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Supplementing a large body of For The Record research dealing with Nazi scientific projects, this program explores aspects of Third Reich research that impinge on events long after the close of World War II. Beginning with discussion of the mutagenic tranquilizer thalidomide, the broadcast highlights recent research from two different books indicating that the drug was originally developed by the Nazi IG Farben chemical company and perhaps tested on concentration camp inmates.
Next, the program reviews the IG Farben development of methadone, originally developed by the Third Reich as a synthetic morphine to treat casualties and–according to former Justice Department investigator Joseph Borkin– named “dolophine” named in honor of Adolph Hitler. Of course, methadone is used to treat heroin addiction. Heroin was also developed by an IG Farben company—Bayer, the developer of aspirin.
Most of the program deals with “Angel of Death” Dr. Josef Mengele’s research on twins. An Argentine author claims that a Brazilian town with an unusually large number of twins was the site of research by Mengele in the 1960’s. Infamous for–among other things–his brutal research on twins at Auschwitz during World War II, Mengele successfully escaped Europe and perpetuated his career as part of the Underground Reich in Latin America.
Generally viewed as isolated and an aberration, Mengele’s Auschwitz work with twins was the direct outgrowth of mainstream eugenics research. Long preoccupied with the study of twins, eugenicists celebrated the Nazi dictatorship for its ability to use coercion to achieve their objective of detailed, intensive research of the subject.
Lavishly funded by the Rockefeller Foundation well into the tenure of the Third Reich, the Kaiser Wilhelm Institutes were the primary focal point of eugenics research on twins. Mengele conducted his brutal, lethal research at Auschwitz in conjunction with the Kaiser Wilhelm Institutes and his intellectual mentor at that institution, Dr. Freiherr Otmar von Verschuer.
Concluding with examination of the alleged death of Nazi fugitive Dr. Aribert Heim, the program notes the failure of his American captors to prosecute him for his deadly experiments in the concentration camps. Is it possible that Heim may have participated in postwar research for the U.S. under Project Paperclip? (Paperclip was the program under which the Americans recruited top Nazi scientists–many of them SS officers and/or war criminals of the first order.)
Program Highlights Include: Nazi mutagenic research; the possibility that thalidomide might have been utilized in conjunction with that mutagenic research; doubts among Nazi hunters that Heim was actually dead; examination of the Rockefeller Foundation’s awareness of the true nature of the Nazi regime during the time it continued to fund the Kaiser Wilhelm Institutes.
1. Beginning with discussion of Nazi chemical giant I.G. Farben’s influence in the pharmaceutical business, the program accesses information about the tranquilizer thalidomide. When prescribed for pregnant women in the early 1960’s, it led to horribly deformed babies. A new book claims that the drug was actually invented by the Nazis and tested in concentration camps during World War II.
“The morning sickness drug thalidomide, which caused pregnant women to give birth to babies without arms and legs, was first developed by the Nazis, probably as part of their chemical weapons programme, according to new research.
Two separate academics have revealed the discovery of documents indicating that the drug did not originate with Chemie Grunenthal, the post-war German chemical firm, as has always been claimed.
If, as their research suggests, thalidomide was first developed by scientists working in wartime Germany, it could have implications for the liability of the German government. So far it has given compensation only to German victims, although the drug was distributed in 46 countries.
Thousands of the drug’s victims are still battling for increased financial aid to help them cope with its legacy. There are 457 thalidomiders remaining in the UK; 2,700 in Germany; and a total of up to 6,000 worldwide.s
Mothers prescribed it between its launch in 1957 and 1961, when it was removed from the market, gave birth to children who lacked proper arms, legs, hands and feet. Some had also suffered brain damage and other disabilities.
Dr Martin Johnson, director of the Thalidomide Trust which provides help for surviving victims in the UK, has written a paper detailing evidence suggesting that the drug had been developed before Grunenthal secured a patent in 1954.
The company has always maintained that thalidomide was created by chance in 1953 by scientists who had tried to create an antihistamine but ended up with a tranquillizer.
Johnson suspects that it was actually first produced as a possible antidote to nerve toxins such as sarin, which was developed by Otto Ambros, a Nazi scientist who joined Grunenthal after the war.
‘It is now appearing increasingly likely that thalidomide was the last war crime of the Nazis,’ said Johnson.
One document unearthed by the Thalidomide Trust shows that Grunenthal apparently purchased the trade name of the drug — Contergan — and therefore probably the substance itself, from a French firm, Rhone-Poulenc, which was under Nazi control during the war years.
