The Journey to Ravensbrück

Since my Berlin time, I have made a point of making my way to the various concentration camps that I have researched over the years.

I grew up with a father who was a Polish Prisoner of War in various German POW camps.  His first camp was in Neubrandenburg, where one can also find the women concentration camp RAVENSBRUCK.

If you don’t know anything about this camp, I can highly recommend the new book by one of my favorite writers on various WW2 themes, Sarah Helm.  The book is called:  Life and Death in Hitler’s Concentration Camp for Women.  This book is truly extensive and will describe this camp designed specifically for women inmates, especially political prisoners and asocials, i.e. prostitutes, etc.  In 1939, this camp was founded for women and run by female prison guards.

I began looking at Ravensbruck in the 80s and began my research way back when, reading as many testimonials as I could from both male and female survivors.  And regarding Ravensbruck I was always amazed at the solidarity between women as opposed to the stories of male survivors.  The survivors’ stories include bravery, courage, heroism, sacrifice, love and friendship and there was more unification with the women through the atrocities and horror.  Of course a general statement, as there were many variations and possibilities of every horror ever.

The writer Sarah Helm is one I have a deep regard for.  I was enthralled and captivated by her book on Vera Atkins:  VERA ATKINS, A LIFE IN SECRETS.   I can highly recommend this book that still leaves me with a deep shadow of wondering how one decides the fate of others and how one lives after that decision.  Vera Atkins, the head of the SOE (Special Operations Executive), who trained and sent 39 female agents into France is an extraordinary character and deserves whole post unto itself for another time, as I was really taken by this woman.  Just wish I myself got a chance to meet her, interview her!

It still disturbs me deeply.  Basically, she sent 470 agents into France, 39 women.   118 agents never came back and she made it a vow to trace their fates.  But the story goes deeper, as there were huge mistakes made, some mistakes may have caused her agents to be captured, no less put to death.  This only came out years after, and is still speculated upon.  Some of her agents were double agents and had infiltrated her unit.  She and her boss made some huge mistakes and carry much of the responsibility.  But again, these are speculations dealt with in Helm’s incredible book.  I mention all this because Ravensbruck is where some of Vera Atkin’s agents ended up.

I knew about Ravensbruck in the 1980’s when I began to investigate my father’s history and also my mother who seemed to have also a sense of secrecy about her past.  I wanted to understand her story, but I was coming from a very uneducated place and I was looking at her with all my teenage angst and volatility.  I didn’t ask the right questions but now I have my list.  In fact, when I was working for PROJECT SEARCH, for the NY Red Cross, I began to compile my list of questions for both of them in 1991.  I found this document only in 2014, going through my files for all my various Holocaust projects I had been planning.  My life swerved towards my art work and moving abroad and so those papers were piled up with so many others.  Only now do I wonder and still focus on those questions without anyone to answer them.

The book called MILENA, by Margarete Buber-Neumann changed my life in the early 1980s.  By 1985 I was obsessed with the Holocaust and should have begun a MA in Holocaust Studies in order to pursue my many investigations.  Milena Jesenska, the great love of Franz Kafka was a beautiful politically committed and supremely talented journalist.  She spoke out against Hitler and as the head of an opposition newspaper in Prague, she was arrested in 1939 and sent to Ravensbruck.  There she met Margaret Buber Neumann another political prisoner and writer.  Their friendship discussed in this book is something that transcends time and space and love.  A deep powerful bond between two incredible women.  They made a pact; if both survived they would write a book together and if only one made it, she would tell their story.  Milena died 3 weeks before D-Day and the book written by Buber-Neumann is one of the most incredible documents not just on Milena and their survival, unification of trust and comradely but also about the whole camp and how it worked and the various players both prisoners and heads of the camp.

I could read this book again and again.  This Milena was a goddess, an angel, a shaman and a shapeshifter.  I truly believe that.  The way she spoke, the way she held herself and just her extraordinary form of compassion for everyone astounded me.  She was no saint, but there was definitely something about her that was “other”.  She had that extra sort of “talent for life.”  She knew something others did not, that magic in the eyes and you can feel this when reading the book.  It was said by Buber-Newman that her experience in the camp made her, created this persona, this extra-enlightened being.  I challenge anyone to read it and not come out noticing the same thing.

In this book on Milena, this is where I learned about the horrific situation concerning the Polish women of Ravensbruck and the unbelievable experiments performed by Nazi doctors in the camp on their legs. This led me on a powerful journey of investigation.  I found 1950s book at Hunter College Library while studying German.  This book was a reference book and I copied the entire book as I knew how rare this object was.  In this book one could read at least 20 if not more of the Polish women from Ravensbruck who had their legs experimented on and their step by step accounts.  They spoke of their lives before the war, what happened when they were arrested and their time in the camp and what and who did what they did to their legs.

Ravensbruck.  Study it.  A concentration for only women.  I think all students must study the Holocaust which comprised of not only the main focus of Jewish hate and Jewish extermination, but also looking at Polish, Roma & Sinti, Homosexuals, asocials, and even German so-called “disabled” people the layers and layers of hate, racism, anti-semitism mixed in with ego, power hungry nationalism, all this could teach us all something in this 2017 time where I believe all these topics of the past are now spinning around us.  What will happen and how far things go again, is all up to us humans.  People who respect humanity, respect human rights, respect democracy and study wisdom and want to find some form of enlightenment we all need to take heed and study the past.  Study man’s inhumanity towards man, as it continues and continues in order to arm one’s self to fight it by knowing/by informing.

