"Beyond Spiegelgrund and Berkatit: Human Experimentation and Coerced Research at Vienna University, 1939 to 1945"

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 Herwig Czech (University of Vienna)

"Beyond Spiegelgrund and Berkatit: Human Experimentation and Coerced Research at Vienna University, 1939 to 1945"

(Introduced by: Etienne Lepicard. Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

[34min10; 11 slides]


This paper was presented to the international symposium:

"Reassessing Nazi Human Experiments and Coerced Research, 1933-1945: New Findings, Interpretations and Problems"

4 - 7 July 2013, Wadham College, Oxford


Convened by Paul Weindling (Oxford Brookes University), Marius Turda (Oxford Brookes University), and Volker Roelcke (University of Giessen).

Kindly funded by the Wellcome Trust, the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, and the University of Giessen


Abstract: To date, the only concerted effort to shed light on unethical research practices at Vienna’s Medical Faculty during National Socialism was a research project initiated by the university in 1997. The project was prompted by the publicly voiced concern that the anatomist and former dean, Eduard Pernkopf, had used body parts of Nazi victims to create his famous topographical atlas. Although the commissioned report contained detailed studies of the use of victims’ body parts at various university clinics and departments during and after the war, it was never published and the affair was quickly forgotten by the public. Furthermore, the mandate of the commission was limited to the question of the (mis-)use of human remains, so that the broader question of human experiments and coerced research was never properly addressed. Regarding other instances of unethical research practices documented in the literature, the involvement of Hans Eppinger and Wilhelm Beiglböck in the seawater experiments in Dachau is the most important example. Also known are the tuberculosis experiments on mentally handicapped children carried out at the Pediatric University Clinic. In my paper, I will give an overview of the current state of research, including recent findings on hitherto unknown experiments at various university clinics on methods of shock treatment, hypothermia, and others.


Bio: Herwig Czech is an APART fellow of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (2011-2014) for a project at the Institute of Contemporary History at the University of Vienna, titled “Health, Disease and Death – Vienna 1944-1948.” He is a researcher at the Documentation Centre of the Austrian Resistance.



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