A confidential letter sent from Astra, which held the Swedish licence to distribute thalidomide, to its Norwegian subsidiary in 1958 states: ‘Unfortunately we can’t use the name Contergan in the Scandinavian countries, since Grunenthal obtained the name exclusively for the German market through an agreement with Rhone-Poulenc.’
From 1942 onwards Rhone-Poulenc registered 14 similar drugs, all ending with the same ‘ergan’ suffix, a characteristic unique to the firm. Many of the drugs shared properties with thalidomide, such as affecting the nervous system.”
2. Next, the broadcast sets forth an interesting piece of the history of I.G. Farben’s history.
“Bayer’s pharmaceutical venture was even larger [than that of Hoechst]. Out of its laboratories emerged aspirin, the world’s most famous home remedy for pain and fever. Bayer was also responsible for the introduction of heroin, which it sold as a cure for morphine addiction and as a cough suppressant, especially effective in children. Later the Bayer laboratories developed methadone, in preparation for World War II, as a synthetic substitute for morphine. It was originally named Dolophine, in honor of Adolf Hitler. Today, methadone is used principally in the treatment of heroin addiction.”
3. A remarkable account from Brazil alleges that Josef Mengele–Auschwitz’s infamous “Angel of Death”–may have influenced the fact that a town with a large Germanic population has a remarkable number of twin births.
“The steely hearted ‘Angel of Death’, whose mission was to create a master race fit for the Third Reich, was the resident medic at Auschwitz from May 1943 until his flight in the face of the Red Army advance in January 1945.
His task was to carry out experiments to discover by what method of genetic quirk twins were produced – and then to artificially increase the Aryan birthrate for his master, Adolf Hitler.
Now, a historian claims, Mengele’s notorious experiments may have borne fruit.
For years scientists have failed to discover why as many as one in five pregnancies in a small Brazilian town have resulted in twins – most of them blond haired and blue eyed.
But residents of Candido Godoi now claim that Mengele made repeated visits there in the early 1960s, posing at first as a vet but then offering medical treatment to the women of the town.
Shuttling between Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil, he managed to evade justice before his death in 1979, but his dreams of a Nazi master race appeared unfulfilled.
In a new book, Mengele: the Angel of Death in South America, the Argentine historian Jorge Camarasa, a specialist in the post-war Nazi flight to South America, has painstakingly pieced together the Nazi doctor’s mysterious later years.
After speaking to the townspeople of Candido Godoi, he is convinced that Mengele continued his genetic experiments with twins – with startling results.
He reveals how, after working with cattle farmers in Argentina to increase their stock, Mengele fled the country after fellow Nazi, Adolf Eichmann, was kidnapped by Israeli agents.
He claims that Mengele found refuge in the German enclave of Colonias Unidas, Paraguay, and from there, in 1963, began to make regular trips to another predominantly German community just over the border in Brazil – the farming community of Candido Godoi.
And, Mr Camaras claims, it was here that soon after the birthrate of twins began to spiral.
‘I think Candido Godoi may have been Mengele’s laboratory, where he finally managed to fulfill his dreams of creating a master race of blond haired, blue eyed Aryans,’ he said.
‘There is testimony that he attended women, followed their pregnancies, treated them with new types of drugs and preparations, that he talked of artificial insemination in human beings, and that he continued working with animals, proclaiming that he was capable of getting cows to produce male twins.’
The urbane German who arrived in Candido Godoi was remembered with fondness by many of the townspeople.
‘He told us he was a vet,’ said Aloisi Finkler, a local farmer interviewed by Mr Camarasa. ‘He asked about illnesses we had among our animals, and told us not to worry, he could cure them. He appeared a cultured and dignified man.’
Another farmer, Leonardo Boufler, said: ‘He went from farm to farm checking the animals. He checked them for TB, and injected those that were infected. He said he could carry out artificial insemination of cows and humans, which we thought impossible as in those days it was unheard of.’
But the Nazi eugenicist did not concentrate on animals alone.
A former mayor and town doctor, Anencia Flores da Silva, set out to try to solve the town’s mystery. He interviewed hundreds of people, and discovered one character who crept on cropping up: an itinerant medic calling himself Rudolph Weiss.
Dr da Silva said: ‘In the testimonies we collected we came across women who were treated by him, he appeared to be some sort of rural medic who went from house to house. He attended women who had varicose veins and gave them a potion which he carried in a bottle, or tablets which he brought with him. Sometimes he carried out dental work, and everyone remembers he used to take blood.’
