1945: Ewald Ehlers lynched 1945: German soldiers for cowardice

1945: Sigmund Rascher, feared science

April 26th, 2012 Headsman

It’s on this date in 1945 that Sigmund Rascher is supposed to have been summarily executed in Dachau.

If that’s what happened, it’s no more than Rascher (English Wikipedia page | German) deserved.

This doctor made his Nazi bones by forging a relationship with Heinrich Himmler (he married Himmler’s ex-mistress), and joining Himmler’s SS.

Rascher was doing cancer-cure experiments on animals, but once he had Himmler in his Rolodex he graduated to research on homo sapiens.

From 1941 to 1944, Rascher conducted some of the textbook ethical trespasses of Berlin’s human experimentation regime, using Dachau prisoners in:

  • high-altitude experiments to help fighter pilots, tested by subjecting prisoners to rapid de- and re-pressurization;
  • freezing experiments, tested by subjecting prisoners to freezing water or outdoor exposure, and then attempting by various methods to restore body warmth;
  • blood clotting experiments, tested by giving prisoners major gunshot wounds or other grievous bodily injuries, then monitoring how well a new drug slowed the bleeding.

Class act all the way. Rascher did publish some papers and deliver some conference presentations on aspects of his horrifying science, but in one of those little contradictions of the evil security state, the man was foiled in his bid for an advanced academic credential because much of the research was too secret for his peers to review.

In the end it was a much more mundane breach of ethics that did him in: Rascher and wife were arrested in 1944 for having actually kidnapped the children they claimed were their own.

They were stashed away in separate camps. For unclear reasons — perhaps because Rascher connected all this atrocious research back to Himmler, who was vainly trying to cut a peace deal with the West at this point, or maybe simply because Himmler was annoyed at the embarrassment his protege’s misconduct had given him — the bad doctor was summarily shot in his cell as the Allies bore down on Dachau.

(We will note in passing this argument, and this, disputing that story as well as this execution date. Executed Today is not in a position to contribute to that conversation.)

Elsewhere …

Caption: Polish and Russian forced laborers shot by the SS after they had collapsed from exhaustion during a death march. Wisenfeld, Germany, April 26, 1945.

— National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Md. Via the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum

From the Themed Set: The Death Rattle of the Third Reich.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Borderline "Executions",Capital Punishment,Concentration Camps,Death Penalty,Doctors,Execution,Germany,History,Intellectuals,No Formal Charge,Political Expedience,Shot,Summary Executions,Wartime Executions

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12 thoughts on “1945: Sigmund Rascher, feared science”

  1. Stephen Tyas says:

    Could Hubert Rehm explain Heidel Nowokowski role.

    Why would a Gestapo agent (can we say V-Frauen or is it V-Mann regardless of gender?) be the lover of Rascher who was already under suspicion for sometime and incarcerated in a KZ?

    The timetable for the departure of the Prominenten group from Dachau, 17 April 1945, seems to me to cast some doubt on Nowakowski. Rascher was a person of no influence at this time, the week before his death. So did she “just” join the Prominenten group as though the SS wouldn’t notice?

    1. hubert rehm says:

      The role of Heidel Nowakowski is detailed in the memories of Sigismund Payne Best (the Venlo incident), in the memories of Isa Vermehren (Reise durch den letzten Akt) and in my own book (The fall of the house of Rascher).

  2. Meaghan says:

    Well, I am not the Headsman, but if I were to venture to guess I’d say the point of this site is one of historical interest — to tell the stories of those who were executed, and the crimes they committed, and their victims. (I am a regular guest writer here, and is my own intention when I write an entry.)

    I have a missing persons website that I made with similar intentions — I don’t expect that many of the people on it will be found, and very few of those as a result of my website, but I want to tell what little I know about the people who disappeared, so someone at least will remember them.

    I’m an atheist, so talk about God judging people and punishing them in the hereafter is irrelevant to me.

    1. lawguy says:

      One thing I’ve decided from this site, is that Russia/The Soviet Union has a remarkable consistency in it’s history. Ivan the Terrible to Peter the Great, to Stalin. Major leaders who made major changes to Russia seem to be weirdly consistent in their actions and the way they treated the Russian people and their families.

      So I vote for history as a reason to read this site.

  3. JCF says:

    Thank you, Meaghan. No, I hadn’t read the FAQ. I simply assumed (partly on the basis of the blogroll by which I found the site).

    Regretfully, I’m outta here. Without a firm commitment to oppose the death penalty, WTF is the point of the site? Morbid curiosity? [See re “part of the problem”]

    “Had it coming/visceral revulsion”: compared to Absolute Perfection (such one might find in a belief-system about the Divine), then sure. As I quoted (the film) “Unforgiven”, we’ve ALL got it coming (and believe me, ever person who’s ever lived on Earth, is sure to have produced “visceral revulsion” in *someone* else who ever lived. Heck, I might be provoking it even as I type. ;-/).

    …which is why, against our own (violent) human natures, we HAVE to Say No. The Nazi (scum) whose life you spare can and WILL be your own. An Omniscient Judge might be able to Make the Right Call, but we ain’t omniscient. Fallen judges judging the fallen: erring on the side of life-without-parole is only LOGICAL (nevermind moral!)

    Peace out.

  4. Meaghan Good says:

    @JCF: According to the FAQ, “This blog is neither pro- nor anti-death penalty in general nor in any particular.” So no, this site does not have an official position on the matter.

    I’m against the death penalty too and even I think Rascher had it coming. You can be anti-DP and still feel such visceral revulsion against people that you realize there’s little point in mourning their executions.

  5. JCF says:

    If that’s what happened, it’s no more than Rascher … deserved.

    “We all got it comin'”: Unforgiven.

    Seriously, I’m very disturbed by this editorial comment (what commenters like Kevin S say notwithstanding).

    Does this site not have an official position OPPOSING all capital punishment, as “Cruel and Inhuman”?

    I’ve value coming here, to see it as testimony of “Man’s Inhumanity to Man”.

    But if this site (“Headsman”?) is taking it upon him/herself to Play God (saying some humans “deserved” state-/society-sanctioned MURDER), then I’ll consider part of the problem, not part of the solution.

    BAN THE DEATH PENALTY NOW! Forever and for always! No exceptions!

  6. Hubert Rehm says:

    Sigmund Rascher was killed 26th of April in his Dachau cell by Theodor Bongartz with three pistol shots in the stomach.
    According to my research this was due to Raschers latest love, a woman called Heidel Nowakowski. She was a Gestapo agent and denounced Rascher as being a British spy.

  7. Hubert Rehm says:

    Sigmund Rascher was killed 26th of April in his Dachau cell by Theodor Bongartz with three pistol shots in the stomach.
    According to my research this was due to Raschers latest love, a woman called Heidel Nowakowski. She was a Gestapo agent thought Rascher being a British spy.

  8. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

    At least Rascher was killed. What a monster!

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