Photo:  From inside one of the Aufseherin houses, now used as an exhibit space.

In my post you will find a copy of the Affidavit of some of the Nazi Doctors at Ravensbruck. You can read this in their own voice, what they did and how they gives their excuses.

But also I suggest reading what the women had to say, the amount of suffering, pain, distress, cold, heat, pounding pain and smells and rot of flesh and on and on and on.  The incredible stories will surely make one wonder how anyone could intentionally do this to another person.  But the doctors looked at these women as “material” nothing more and nothing less.  They were extra materials in order to experiment for the greater good.  These experimental findings were to be used to help soldiers in the fields.  And in saying this, I think we forgot pain.  I think our world is so stuck in a “fantasy” paradigm of video games, films, etc where we watch violence and don’t feel.  We forget what does it feels like when someone is pouring water over you face during water boarding.  We forget what it feels like when you get shot 8 times, and blood is simply tsunaming out of your body and death is coming on to you.  We don’t understand any of this but we glorify it and youth are so de-sensitized to what causing actual pain to an “other” is all about!

I believe we should know step by step what man does to other men or be that what a man does to an animal.  Let people know graphically what is done, and what it feels like to the person, animal it is being done on.  Only then will one think about this and consider horrific actions before carried through.  I know this sounds a bit elongated but when you research the horrors of the Holocaust you really put it in a framework of all humanity then and now and to come.  How could people do this to other people?  How? And explicitly, clearly talk about the pain inflicted!  These documents will state the horror and terror inflicted both physical and psychological.  When you think you are right and the other is wrong, and the other is dehumanized, humiliated and degraded so it is more easy to objectify and hate and feel it is “ok” to torture, hate and destroy and exterminate.  Like Trump, you can justify all your hate, i.e. the Mexicans are illegal and that is why a wall needs to be built.  There is always a justification for hate.  The affidavit attached is included, because the doctors justify their methodologies and why they needed to “do what they had to do.”  By experimenting on these Polish women, there was a rationality to their atrocities.  They wanted to save soldiers, so they experimented on Polish women!  They saw nothing wrong with this.  Nothing wrong with watching women scream in utter pain, watching pus run from their open wounds and do nothing, but watch, make notes and walk away ignoring any sense of humanity. All this was acceptable.  Even in the affidavit, there was no room for empathy, just the task at hand and the experiment.  There is always a way to justify hurting someone, causing pain and not putting one’s self in the picture “what is it like to sit there with a ripped up leg while someone is tearing you apart?”.  I always say put yourself in the place of the “other” and feel.  Just feel.  How many parents are teaching their kids this concept?  In my 1970s time, this is what was taught but not sure if this “put yourself in the place of the person in pain”, phenomena is still shared and taught!

Photos of two Aufseherin (Sometimes brutal women functionaries in charge of the prisoners)

Document UK-81 Source: Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression.
Volume VIII. USGPO, Washington, 1946/p.635-642

Affidavit of Fritz Ernst Fischer

I, Fritz Ernst Fischer, being first duly sworn according to law, upon my oath do depose and say:

I am a doctor of medicine, having been graduated from the University of Hamburg and passed my State Examination in 1936. On 13 November 1939 I was inducted into the Waffen-SS and after having served with a combat division as medical officer, I was hospitalized and then assigned to the SS Hospital at Hohenlychen, as Assistant Surgeon.

In addition to my normal duties as surgeon at the SS Hospital. at Hohenlychen, on or about 12 July 1942 I was ordered by Professor Gebhardt to begin medical experiments in my capacity as assistant surgeon to Professor Gebhardt. Professor Gebhardt was a Gruppenfuehrer SS, supreme clinical physician on the staff of the Reichsarzt der SS and Polizei [Oberster Kliniker im Stab Reichsarzt SS and Polizei], and was chief of the SS Hospital at Hohenlychen. The purpose of, the proposed experiments was to determine the effectiveness of sulfanilamide, which I was informed at that time was a matter of considerable importance to military medical circles.

According to the information which I received from Professor Gebhardt, these experiments were directed initially by the Reichsfuehrer SS and the Reichsarzt, Dr.Grawitz.

Professor Gebhardt instructed me, before the operations were undertaken, on the techniques to be followed and the methods of procedure to be employed. Although I was informed by Professor Gebhardt that the subjects of the experiments were to be inmates of the concentration camp at Ravensbruck who were sentenced to death, I had nothing to do with the selection of the patients and hence do not know whether all the subjects of the experiments were sentenced to death or what authority made the determination to condemn these persons to death.

The administrative procedure which was followed in obtaining the subjects for the experiments was established by Professor Gebhardt with the camp commandant at Ravensbruck. After the initial arrangements had been made, it was the general practice to inform the medical officer at Ravensbruck as to the date on which a series of experiments was to be begun and the number of patients which would be required, and then he took the matter up with the commandant of the camp, by whom the selections of subjects were made. Before an operation was undertaken, the persons who had been selected in accordance with this procedure, received a medical examination by the camp physician to determine their suitability for the experiments from a medical stand-point.

