, or whose emaciated bodies were to be left to languish in agony in one final camp.

According to Gilbert’s book, a train loaded with 2,059 Jews arrived at Ebensee on March 3, 1945. They had survived the death camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau and had first been sent to the Gross Rosen concentration camp, then on to Ebensee. Forty-nine of the Jewish prisoners died on the train, and on their first day in the camp, 182 died during the disinfection procedure. New arrivals had to be disinfected to kill the body lice which spreads typhus. There was a typhus epidemic in Mauthausen and the sub-camps and, according to Martin Gilbert, 30,000 prisoners died in these camps in the last four months of the war.

According to Martin Gilbert, the last death marches of the war began on May 1, 1945 as the American Army approached; prisoners from the main camp at Mauthausen and the sub-camps at Gusen and St. Valentin were marched to Gunskirchen and Ebensee. Hundreds of them died from exhaustion, or were shot because they couldn’t keep up, or as they attempted to escape. When American troops in the 80th Infantry Division arrived on May 4, 1945, there were around 60,000 prisoners from 25 different countries at Ebensee.

You can read more about the Ebensee camp on another blog here and here.