How Hitler perverted the course of science - Telegraph
Yet once you dig a little deeper, what is so disturbing is how prosaic the reality was, how similar in form, if not content, their work was to the research of today. As I discovered when researching a history of the Nazis at war, much of what scientists did under the Third Reich was regarded as "normal science", subject to standard protocols of peer review in conferences and journals. The infamous Dr Josef Mengele regarded himself as a normal scientist, held seminars to discuss his experiments, got research funds from the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute in Berlin, and reported regularly to his teacher, the eminent scientist Otmar von Verschuer, on his progress.
Mengele's research at Auschwitz, in particular, shows how the system worked. His experiments there were intended to be a contribution to his second doctorate, the Habilitation, which all German academics needed to qualify for a university professorship. Under Verschuer's guidance, he selected twins from the trainloads of Jews who arrived and injected them with chemicals to see if they reacted differently from one another. He collected prisoners with physical abnormalities, such as heterochromia – having a different colour in each eye – to investigate if their condition was hereditary. He treated gipsy and other children for starvation-related diseases, using vitamins and sulphonamides, to see if there were hereditary differences in their response to the therapy.
Mengele's work was pure research, without any obvious practical application. He gained his notoriety from his willingness to kill his subjects under certain circumstances – such as settling an argument about a diagnosis by executing patients and performing an autopsy. However, most survivors remembered him not for his experiments but for his ruthless and brutal behaviour on the selection ramp, or in the camp hospital, where he frequently consigned sick inmates to the gas chamber on the slightest of whims.