The first of the series of experiments involved five persons. The gangrenous bacterial cultures for use in the experiments were obtained from the Hygienisches Institute der Waffen SS. The procedure followed in the operations was as follows: the subject received the conventional anaesthetic of morphine atropine, then evipan-ether. An incision was made five to eight centimetres in length and one to one-and-a-half centimetres in depth, on the outside of the lower leg in the area of the peronaeus longus.

The bacterial cultures were put in dextrose, and the resulting mixture was spread into the wound. The wound was then closed and the limb encased in a cast which had been prepared, which was lined on the inside with cotton, so that in the event of swelling of the affected member, the result of the experiment would not be influenced by any factor other than the infection itself.

The bacterial cultures used on each of the five persons varied both as to the type of bacteria used and the amount of culture used.

After the initial operations had been performed, I returned to Ravensbruck each afternoon, to observe the progress of the persons who had been operated on. No serious illnesses resulted from these initial operations. I reported the progress of the patients to Professor Gebhardt each night.

When the five persons who were first operated on, were cured, another series of five was begun. The surgical procedure and the post-operative procedure was the same as in the initial experiments, but the bacterial cultures were more virulent. The results from this series were substantially the same as in the first and no serious illnesses resulted.

Since no inflammation resulted from the bacterial cultures used in the first two series of operations, it was determined, as a result of correspondence with Dr. Mugrowsky, the head of the Hygienisches Institute der Waffen SS and conversations with his assistant, to change the type of bacterial culture in the subsequent operations. Using the new culture, two more series of operations were performed, each involving five persons.

The difference between the third and fourth series was in the bacterial cultures used. The Hygienisches Institute der Waffen SS prepared them from separate combinations of the three or four gangrene cultures which were available. In the third and fourth series, a more pronounced infection and inflammation was discernible at the place of incision. Its characteristics were similar to a normal, local infection, with redness, swelling and pain. The circumference of the infection was comparable in size to a chestnut. Upon the completion of the fourth series the camp physician informed me that the camp commandant had instructed him that no longer would male patients be available for further experiments, but that it would be necessary to use female inmates.

Accordingly; five women had been prepared for the operation, but I did not operate on them. I reported the change of situation to Professor Gebhardt and suggested that in view of these circumstances, it would be desirable to stop the experimental operations. He did not adopt this suggestion, however, and pointed out that it was necessary, as an officer, that I carry out my duty, which had been assigned to me.

The experiments, however, were interrupted for a period of two weeks, during which Professor Gebhardt told me he had discussed the matter at Berlin and was instructed to carry on the experiments, using Polish female prisoners. In addition, he instructed me to increase the tempo of experiments since the Reichsartz, Dr. Grawitz, intended soon to go to Ravensbruck to test the results of the experiments. Accordingly, I went to Ravensbruck and operated on the female prisoners.

Since the infections which resulted from the first four series of experiments were not typical of battlefield gangrenous infections, we communicated with the Hygienisches Institute der Waffen SS to determine what steps could be taken more nearly to simulate battle-caused infections. As a result of this correspondence and a conference at Hohenlychen presided over by ‘Professor Gebhardt, it was decided to add tiny fragments of wood shavings to the bacterial cultures, which would simulate the crust of dirt customarily found in battlefield wounds.

As a result of this conference, three series of operations were performed, each involving ten persons, one using the bacterial culture ,and fragments of wood, the second using bacterial culture and fragments of glass, and the third using the culture plus glass and wood.

About two weeks after these new series were. begun, Dr. Grawitz visited Ravensbruck. Professor Gebhardt introduced him to me and explained to him the general nature of the work. Professor Gebhardt then left, and I explained to Dr. Grawitz the details of the operations and their results. Dr. Grawitz, before I could complete my report on the procedures used and the results obtained, brusquely interrupted me and observed that the conditions under which the experiments were performed did not sufficiently resemble conditions prevailing at the front. He asked me literally, “How many deaths have there been?” and when I reported that there had not been any, he stated that that con-firmed his assumption that the experiments had not been carried out in accordance with his directions.

He said that the operations were mere fleabites and that since the purpose of the work was to determine the effectiveness of sulfanilamide on bullet wounds it would be necessary to inflict actual bullet wounds on the patients. He ordered that the next series of experiments to be undertaken should be ‘in accordance with these directions. That same evening, I discussed these orders of Dr. Grawitz with Professor Gebhardt and we both agreed that it was impossible to carry them out, but that a procedure would be adopted which would more nearly simulate battlefield conditions without actually shooting the patients.

The normal result of all bullet wounds is a shattering of tissue, which did not exist in the initial experiments. As a result of the injury, the normal flow of blood through the muscle is cut off. The muscle is nourished by the flow of blood from either end. When this circulation is interrupted, the affected area becomes a fertile field for the growth of bacteria; the normal reaction of the tissue against the bacteria is not possible without circulation.

This interruption of circulation usual in battle casualties could be simulated by tying off the blood vessels at either end of the muscle.

