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November 18, 2015

Why didn’t Germany use DDT to kill the lice that spreads typhus?

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, Health — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 9:04 am

There were thousands of deaths, from typhus, in the German concentration camps because the Nazis refused to use DDT to kill the lice that spread typhus.  Bad Nazis!

American soldier sprays a Dachau inmate with DDT

American soldier sprays a Dachau inmate with DDT after Dachau was liberated

Dachau was “liberated” by American troops on April 29, 1945 after the camp had been turned over to them under a white flag of truce. The man who had surrendered the camp was immediately killed, but that’s another story.

Sick prisoners in the typhus ward at Dachau

Sick prisoners in the typhus ward at Dachau

On 2 May 1945, the 116th Evacuation Hospital arrived at Dachau and set up operations. According to a report made on 20 May 1945, there were 140 prisoners dying each day in the camp; the principle causes of death were starvation, tuberculosis, typhus and dysentery. There were 4,000 prisoners in the prison hospital and an unknown number of sick prisoners in the barracks who had been receiving no medical attention.

Reporters view the bodies of Dachau prisoners who had died after the camp was liberated

Reporters view the bodies of Dachau prisoners who had died after the camp was liberated

There were 18 one-story wooden SS barrack buildings in the Dachau army garrison which were converted into hospital wards. The medical personnel were housed in the SS administration building. A Typhus Commission arrived and began vaccinating all medical personnel and the prisoners. There was a daily dusting of DDT to kill the lice which spreads typhus.

Dachau prisoners being tested for typhus before they could leave the camp

Dachau prisoners being tested for typhus before they could leave the camp

On 3 May 1945, the sick prisoners were brought to the hospital wards. They were bathed, dusted with DDT powder and given clean pajamas to wear; their old prison clothes were burned.

By July 1945, the typhus epidemic in the Dachau concentration camp had been brought under control by the US Army doctors, and all the prisoners had either been released or moved to a Displaced Persons camp at Landsberg. The photograph immediately above shows former inmates being tested for typhus before being allowed to leave.

This quote from Wikipedia explains why DDT is harmful and is no longer used.

Begin quote:

In 1962, the book Silent Spring by American biologist Rachel Carson was published. It cataloged the environmental impacts of indiscriminate DDT spraying in the United States and questioned the logic of releasing large amounts of potentially dangerous chemicals into the environment without a sufficient understanding of their effects on ecology or human health. The book claimed that DDT and other pesticides had been shown to cause cancer and that their agricultural use was a threat to wildlife, particularly birds. Its publication was a seminal event for the environmental movement and resulted in a large public outcry that eventually led, in 1972, to a ban on the agricultural use of DDT in the United States.[10] A worldwide ban on its agricultural use was later formalized under the Stockholm Convention, but its limited use in disease vector control continues to this day and remains controversial,[11][12] because of its effectiveness in reducing deaths due to malaria, which is countered by environmental and health concerns.

Along with the passage of the Endangered Species Act, the US ban on DDT is cited by scientists as a major factor in the comeback of the bald eagle (the national bird of the United States) and the peregrine falcon from near-extirpation in the contiguous United States.[13][14]

End quote


  1. German scientist knew very well that DDT would kill lice and combat malaria, they were also fully aware of its side effects and was never further perused, but a substitute ‘Lausepulver’ (lice-powder) was available in Apothecaries which was partly useless.
    My father requested about forty Russian POW’s in September 1942 during the potato harvesting season, who were initially unable to work due to their poor health condition, in addition to the treatment they had received and could hardly walk. The fear was that they might spread Typhus or other diseases among the local population and immediate action had to be taken over the objection of their camp guards.
    All their clothing had to be burned, they had their first bath in a wooden trough, the water was mixed with carbolic acid which was maintained on a weekly basis, hair was shorn and laundered clothing given. They received better food as well. This way their condition improved and they become the most loyal prisoner we ever had.
    What happened to them at the end of the war I do not know, I was not there.
    During the Dachau liberation the American Military were lax in their release of inmates into the city as well as well as the spread of typhus unto their own solders. Apart from that, the death toll of inmates increased, as the isolation of carriers was ignored. The wake-up call was almost too late!
    My wife, who was 12 years old at that time still remembers the painful injection she received into her chest to stave of further spread of the disease unto the civilian population.

    Comment by Herbert Stolpmann — November 18, 2015 @ 8:10 pm

  2. DDT was invented in 1874, but its insecticidal properties were discovered by Swiss scientist Paul Müller as late as in 1939. But DDT’s insecticidal properties first had to be tested and the news of its extraordinary properties against disease-carrying insects reached the United States only in 1942. After additional research in the United States, a DDT delousing powder was designed and used for the first time in Naples (Italy) in late 1943. For understandable reasons, the American Allies didn’t share their new miracle powder with their German enemies of those days. That was a military secret.

    Comment by hermie — November 18, 2015 @ 7:59 pm

    • Following is a reply of a American Airman to the effect of DDT:
      Little did I know that 50 years affter my service in the USAF that I would wind up with both Bladder Cancer and Parkinsons disease due to my over exposure to DDT that was applied wit diesel fuel to give it the fogging effect which tunrs out is a deadly mixture and has been proven to have the deadly late in life causes of Cancers and Parkinsons disease. MY Neurologist and urologist and internest all accomplished doctors in their own right concur one fact that is more than likely the main cause of both of my deadly diseases and I’m now in a battle with the VA for justice to be done. Also of great impotance is that we were instructed to us the very volitile and toxic chemicle TCE to clean our duty truck and cars. So as a obedient airman to orders I am today suffering the deadly effects of following orders. Dave Albanese USAF 1961-1965

      Read more:

      Comment by Herbert Stolpmann — November 18, 2015 @ 9:04 pm

  3. But the DDT had been available before the arrival of the USA Army? Furthermore, all the fuss about the harns due to DDT started just after the patent rights on the product had ceased. Then another patented product had to be promoted, Strange indeed,

    Comment by Wolf MURMELSTEIN — November 18, 2015 @ 11:37 am

    • Furthermore, the Nazis did not want to preserve Concentration Camp prisioniers for thyphus desease-

      Comment by Wolf MURMELSTEIN — November 19, 2015 @ 9:47 am

      • What a crank !!

        Comment by hermie — November 20, 2015 @ 7:13 am

  4. a threat to wildlife, particularly birds…the US ban on DDT is cited by scientists as a major factor in the comeback of the bald eagle

    In college I looked into this and wrote a brief paper about it for an introductory animal biology (Zoology) class — actually it is a breakdown/byproduct of DDT metabolism — DDE — that interferes with calcium deposition during the formation of an eggshell — this results in thin eggshells that break when adult birds brood (sit atop the eggs).

    Comment by eah — November 18, 2015 @ 9:33 am

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