The people of Candido Godoi now largely accept that a Nazi war criminal was an inadvertent guest of theirs for several years in the early 1960s. The town’s official crest shows two identical profiles and a road sign welcomes visitors to a ‘Farming Community and Land of the Twins’. There is also a museum, the House of the Twins.
While the twins birthrate varies widely in different countries, it is typically about one in 80 pregnancies – a statistic that has left Mr Camarasa certain in his claim that Mengele was successfully pursuing his dreams of creating a master race, a real-life Boys from Brazil.
‘Nobody knows for sure exactly what date Mengele arrived in Candido Godoi, but the first twins were born in 1963, the year in which we first hear reports of his presence,’ he said.”
4. Providing detail on the eugenics community’s long and fundamental focus on the study of twins, the broadcast notes the Rockefeller Foundation’s lavish funding of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institutes–the latter a foundational element of eugenics research and, as we will see, Mengele’s work on twins at Auschwitz.
“Rockefeller money continued to stream across the Atlantic. The 1933 financial books of the Institute for Anthropology, Human Heredity and Eugenics reflected the foundation’s continuing impact. Page four of the balance sheet: Rockefeller paid clerical costs associated with research on twins. . . . The Rockefeller Foundation’s agenda was strictly biological to the exclusion of politics. The foundation wanted to discover the carriets of defective blood–even if it meant funding Nazi-controlled institutions. Moreover, Rockefeller executives knew their money carried power, and they used it to ensure that the most talented scientists continued at the various Kaiser Wilhelm Institutes, frequently shielding them from periodic Nazi purges. . . .
With each passing day, the world was flooded with more Jewish refugees, more noisy anti-Nazi boycotts and protest marches against any scientific or commercial exchanges with Germany, more public demands to isolate the Reich, and more shocking headlines documenting Nazi atrocities and anti-Jewish legislation. Still, none of this gave pause4 to America’s eugenicists. Correspondence on joint research flowed freely across the Atlantic. American eugenicists, and their many organizations and committees, from New York to California and all points in between, maintained and multiuplied their contacts with every echelon of official and semiofficial German eugenics. As the Reich descended into greater depths of depraved mistreatment and impoverishment of Jews, as well as territorial threats against its neighbors, these contacts seemed all the more insulated from the human tragedy unfolding within Europe. Eager and cooperative letters, reports, telegrams and memoranda did not number in the nundreds, but in the thousands of pages per month.
While concentration camps, pauperization and repression flourished in Nazi Germany, and while refugees filled ships and trains telling horrifying stories of torture and inhumanity, it was business as usual for eugenics. . . .”
The War Against the Weak; Edwin Black; Four Walls Eight Windows Press; Copyright 2003 by Edwin Black; ISBN 1–56858-258–7; pp. 302–303.
5. Next, the broadcast sets forth the primary position of the study of twins in eugenics research.
“Hereditarians sought twins of all ages–not just children–for proper study. The family tree of a New England family of twins, including one pair ninety-one years of age, fascinated eugenicists. Geneticists excavated old journals to discover even earlier examples, such as s seventeenth century Russian woman who gave birth twenty-seven times,m each time producing twins, triplets or quadruplets, yielding a total of sixty-nine children.
Race and twins quickly became an issue for American eugenicists. . . .
Diagnostic and physiological developments in twin studies from any sector of the medical sciences were of constant interest to eugenic readers. So Eugenical News regularly summarized articles from the general medical literature to feed eugenicists’ unending fascination with the topic. In 1922, when a state medical journal reported using stethoscopes to monitor a twin pregnancy, it was reported in Eugenical News. When a German clinical journal published a study of tumors in twins, this too was reported in Eugenical News. When a German clinical journal published a study of tumors in twins, this too was reported in Eugenical News.
With each passing issue, Eugenical News dedicated more and more space to the topic. The list of such reports became long. By the early 1920’s, articles on twins became increasingly instructive. One typical article explained how to more precisely verify the presence of identical twins using a capillary microscope. Journal of Heredity also made twins a frequent subject in its pages. . . .
Every leading eugenic textbook included a section on twins. [Paul] Popenoe’s Applied Eugenics explained that identical twins ‘start lives as halves of the same whole’ but ‘become more unlike if they were brought up apart.’ . . .
In a similar vein, most international eugenic and genetic conferences included presentations or exhibits on twins–their disparity or similarity, their susceptibility to tuberculosis, their likes and dislikes. R.A. Fisher opened one of his lectures to the Second International Congress of Eugenics with the phrase: ‘The subject of the genesis of human twins. . .has a special importance for eugenicists.’ . . .