Two series of operations, each involving ten persons, were begun following this procedure. In the first of these, the same bacterial cultures were used as were developed in the third and fourth series; but the glass and wood were omitted, In the other series, streptococci and staphlococci cultures were used.

In the series using the gangrenous culture a severe infection in the area of the incision resulted within 24 hours. Eight patients out of ten became sick from the gangrenous infection. Cases which showed symptoms of an unspecific or specific inflammation were operated on in accordance with the doctrine and manner of septic surgery. The doctrine of Lexer formed the basis for the procedure. The technique is that an incision in the area of the gangrene is made from healthy tissue to healthy tissue on either side. The wound and the corners of the fascia (the fibrous covering of the muscle) were laid open, the gangrenous blisters swabbed, and a solution of H202 (hydrogen perox-ide) was poured over them. The inflamed extremity ‘was immobilized in a cast. With most patients it was possible to improve the gangrenous condition of the entire infected area in this manner.

In the series in which banal cultures of streptococci and staphlococci were used, the severe resultant infection with accompanying increase in temperature and swelling did not occur until seventy-two hours later. Four patients showed a more serious picture of the disease. In the case of these patients, the normal professional technique of orthodox medicine was followed as outlined above, and the inflamed swelling split. Due to the slight virulence of the bacteria it was possible in the case of all patients except one to prevent the threatened deadly development of the disease.

The incisions were made on the lower part of ‘the leg only in all series to make an amputation possible. It was not made on the upper thigh because then no area for amputation would remain. However, in the series the inflammation was so rapid there was no remedy and no amputations were made.

Since after the tying up of the circulation of the muscles, a very severe course of infection was to be expected, five grams of sulfanilamide were given intravenously in the amount of one gram each, beginning one hour after the operation. After the wound was laid open to expose all its corners, sulfanilamide was shaken into the entire area and the area was drained by thick rubber tubes.

The infection normally reached an acute stage over a period of three weeks, during which time I changed the bandages daily. After the period of three weeks the condition was normally that of a simple wound which was dressed by the camp physicians rather than by me. The procedure prescribed for the post-operative treatment of the patients was to give them three times each day one cc of morphine, and when the dressings were changed, to induce anesthesia by the use of evipan. If evipan could not be given because of the condition of the patient, morphine was used.

In all the series of experiments, except the first, sulfanilamide was used after the gangrenous infection appeared. In each series two persons were not given sulfanilamide as a control to determine its effectiveness. When sulfanilamide and the bacteria cultures together were introduced into the incision no inflammation resulted.

I do not remember exactly how many people were subjected to the sulfanilamide experiments. So far as I can remember, there were six series of experiments, each involving approximately ten persons. I remember positively, however, that deaths occurred only in the last two series. One of the patients in the banal culture series died, and three persons died of an acute gangrenous infection.

After the arrival of Doctor Stumpfegger from general headquarters in the fall of 1942, Professor Gebhardt declared before some of his co-workers that he had received orders to continue with the tests at Ravensbruck on a larger scale. In this connection, questions of plastic surgery which would be of interest after the end of the war should be clarified. Doctor Stumpfegger was supposed to test the free transplantation of bones. Since Professor Gebhardt knew that I had worked in preparation for my habilitation at the university on regeneration of tissues, he ordered me to prepare a surgical plan for these operations, which after it had been approved he directed me to carry out immediately. Moreover, Doctor Koller and Doctor Heissmeyer were ordered to perform their own series of experiments. Professor Gebhardt was also considering a plan to form the basis of an operative technique of remobilization of joints. Besides the above, Doctors Schulze and Schulze-Hagen participated in this conference. Since I knew Ravensbruck I was ordered to introduce the new doctors named above to the camp physician. I was specially directed to assist Doctor Stumpfegger, since he as physician in the staff of Himmler probably would be absent from time to time.

I had selected the regeneration of muscles for the sole reason because the incision necessary for this purpose was the slightest. The operation was carried out as follows:

Evipan and ether were used as an anesthetic, and a five centimetre longitudinal incision was made at the outer side of the upper leg. Subsequent to the cutting through the fascia, a piece of the muscle was removed which was the size of the cup of the little finger. The fascia and skin were enclosed in accordance with the normal technique of aseptic surgery. Afterwards a cast was applied. After one week the skin wound was split under the same narcotic conditions, and the part of the muscle around the area cut out was removed. Afterwards the fascia and the sewed-up part of the skin were immobilized in a cast.

Since Professor Gebhardt did not ask me any longer for these operations, I discontinued them.

Only one female patient was operated on whose wounds healed under normal aseptic conditions.

As a disciple of Lexer, Gebhardt had already planned long ago a free heteroplastic transplantation of bone (a transplantation’of a bone from one person to another person). In spite of the fact that some of his co-workers did not agree, he was resolved to carry out such an operation on the patient Ladisch, whose shoulder joint (scapula, clavicle, and the head of the humerus) was removed because of a sarcoma.

