Yesterday, Representative Sara Hannan (D – Juneau) gave a bizarre speech on the House floor, claiming that Nazi medical experiments conducted on victims in concentration camps were “violations of human dignity, of scientific methodology, yet they produced results.” Hannan stated that a “very famous” Alaska doctor named Dr. Mills found the Nazi research in his early career “knowing that it was done in these horrific conditions, yet knowing it could still benefit us, to look at the results of that.” Hannan claimed that Dr. Mills became a renowned expert on frostbite, presumably in part because of the Nazi research.
Hannan concluded by stating the importance of understanding the scientific process, and the role of science in combating the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hannan’s speech followed a speech by Representative Sarah Vance (R – Homer) in which Vance encourages Alaskans to consider the Holocaust when assessing Alaska’s COVID-19 pandemic response and suggests that the Nuremberg Code prohibits mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations, which Vance refers to as “experimental.”
The scientific studies referenced by Hannan were likely the infamous Dachau Hypothermia Experiments, which were conducted by Nazi scientists on prisoners during World War II. The experiments purported to find methods for reviving German pilots downed at sea and hypothermic German soldiers. Victims of the experiments were subjected to extreme cold, and were either killed by hypothermia or subjected to an assortment of interventions intended to revive them. Experimenters allegedly attempted to revive some victims by rape or with boiling water.
The Dachau experiments violated basic contemporary standards of human rights and medical ethics, and were treated as war crimes during postwar trials. The scientific value of the data gathered during the experiments is a matter of controversy, but most sources agree that the limited data that survived the war has little to no scientific value. The data suffers from a lack of basic information about the participants and nature of the experiments, poor controls, deficient data collection methods, and an overwhelming lack of trust in the credibility of the experimenters. In some instances, postwar testimony indicated that some individuals involved in the experiments falsified data in order to attempt to save victims. Moreover, data and conclusions pertaining to the Nazi experiments are not consistent with contemporary understandings of hypothermia.
As Robert L. Berger, M.D. concludes in “Nazi Science — The Dachau Hypothermia Experiments,” published in the New England Journal of Medicine:
“In summary, the basic information essential for documenting an orderly experimental protocol and evaluating the results is not provided. We know enough, however, to conclude that the methods of study were clearly defective.”
The number of victims killed in the hypothermia experiments is unclear, but may have been one hundred, or in the low hundreds.