The quest for a superior race continued to intersect with the availability of twins. In the July-August 1935 edition of Eugenical News, Dr. Alfred Gordon published a lengthy article entitled ‘The Problems of Heredity and Eugenics.’ . . .
There were so few twins to study that surgeons in the eugenics community passed along their latest discoveries, one by one, to advance the field’s common knowledge. . . .”
Ibid., pp. 350–351.
6. With the ascension of the Hitler regime, the scarcity of twins for eugenics study was alleviated.
“All that changed when Hitler came to power in 1933. Germany surged ahead in its study of twins. . . Twins were now increasingly sought to helpo combat hereditary diseases and conditions, real and imagined. [Otmar Freiherr von] Verschuer’s book, Twins and Tuberculosis, was published in 1933 and received a favorable review in 1933 and received a favorable review in Journal of Heredity. . . .
But many more twins would be needed to accomplish the sweeping research envisioned by the architects of Hitler’s master race. In early December of 1935, Verschuer told a correspondent for the Journal of the American Medical Association that eugenics had moved into a new phase. . . . The article went on to cite Verschuer’s view that meaningful research would require entire families–from children to grandparents. In plain words this meant gathering larger numbers of twins in one place for simultaneous investigation. . . .”
Ibid.; p. 352.
7. The Nazi regime proved to be an ideal vehicle for the physical collection of twins for the purpose of eugenics research.
“American eugenicist T.U.H. Ellinger was in Germany shortly after the decree to visit with Fischer at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Anthropology, Heredity and Eugenics. In a Journal of Heredity essay on his visit, Ellinger flippantly reported to his colleagues, ‘Twins have, of course, for a long time been a favorite material for the study of the relative importance of heredity and environment, of nature and nurture. It does, however, take a dictatorship to oblige some ten thousand pairs of twins, as well as triplets and even quadruplets, to report to a scientific institute at regulara intervals for all kinds of recordings and tests.’
When twins did report to the Institute for Anthropology, Human Heredity and Eugenics, they were often placed in small, specially-constructed examination rooms, each lined with two-way mirrors and motion picture camera lenses camouflaged into the wallpaper. The staff proudly showed Ellinger all of these facilities. However, eugenicists at the institute could only go so far with mere observations.
Reich scientists needed more if they were to take the next step in creating a super race resistant to disease and capable of transmitting the best traits. Autopsies were required to discover how specific organs and bodily processes reacted to various experiments. Verscuer needed more twins and the freedom to kill them. The highest ranks of the Hitler regime agreed, including Interior Minister Frick, who ran the concentration camps, and SS Chief Heinrich Himmler. Millions of dispensable human beings from across Europe–Jews, Gypsies and other undesirables–were passing through Hitler’s camps to be efficiently murdered. Among these millions, there were bound to be thousands of twins.
Shortly after Verschuer took over for Fischer at the Institute for Anthropology, Human Heredity and Eugenics, he proposed a Zwillingslager or ‘twins camp,’ within Auschwitz. . . . The camp was approved and was bureaucratically filed under the keyword ‘Twins Camp.’
At the end of May 1943, Mengele arrived in Auschwitz, where he took control of the ramps where Jews were brought in. Verschuer notified the German Research Society, ‘My assistant, Dr. Josef Mengele (M.D., Ph.D.) joined me in this branch of research. He is presently employed as Hauptsturmfuhrer [captain] and camp physician in the Auschwitz concentration camp. Anthropological teswting of the most diverse racial groups in this concentration camp are being carried out with permission of the SS Reichsfuhrer [Himmler].’
Nazi Germany had now carried eugenics further than any dared expect. The future of the master race that would thrive in Hitler’s Thousand-Year Reich lay in twins. For this reason, there would now be a special class of victims of Auschwitz. There would be a special camp, special medical facilities and special laboratories–all for the twins. . .”
Ibid.; pp. 354–355.
8. Although Mengele’s ghastly work with twins at Auschwitz became fairly well-known after the war, few realize that this endeavor was an extension of the eugenics work at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institutes–recipients of lavish Rockefeller Foundation funding.
“While evidence of mass murder in the trenches of Russia and the gas chambers of Poland was systematically destroyed, Mengele’s murders were enshrined in the protocols of science. Mengele’s ghastly files did not remain his private mania, confined to Auschwitz. Every case was meticulously annotated, employing the best scientific method prisoner doctors could muster. Then the files were sent to Verschuer’s offices at the Institute for Anthropology, Human Heredity and Eugenics in Berlin-Dahlem for study.