I and my medical colleagues urged professional and human objections up until the evening before the operation was performed but Gebhardt ordered us to carry out the operations. Doctor Stumpfegger, in whose field of research this operation was, was supposed to perform the removal of the scapula (shoulder blade) at Ravensbruck, and had already made initial arrangements therefor. However, because Professor Gebhardt required Doctor Stumpfegger to assist him in the actual transplantation of the shoulder to the patient Ladisch, I was ordered to go to Ravensbruck and perform the operation’ of removal on that evening. I asked Doctor Gebhardt and Schulze to describe exactly the technique which they wished me to follow. The next morning I drove to Ravensbruck after I had made a previous appointment by telephone. At Hohenlychen I had already made the normal initial preparation for an operation, namely, scrubbing, etc., merely put on my coat, and went to Ravensbruck and removed the bone.

The camp physician who was assisting me in the operation continued with it while I returned to Hohenlychen as quickly as possible with the bone which was to be transplanted. In this manner the period between removal and transplantation was shortened. At Hohenlychen the bone was handed over to Professor Gebhardt, and he transplanted it, together with Doctor ‘Schulze and Doctor Stumpfegger.

Subsequent to the foregoing test operations (gangrenous infection) I had impressed on Professor Gebhardt that now we had results which would justify their cessation. I ceased to operate, and later on I did not receive any order to continue with the operations. I did not carry out another order for Doctor Stumpfegger, who was absent at that time, to Continue his work.

My behavior towards all patients was very considerate, and I was very careful in the operations to follow standard professional procedure.

In May 1943 at the occasion of the fourth conference of the consulting physicians of the Wehrmacht a report was made by Professor Gebhardt and myself as to these operations. This medical congress was called by Professor Handloser, who occupied the position of surgeon general of the armed forces, and was attended by a large number of physicians; both military and civilian.

In my lecture to the meeting I reported the operations in an open way using charts which demonstrated the technique used, the amount of sulfanilamide administered, and the condition of the patients. This lecture was the center of the conference. Professor Gebhardt spoke about the fundamentals of the experi-ments, their performance, and their results, and asked me then to describe the technique. He began his lecture with the following words:

“I carry the full human, surgical, and political responsibility for these experiments.”

This lecture was followed by a discussion. No criticism was raised. I am convinced that all the physicians present would have acted in the same manner as I.

Subsequent to my repeated urgent requests, I went to the front as surgeon immediately after this conference. Only after I was wounded did I return as a patient to Hohenlychen. I never entered the camp Ravensbruck again. I protested vigorously against these experiments on human beings, endeavored to prevent them, and to limit their extension after they had been ordered. In order not to be forced to participate in these experiments, I repeatedly volunteered for front-line service. Insofar as it was in my power, I have tried to dissuade Doctor Koller and Doctor Heissmeyer from performing these experiments. I declined habilitation at the University of Berlin because I felt that it might result in my being obliged to carry on additional experiments at Ravensbruck. Since I succeeded in scientific discoveries of the highest practical importance, that is, the solution of the cancer problem and its therapy, I have not communicated this fact to Professor Gebhardt and have not published this work in order not to be ordered again to carry out experiments.

[signed] ] Fritz Fischer

Subscribed and sworn to before me this 21st day of November 1945.

[signed] John J. Monigan, Jr.

Now read the testimony of this Polish woman who had the “procedure” carried out on her leg.

Testimony: Vladislava Karolewska
[from National Archives Record Group 238, M887]

Born March 15, 1909, in Yeroman, Poland

Before World War II, Vladislava Karolewska was a school teacher in Grudenz. In 1939, when the Germans invaded Poland, she moved to Lublin to live with her sister. Karolewska joined the anti-German resistance in Poland and served as a courier. The Germans arrested her in February 1941. She was interrogated in Lublin and then deported to Ravensbrueck concentration camp, north of Berlin in Germany. There, Karolewska was selected against her will as a subject in bone regeneration experiments. After Soviet forces liberated Ravensbrueck, Karolewska returned to Poland, moving to Warsaw. On December 20, 1946, Karolewska testified for the prosecution at the Doctors Trial before an American military tribunal in Nuremberg, Germany.

Photo:  Various prisoners from the camp in Exhibit

Excerpts from Karolewska’s testimony:

Question: Now, Witness, were you operated while you were in Ravensbrueck concentration camp?

Answer: Yes, I was.

Q: when did that happen?

A: On the 22nd July 1942, 75 prisoners from our transport that came from Lublin were called, summoned to the chief of the camp. We stood before the camp office, and present Kogel, Mandel and one person which I later recognized Dr. Fischer. We were afterwards sent back to the block and we were told to wait for further instructions. On the 25th of July, all the women from the transport of Lublin were summoned by Mendel, who told us that we were not allowed to work outside of the camp. Also, five women from the transport that came from Warsaw were summoned with us at the same time. We were not allowed to work outside the camp. The next day 75 women were summoned again and we had to stand before the hospital in the camp. Present were Schiedlauski, Oberhauser, Rosenthal, Kogel and the man in when I recognized afterwards Dr. Fischer.

Q: Now, Witness, do you see Oberhauser in the Defendants’ dock here?

THE INTERPRETER: The witness ask for permission to go near the dock and to be able to see them.

MR. MC HANEY: Please do.
(Witness walking to dock and pointing to Dr. Oberhauser.)

