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The Doctors' Trial

The defendants in this case are charged with murders, tortures, and other atrocities committed in the name of medical science. The victims of these crimes are numbered in the hundreds of thousands. A handful only are still alive; a few of the survivors will appear in this courtroom. But most of these miserable victims were slaughtered outright or died in the course of the tortures to which they were subjected.

For the most part they are nameless dead. To their murderers, these wretched people were not individuals at all. They came in wholesale lots and were treated worse than animals. *

So the Doctors' Trial began. This was the beginning of the opening statement for the prosecution, delivered by Brigadier General Telford Taylor on December 9, 1946, which introduced the world to the horrific and needless experiments that were conducted by Nazi doctors. On trial were 22 men and one woman for their participation in these experiments. Most were doctors, though three were not. Some had been eminent physicians, a few were products of their generation. How could such people turn against humanity?

Though often known as the "Doctors' Trial" and the "Medical Case," the trial was officially designated United States of America v. Karl Brandt. Held at the Palace of Justice in Nuremberg, Germany, the trial began on December 9, 1946. Four American judges presided - Walter Beals, Johnson Crawford, Harold Sebring, and Victor Swearingen. The trial described and documented some of the most gruesome and painful medical experiments, including those for typhus, sea water, high-altitude, bone transplantation, extreme cold, sterilization, poison bullets, and skeleton collection.

After hearing 85 witnesses and examining 1,471 documents that were presented, judgment was pronounced on August 19, 1947 with sentencing following on the next day. Of the 23 defendants, 7 were sentenced the death by hanging (carried out at Landsberg Prison), 9 were given prison terms, and 7 were found not guilty.

End Result
Hermann Becker-FreysengPrison - 20 YearsPrison - 10 Years
Wilhelm BeiglböckPrison - 15 YearsPrison- 10 Years
Kurt BlomeNot GuiltyAcquitted
Viktor BrackDeath - HangingExecuted June 2, 1948
Karl BrandtDeath - HangingExecuted June 2, 1948
Rudolf BrandtDeath - HangingExecuted June 2, 1948
Fritz FischerPrison - LifePrison - 15 Years
Karl GebhardtDeath - HangingExecuted June 2, 1948
Karl GenzkenPrison - LifePrison - 20 Years
Siegfried HandloserPrison - LifePrison - 20 Years
Waldemar HovenDeath - HangingExecuted June 2, 1948
Joachim MrugowskyDeath - HangingExecuted June 2, 1948
Herta OberheuserPrison - 20 YearsReleased April 1952
Adolf PokornyNot GuiltyAcquitted
Helmut PoppendickPrison - 10 YearsReleased January 31, 1951
Hans Wolfgang RombergNot GuiltyAcquitted
Gerhard RosePrison - LifePrison - 15 Years
Paul RostockNot GuiltyAcquitted
Siegfried RuffNot Guilty  
Konrad SchäferNot GuiltyAcquitted
Oskar SchröderPrison - LifePrison - 15 Years
Wolfram SieversDeath - HangingExecuted June 2, 1948
Georg August WeltzNot Guilty  

* Opening statement of the prosecution by Brigadier General Telford Taylor as quoted in George J. Annas and Michael A. Grodin, The Nazi Doctors and the Nuremberg Code (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992) page 67.

All photographs courtesy of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum Photo Archive


Annas, George J. and Michael A. Grodin. The Nazi Doctors and the Nuremberg Code: Human Rights in Human Experimentation. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.

Gutman, Israel (ed.). Encyclopedia of the Holocaust. 4 Vols. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995.

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