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Sigmund Rascher was a Nazi SS doctor.


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Nazi SS doctor in Dachau concentration camp
Nazi SS doctor in Dachau concentration camp

Sigmund Rascher (born February 12, 1909 in Munich, executed April 26, 1945 in the Dachau concentration camp) was a Nazi SS doctor.

To the public of the post World War II era, he represented, especially in the media of the United States, the archetype of the villainous Nazi doctor. His deadly experiments on humans, planned and executed in the Concentration Camp of Dachau, were judged inhumane and criminal during the Nuremberg Trials.

Early life and career

Rascher was born the third child of Hanns-August Rascher, a doctor, and made his Abitur in 1930 or 1931 (this is uncertain, as he himself did use both dates) in Konstanz, and in 1933 began studying medicine in Munich, where he also joined the NSDAP. Concerning the exact day of his joining, there are two dates: Rascher insisted that it was on March 1, whereas the documents show May 1.

After his practical, he was working with his now divorced father in Basel, Switzerland, also continuing his studies, there joining the Swiss Voluntary Work Forces, and in 1934 he moved to Munich to finish his studies, ending these in 1936 by receiving his degree and his doctorate.

In May the same year, he joined the SA, and when he changed to the SS in 1939, had reached the rank of Gefreiter.

In Munich, he was working with Prof. Trumpp in cancer diagnostics from 1936 to 1938, sustained by a stipendium, and was until 1939 an unpaid assistant at the university hospital.

Career with the SS

April 24 1939 saw the first meeting of Heinrich Himmler and Rascher. Rascher handed over an exposition on five scientific questions in cancer research on May 1. Following Himmler's wishes that blood tests of Nazi concentration camps prisoners should be used, Rascher conducted his first experiments using prisoners. Rascher's project was included into the Forschungsgemeinschaft Deutsches Ahnenerbe e. V. (Scientific Community for German Ancestral Heritage).

Rascher's later infamous medical experiments at Dachau included hypothermia research in which three hundred test subjects were used against their will and one third of them perished, high-altitude, malaria and medication experiments. The results of his freezing experiments were publicized at the 1942 medical conference entitled "Medical Problems Arising from Sea and Winter."

At Dachau, Rascher also developed the standard cyanide capsules, which could be easily bitten through, either deliberately or accidentally. Ironically, this became the means by which Himmler committed suicide.

Personal life and execution

His wife, the former singer Karoline Diehl, proved to be an invaluable ally in nurturing Rascher's SS career, as she had very good relations with Himmler. Before their marriage, Diel had been involved with Himmler the the early days of the NSDAP, with contact being maintained in later years. Himmler sent packages containing 165 Reichsmark, fruit, chocolate and other treats to Rascher and his family. Himmler later used a photograph of Rascher and Karoline's family as SS propaganda-material.

In 1945, Rascher and Diehl were arrested for illegal adoption and registration of a child. Rascher was executed in Dachau shortly before liberation by American forces. Diehl was later hanged at an unknown location


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