MR. MC HANEY: And Fischer?
(Witness pointing to Dr. Fischer)

MR. MC HANEY: I will ask that the record show that the witness properly identified the Defendants Oberhauser and Fischer.

THE PRESIDENT: The record will show that the witness correctly identified the Defendants Oberhauser and Fischer. I think at this time the Tribunal will take a recess for fifteen minutes.
(A recess was taken)

THE MARSHAL: The Tribunal is now in session.
Q: Witness, you have told the Tribunal that in July 1942, some seventy-five Polish girls, who were in the transport from Lublin, were called before the camp doctor in Ravensbrueck?

A: Yes.

Q: Now, were any of these girls selected for an operation?

A: On this day we did not know why we were called before the camp doctors and on the same day ten of twenty-five girls were taken to the hospital but we did not know why. Four of them came back and six stayed in the hospital. On the same day six of them came back to the block after having received some injection but we don’t know what kind of injection. We did not know what kind of injection. On the 1st of August those six girls were called again to the hospital; these girls who received injections, they were kept in the hospital but we could not get in touch with them to hear from them why they were put in the hospital. A few days later, one of my comrades succeeded to get close to the hospital and learned from one of the prisoners that they were in bed and their legs were in casts. On the 14th of August, the same year, I was called to the hospital and my name was written on a piece of paper. I did not know why. Besides me, eight other girls were called to the hospital. We were called at a time when usually executions took place and I was going to be executed because before some girls were shot down. In the hospital we were put to bed and the hospital room in which we stayed was locked. We were not told what we were to do in the hospital and when one of my comrades put the question she got no answer but she was answered by an ironical smile. Then a German nurse arrived and gave me an injection in my leg. After this injection I vomitted and I was put on a hospital cot and they brought me to the operating room. There, Dr. Schidlauski and Rosenthal gave me the second intravenous injection in my arm. A while before, I noticed Dr. Fischer who went out of the operating room and had operating gloves on. Then I lost my consciousness and when I revived I noticed that I was in a regular hospital room. I recovered my consciousness for a while and I felt severe pain in my leg. Then I lost my consciousness again. I regained my consciousness in the morning and then I noticed that my leg was in a cast from the ankle up to the knee and I felt a very strong pain in this leg and the high temperature. I noticed also that my leg was swollen from the toes up to the groin. The pain was increasing and the temperature, too, and the next day I noticed that some liquid was flowing from my leg. The third day I was put on a hospital cart and taken to the dressing room. Then I saw Dr. Fischer again. He had an operating gown and rubber gloves on his hands. A blanket was put over my eyes and I did not know what was done with my leg but I felt great pain and I had the impression that something must have been cut out of my leg. Those present were: Schildauski, Rosenthal, and Oberhauser. After the changing of the dressing I was put again in the regular hospital room. Three days later I was again taken to the dressing room, and the dressing was changed by Dr. Fischer with the assistance of the same doctor, and I was blindfolded, too. I was then sent back to the regular hospital room. The next dressings were made by the camp doctors. Two weeks later we were all taken again to the operating room and put on the operating tables. The bandage was removed, and that was the first time I saw my leg. The incision went so deep that I could see the bone. We were told then there was a doctor from Hohenlychen, Doctor Gebhardt, would come and examine us. We were waiting for his arrival for three hours lying on our tables. When he came a sheet was put over our eyes, but they removed the sheet and I saw him for a short moment. Then, we were taken again to our regular rooms. On the eighth of September I was sent back to the block. I could not walk. The pus was draining from my leg; the leg was swollen up and I could not walk. In the block, I stayed in bed for one week; then I was called to the hospital again. I could not walk and I was carried by my comrades. In the hospital I met some of my comrades who were there for the operation. This time I was sure I was going to be executed because I saw an ambulance standing before the office which was used by the Germans to transport people intended for execution. Then, we were taken to the dressing room where Doctor Oberhauser and Doctor Schidlauski examined our legs. We were put to bed again, and on the same day, in the afternoon, I was taken to the operating room and the second operation was performed on my leg. I was put to sleep in the same way as before, having received an injection. And, this time I saw again Doctor Fischer. I woke up in the regular hospital room and I felt a stronger pain and higher temperature.

The symptoms were the same. The leg was swollen and the pus flowed from my leg. After this operation, the dressings were changed by Dr. Fischer every three days. More than ten days afterwards we were taken again to the operating room, put on the table; and we were told that Dr. Gebhardt was going to come to examine our legs. We waited for a long time. Then he arrived and examined our legs while we were blindfolded. This time other people arrived with Dr. Gebhardt; but I don’t know their names; and I don’t remember their faces. Then we were carried on hospital cots back to our rooms. After this operation I felt still worse; and I could not move. While I was in the hospital, cruelty from Dr. Oberhauser was performed on me.

