By now you’ve probably encountered antivax rhetoric claiming parallels between vaccine mandates and Nazi Germany medical experiments. In this post, I will explore whether such analogies are legitimate. I’m not the first to do this but I hope to contribute a perspective that adds a new dimension.
Before evaluating any alleged parallels between vaccine mandates and Nazi medical experiments, it may be helpful to cover some of the specific experiments. Details matter. Most people have a vague sense that Nazi medical institutions engaged in serious wrongdoing but many people do not know exactly what they did or why. With a detailed account the Nazi medical experiments we will be better positioned to evaluate any alleged parallels with vaccine mandates.
The Experiments: A Small Sample
Nazi doctors wanted to figure out how to best save Nazi pilots who had to eject at high altitude. To study this, concentration camp prisoners were forced into low pressure chambers to simulate conditions at 20.7 km (68 000 ft) of altitude. The doctors recorded their observations as the prisoners were dying under these conditions. Sigmund Rascher (the “principle investigator”) reportedly dissected some prisoners brains while they were still alive in order to observe the effect of air bubbles in the brain’s blood vessels. 80 “research subjects” died (i.e., were murdered) from the experiments. 120 were executed after completing the experiment in order to perform autopsies.
German medical scientists wished to determine how best to treat the hypothermia experienced by ejected pilots and soldiers on the Russian front. Prisoners were forced into ice baths for up to 5 hours at a time or strapped down naked in the snow. They had to tie them down because the prisoners would thrash around in pain and delirium before they fell unconscious. It was also important to tie the prisoners down so that doctors could take accurate measurements of their body temperature, reflexes, and other physiological functions. Once a prisoner’s internal body temperature had dropped to 26.5 C (79.7 F), experimenters would test various rewarming methods–among them scalding hot baths. 80 to 100 prisoners died (i.e., were murdered) as a result of the experiments.
Nazi medical scientists sought a cure for the gangrene that plagued the soldiers on the front lines. To do this, Nazi researchers needed to simulate a battle wound. This consisted in slicing open prisoners’ limbs (without anesthetic), rubbing in glass and wood shavings, then infecting the wound with various bacteria like streptococcus, tetanus, and gangrene. While prisoners writhed in agony, researchers would test various compounds such as sulfanilamid in hopes of finding a cure. Some victims weren’t treated at all in order to function as a control group. All prisoners suffered tremendous agony, some lost limbs, and some died of the infection.
In order to better understand the inheritance of traits, Nazi scientists (under the direction of Mengele) performed experiments on approximately 3000 twins–most of which were children. The children would be taken from their parents and set aside for medical experimentation. One child would function as the control while the other would be subjected to blood transfusions, insemination, limb amputation, injection with disease, and experimental pharmaceutical interventions. Perhaps, most gruesome were the genital and organ transplantation experiments. After all experiments, twins would then be murdered in order to compare the anatomical and physiological effects of the various “interventions.” Mengele also attempted to create “artificial Siamese twins.”
While it would take too long to go through each experiment, he’s a quick list of some of the remaining most notorious ones:
- Poison: Nazi experimenters would test various poisons on prisoners. If the poison didn’t kill them, they’d be murdered anyway to study the biological effects.
- Tuberculosis and Malaria: Live tubercle bacteria was injected into the lungs of prisoners to test various treatments and vaccines. 200 adult and 20 children died (i.e., were murdered). Over 1000 prisoners were infected with malaria then subjected to experimental drugs. Many died from the disease and/or complications from the experimental medications. Similar experiments were conducted with jaundice, cholera, small pox, and diphtheria.
- Phosgene: Phosgene is a toxic gas used in WWI. Around 50 prisoners were rounded up and gassed in order to test antidotes.
- Bone, Muscle, and Join Transplantation: Nazi researchers amputated limbs, muscles, and joints from some prisoners and tried to attach them to other prisoners. Victims suffered extreme pain, mutilation, and permanent disability.
- Sterilization: Male prisoners had their genitalia radiated then chopped off to examine biological changes in the testes. Women had caustic substances forced into their uterus causing extreme burning, bleeding, and spasms. Thousands were sterilized this way.
- Seawater: To discover if seawater could become drinkable 90 Roma prisoners were forced to drink only chemically processed seawater and deprived of food. Some were given only sea water as the control group. The prisoners underwent tremendous pain and suffering and some died a slow painful death by iodine poisoning.
Covid-19 Vaccine Mandates
Now that we have a sense of the nature of the Nazi experiments, we’re in a better position to evaluate whether Covid-19 vaccine mandates are meaningfully similar with respect to their ethical properties.
No one with any understanding of ethics and history would ever link the Nazi medical experiments together with vaccine mandates except to say they are an example of a disanalogy.
A person who needs this explained to them is so deeply misinformed and so morally lost that the only response I can muster is pity and sadness.