Essay: Dr. Karl Brandt

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Dr. Karl Brandt

"Karl Brandt, an arrogant, dour, and tight-lipped ideologue… rose to be head of Germany's euthanasia (T4) program. He ruthlessly and steadily ascended from there to… become a member of Hitler's elite inner circle…" (Glaser, 2008/09, p. 109).

Among the more heinous crimes committed by the Nazis in Germany were the so-called medical "experiments" that were conducted using prisoners in the concentration camps. The kinds of "experiments" that were conducted by doctors during the Holocaust went well beyond cruelty and transcended the mere infliction of pain. These experiments on live human beings were clearly the work of heartless, immoral monsters that had apparently been brainwashed by Hitler's fanatical desire to kill as many Jews as possible using any means available to not just murder but to torture as well. This paper focuses on the lead medical defendant in the Nuremberg Trials, Dr. Karl Brandt, who was the "senior medical official of the German government during World War II" (Harvard Law School).

The Nuremberg Trials Outcomes for Brandt and 22 other Doctors

The Harvard Law School Library has a "Nuremberg Trials Project" that has digitally preserved documents about the Nuremberg Trials for Nazi war criminals. In fact there were 23 doctors that were prosecuted in the 1946-47 trials, and Brandt was the lead defendant. The doctors were indicted on four different counts: a) "conspiracy to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity"; b) "war crimes (i.e., crimes against persons protected by the laws of war, such as prisoners of war)"; c) "crimes against humanity (including persons not protected by the laws of war); and d) "membership in a criminal organization (the SS)" (Harvard Law School).

The specific instances and instruments of medical experimentation were spelled out by the prosecutor within the genre of "war crimes" and "crimes against humanity." Those crimes involved "more than twelve series of medical experiments," that allegedly concerned the effects and treatments for: "high altitude conditions, freezing, malaria, poison gas, sulfanilamide, bone, muscle and nerve regeneration, bone transplantation, saltwater consumption, epidemic jaundice, sterilization, typhus, poisons, and incendiary bombs" (Harvard Law School, p. 1). In the high-altitude experiment the doctors put concentration camp inmates into a low-pressure chamber; in the malaria experiments, more than 1,000 prisoners at Dachau were intentionally infected with malaria; and in the poison experiments, some prisoners were actually shot with poison bullets, and others had their food poisoned so the Nazis could study humans who have been poisoned (Harvard Law School).

Brandt and six other defendants were convicted and sentenced to death, then executed; nine of the 23 were convicted and given prison terms; and seven defendants were found not guilty (Harvard Law School).

Karl Brandt's Role in the Holocaust

Brandt was born in a "distinguished medical family) in Muhlhausen, Alsace (it was then a part of Germany) in1904, and he became a licensed doctor in 1928 (Spiro, 2009, p. 382). And though he considered joining "…his fellow Alsatian Albert Schweitzer in Africa," a decision that would have taken his life on a humanitarian path rather than one that was linked to the evil deeds of the Third Reich, he instead joined up with Hitler (Spiro, 382). In fact he joined the Nazi Party in 1932 and was introduced to Hitler that year by his fiancee, a swimming champion in Germany. In 1934, according to the Jewish Virtual Library (JVL), Brandt joined the SA (the violent paramilitary organization -- known as the "brownshirts" -- that used intimidation and bullying to promote Hitler's cause) (JVL).

He became very well-known to the Third Reich because in August 1933 he was asked to go to Upper Bavaria to provide medical treatment for Wilhelm Bruckner who… [END OF PREVIEW]

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"Dr. Karl Brandt."  Essaytown.com.  July 23, 2012.  Accessed May 25, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/dr-karl-brandt/12413.