An adult prisoner, chosen to help care for the youngest twins, recounted, ‘The moment a pair of twins arrived in the barrack, they were asked to complete a detailed questionnaire from the Kaiser-Wilhelm Institute in Berlin. One of my duties as [the] ‘Twins’ Father’ was top help them fill it out, especially the little ones, who couldn’t read or write. These forms contained dozens of detailed questions related to a child’s background, health, and physical characteristics. They asked for the age, weight, and height of the children, their eye color and the color of their hair. They were promptly mailed to Berlin.’
Nyiszli, who had to fill out voluminous postmortem reports, recalled Mengele’s warning: ”I want clean copy, because these reports will be forwarded to the Institute of Biological, Racial and Evolutionary Research at Berlin-Dahlem.’ Thus I learned that the experiments performed here were checked by the highest medical authorities at one of the most famous scientific institutes in the world.” [Italics are mine–D.E.]
The reports, countersigned by Mengele and sent to Berlin were not just received and warehoused, they were carefully reviewed and discussed. A dialogue developed between Verschuer’s institute and Mengele. Another prisoner assistant Mengele ‘would receive questions about the twins from the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute in Berlin, and he would send them the answers.’ . . .”
Ibid.; pp. 359–360.
9. In light of the apparent invention of the mutagen thalidomide and its possible testing in the concentration camps, it is interesting to contemplate the possibility that its gene-altering characteristics had been discovered during the war. The Nazis had performed extensive species-altering experiments with mutagens.
” ‘Quite a few of them [Nazi researchers] were busy treating or rather mistreating the sex cells of animals and plants in order to produce new varieties. I was introduced to all kinds of extraordinary creatures produced in that way, mice without toes or with corkscrew tails, flies that violated the very definition of a fly by having four wings instead of two, funny-looking moths, and strange plants. Radiation, especially with X-rays, is the principal means of producing such new kinds, or rather monsters, of animals and plants.’ . . .”
Ibid.; p. 415.
10. The program concludes with discussion of the “death” of Dr. Aribert Heim. In light of his seemingly unambiguous guilt, one wonders if this doctor, like so many other war criminals, found work for the allies and/or the U.S., perhaps in Project Paperclip.
” . . . He later joined the Waffen SS and was assigned to Mauthausen, a concentration camp near Linz, Austria, as a camp doctor in October and November 1941.
While there, witnesses told investigators, he worked closely with SS pharmacist Erich Wasicky on such gruesome experiments as injecting various solutions into Jewish prisoners’ hearts to see which killed them the fastest.
But while Wasicky was brought to trial by an American Military Tribunal in 1946 and sentenced to death, along with other camp medical personnel and commanders, Heim, who was a POW in American custody, was not among them.
Heim’s file in the Berlin Document Center, the then-U.S.-run depot for Nazi-era papers, was apparently altered to obliterate any mention of Mauthausen, according to his 1979 German indictment, obtained by the AP. Instead, for the period he was known to be at the concentration camp, he was listed as having a different SS assignment.
This “cannot be correct,” the indictment says. “It is possible that through data manipulation the short assignment at the same time to the (concentration camp) was concealed.”
There is no indication who might have been responsible.
The U.S. Army Intelligence file on Heim could shed light on his wartime and postwar activities, and is among hundreds of thousands transferred to the U.S. National Archives. But the Army’s electronic format is such that staff have so far only been able to access about half of them, and these don’t include the file requested by the AP. . . .”
11. There are doubts about the accuracy of reports of Heim’s death.
“The Simon Wiesenthal Center has expressed doubts about a report that Aribert Heim, one of the most-wanted Nazi criminals, died in Egypt in 1992.
‘There’s no body, no corpse, no DNA, no grave,’ Efraim Zuroff, the center’s leading Nazi hunter, told AP agency.
On Wednesday, Germany’s ZDF TV reported that Heim died in Cairo, saying it had found his passport and other documents.
Heim is accused of killing hundreds of inmates at a concentration camp where he was a doctor during World War II.
On Thursday, Mr Zuroff said the report about Heim’s death raised ‘more questions than it answers’.
‘We can’t sign off on a story like this because of some semi-plausible explanation,’ he said.
‘Keep in mind these people have a vested interest in being declared dead — it’s a perfectly crafted story; that’s the problem, it’s too perfect,’ Mr Zuroff told the AP.. . .”