When I was in my room I made the remark to fellow prisoners that we were operated on in very bad conditions and left here in this room and that we were not given even the possibility to recover. This remark must have been heard by a German nurse who was sitting in the corridor because the door of our room leading to the corridor was opened. The German nurse entered the room and told us to get up and dress. We answered that we could not follow her order because we had great pains in our legs and we couldn’t walk. Then the German nurse came with Dr. Oberhauser into our room. Dr. Oberhauser told us to dress and come to the dressing room. We put on our dresses; and, being unable to walk, we had to hop on one leg going into the operating room. After one hop, we had to rest. Dr. Oberhauser did not allow anybody to help us. When we arrived at the operating room, quite exhausted, Dr. Oberhauser appeared and told us to go back because the change of dressing would not take place that day. I could not walk, but somebody, a prisoner whose name I don’t remember, helped me to come back to the room.

Q: Witness, you have told the Tribunal that you were operated on the second time on the 16th of September, 1942? Is that right?

A: Yes, I did.

Q: When did you leave the hospital after this second operation?

A: After the second operation I left the hospital on the 6th of Oct.

Q: Was your leg healed at that time?

A: My leg was swollen up; caused me great pain; and the pus drained from my leg.

Q: Were you able to work?

A: I was unable to work; and I had to stay in bed because I could not walk.

Q: Do you remember when you got out of bed and were able to walk?

A: I stayed in bed several weeks; and then I got up and tried to walk.

Q: How long was it until your leg was healed?

A: The pus was flowing from my leg ’til June, 1943; and at that time my wound was healed.

Q: Were you operated on again?

A: Yes, I was operated on again in the Bunker.

Q: In the Bunker? That is not in the hospital?

A: Not in the hospital but in the Bunker.

Q: Will you explain to the Tribunal how that happened?

A: May I ask permission to tell something which happened in March, 1943, March or February 1943?

Q: All right.

A: At the end of February 1943, Dr. Oberhauser called us and said, “Those girls are new guinea-pigs”; and we were very well known under this name in the camp. Then we understood that we were persons intended for experiments and we decided to protest against the performance of those operations on healthy people.

We drew up a protest in writing and we went to the camp commander. Not only those girls who had been operated on before but other girls who were called to the hospital came to the office. The operated on girls used crutches and they went without any help.

I would like to tell the contents of the petition made by us. We, the undersigned, Polish political prisoners, ask Herr Commander whether he knew that since the year 1942 in the camp hospital experimental operations have taken place under the name of guinea-pig (das sind Meerschweine), as explaining the meaning of those operations. We ask whether we were operated on as a result of sentences passed on us because, as far as we know, the international law forbids the performance of operations even on political prisoners.

We did not get any answer; and we were not allowed to talk to the commander. On the 15th of August, 1943, a police woman came and read off the names of the ten new prisoners. She told us to follow her to the hospital. We refused to go to the hospital, as we thought that we were intended for a new operation. The police woman told us that we were going probably to be sent to a factory for work outside the camp. We wanted to make sure whether the Arbeitsamt was open because it was Sunday. The police woman told us that we had to go to the hospital and be examined by a doctor before we went to the factory. We refused to go then because we were sure that we will be kept in the hospital and operated on again. All prisoners in the camp were told to stay in the blocks. All of the women who lived in the same block where I was were told to leave the block and stand in line before the Block ten at a time. Then overseer Binz appeared and called out ten names and among them was my name. We went out of the line and stood before the ninth block in line. Then Binz said: “Why do you stand so in line as if you were to be executed?” We told her that the operations were worse for us than executions and that we would prefer to be executed rather than to be operated on again. Binz told us that she might give us work, there was no question of our being operated on but we were going to be sent for work outside the Camp. We told her that we must know that prisoners belonging to our group are not allowed to leave the camp and go outside the camp. Then she told us to follow her into her office, that she would show us a paper proving that we are going to be sent for work to the factory outside the camp. We followed her and we stood before her office. She entered her office for awhile and then went to the canteen where the Camp Commander was. She had a conference with him probably asking him what to do with us. We stood before the office a half an hour. In the meantime one fellowprisoner who used to work in the canteen walked by us. She told us that Binz asked for help from SS men to take us by force to the hospital. We stood for awhile and then Binz came out of the canteen accompanied by the Camp Commander. We stood for awhile near the camp gate. We were afraid that SS men would come to take us so we ran away and mixed with other people standing before the block. Then Binz and the camp police appeared. They drove us out from the lines by force. She told us that she put us into the bunker as punishment; that we did not follow her orders. In each cell were put five prisoners although one cell was intended only for one person. The cells were quite dark; without lights. We stayed in the bunker the whole night long and the next day. We slept on the floor because there was only one couch in the cell. The next day we were given a breakfast consisting of black coffee and a piece of dark bread. Then we were locked again in this dark room. We were only troubled by people walking in the corridor of the bunker. The answer was given us the same day in the afternoon. The watchwoman from the bunker unlocked our cell and got me out of the cell. I thought that I was then to be interrogated or beaten. They took me and they went down the corridor. She opened one door and behind the door stood SS man Dr. Trommel. He told me to follow him upstairs. Following Dr. Trommel I noticed there were other cells, and those cells were with bed clothing. He put me in one of the cells. Then he asked me whether I would agree to a small operation. I told him that I did not agree to it because I had undergone already two operations. He told me that this was going to be a very small operation and that it will not harm me. I told him that I was a political prisoner and that the operation cannot be performed on political prisoners without their consent. He told me to lie down on the bed; I refused to do so. He repeated it twice. Then he want out of the cell and I followed him. He went quickly downstairs and locked the door. Standing before the cell I noticed a cell on the opposite side of the Staircase, and I also noticed some men in operating gowns. There was also one German nurse ready to give an injection. Near the staircase stood a stretcher. That made it clear to me that I was going to be operated on again in the bunker. I decided to defend myself to the last moment. In a moment Trommel came with two SS men. One of these SS men told me to enter the cell. I refused to do it, so he forced me into the cell and threw me on the bed.

