Among the medical experiments carried out on Block 10
was one involving the sterilization of unknowing prisoners by x-rays.
These were conducted by Horst Schumann, a Nazi doctor who had previously
been involved in euthanasia killings in Germany and who came to
Auschwitz in 1941:
Experimental subjects--relatively healthy young men and women
in their late teens or early twenties, who had been obtained by
a previous day's order from the camps--were lined up in a waiting room
and brought in one by one, often completely ignorant of what was to
be done to them. Women were put between plates that pressed
against abdomen and back; men placed penis and scrotum on a
special plate. Schumann himself turned on the machine, which
hummed loudly...many of the women emerged with what Marie L.
called "substantial burns", which could become infected and take a long
time to heal; and many quickly developed symptoms of peritonitis,
including fever and severe pain and vomiting. Not long after
the x rays, the women's ovaries were removed surgically, often in
two separate operations...
Lifton, p. 281.
Among the women, there were pleurisies, suppurations, aggravations
of pulmonary tuberculosis, and death. As for the men, after the
X rays sperm was collected ("their prostates [were] brutally massaged
with pieces of wood inserted into the rectum") and sooner or
later one or both testicles were surgically removed, with
resulting hemorrhages, septicemia, and death.
Lifton, p. 282.
A Greek-Jewish woman described her terror as she saw in a
reflection "the blood pouring out as they opened my belly"; and
then, after the two operations, "pus--like a pit from an infected
wound, and a high temperature....pneumonia. My body swelled up, and
there were marks when I pressed my arm [edema]. They gave me
medicine. I was paralyzed... I couldn't move. My whole body was swollen
up." In addition: "we knew we were like a tree without fruit...
The experiment was that they were destroying our organs...We
would cry together about this"; and "They took us because
they didn't have rabbits."
Lifton, p. 282.
After the war, Dr. Schumann fled to Africa, where, remarkably, he
worked tirelessly in remote areas saving victims of sleeping
sickness and described himself as "having found the serenity
and the calm necessary for the moral balance of a human being."
He was repatriated to Germany in 1966, where in a greatly weakened
condition after several years in custody, he was released without
standing trial. In custody, he alternated between statements such as
"It was terrible what we did," and other statements defending
or denying his actions. He died in 1983. Lifton, p. 284.