Dr. Trommel took me by the left wrist and pulled my arm back. With his other hand he tried to gag me, putting a piece of rag into my mouth, because I shouted. The second SS man took my right hand and stretched it. Two other SS men held me by my feet. Immobilized, I felt that somebody was giving me an injection. I defended myself for a long time, but then I grew weaker. The injection had its effect; I felt sleepy. I heard Trommel saying, “Das ist fertig”, that is all.

I regained consciousness again, but I don’t know when. Then I noticed that a German nurse was taking off my dress, I then lost consciousness again; I regained it in the morning. Then I noticed that both my legs were in iron splints and were bandaged from the toes to groin. I felt a strong pain in my feet, and a temperature.

In the afternoon of the same day a German nurse came and gave me an injection, in spite of my protests; she gave this injection on my thigh and told me that she had to do it. Four days after this operation a doctor from Hohenlychen arrived, again gave me an injection to put me to sleep, and as I protested he told me that he would change the dressing, I felt a higher temperature and stronger pain in my legs.

Q: Now witness, when was it that you were removed from the bunker after this operation?

A: Ten days after the operation performed in the bunker I was taken — in the night time — to the hospital.

Q: Well, that must have been around the latter part of August, is that right; August 1943?

A: Yes it was.

Q: Now, was another operation performed on you in September 1943?

A: About the 15th of September 1943 I was again taken to the operating room and a further operation was performed on my left leg.

Q: Now, in the operation in the bunker they operated on both legs, is that right?

A: Yes in the bunker I was operated in both legs.

Q: In the bunker operation, were your legs dirty the next morning after you woke up; that is, following the operation?

A: When I woke up after the operation that I underwent in the bunker, I noticed that my feet were dirty, covered with mud, that they had not been washed before the operation.

Q: Who performed this operation around the 15th of September 1943 in the camp hospital, do you know?

A: The doctor from Hohenlychen arrived. I was taken to the operating room, I was given an injection, and an operation was performed on my left leg.

Q: Do you know the name of the man who performed the operation?

A: A German nurse told me that this was a doctor from Hohenlychen, assistant to the Chief doctor, whose name was Hartmenn — Dr. Hartmann. However, I don’t know whether he actually performed the operation.

Q: Did the nurse tell you that Hartmenn was assistant to Dr. Gebhardt?

A: She told me only that this was a doctor, an assistant, from Hohenlychen.

Q: All right. Now, after this operation on your left leg the middle of September 1943, did they, several weeks later, operated on your right leg?

A: Two weeks later a second operation was performed on my left leg although pus was draining from my former wound, and a piece of shin bone was removed.

Q: Now, witness, I’m a little bit confused. I thought you said that on 15 September 1943 they operated on your left leg. I asked you if two weeks later they performed an operation on your right leg.

A: On 15 September 1943 my right leg was operated on, in spite of the wounds, and two weeks later my left leg was operated on.

Q: Now, do you say, witness, that they removed a piece of shin bone from you legs in these operations.

A: Yes, I do.

Q: Now, how long were you in the hospital after these operations in September 1943?

A: I stayed in the hospital six months. I was in bed. I could not stretch my legs. I could not move them. I could not walk either.

Q: When were you removed from the hospital?

A: At the end of February, 1944.

Q: Were you able to walk then?

A: I tried to walk at that time but couldn’t walk.

Q: What sort of work did you do then?

A: When I arrived at the block I stayed in bed for a time and then I used to work knitting stockings.

Q: Have you received any treatment to either of your legs since you were liberated from Ravensbrueck?

A: No.

Q: Do you still suffer any effects from those operations?

A: I’m week, I have no strength to work and my legs get swollen up very easily.

Q: Witness, I am having handed to you two pictures. These are Documents Nos. 108 1A and 108 1B. Are these pictures taken of you here in Nurnberg?

A: Yes, they were.

Q: I submit these pictures as Prosecution Exhibit 211. Now, witness, will you please remove the shoes and stockings from both of your legs. Now, will you step out from behind the witness box and let the Court see the scars on your legs.
(The witness complied.)
Now turn around once, please. Just turn around slowly. Thank you. Sit down now.

Were you ever asked to consent to any of these operations which you underwent at Ravensbrueck?

A: Never.

Q: How many times did you see Gebhardt?

A: Twice.

Q: I will ask you to step down and walk over to the defendant’s dock and see whether or not you find the man Gebhardt in the dock. 

(The witness complied and pointed to the Defendant Gebhardt)

Thank you. Sit down.

I will ask that the record show that the witness properly identified the defendant Gebhardt.

THE PRESIDENT: The record will show that the witness identified the defendant Gebhardt in the dock.

MR. MC HANEY: I have no further questions at this time.

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