The Doctors Trial
The Medical Case of the Subsequent Nuremberg Proceedings
The transcription of this document comes from National Archives, Record Group 238, M887. Page numbers corresponding to those in the original are given in brackets[ ].
[Excerpts from the testimony of FATHER LEO MIECHALOWSKI]
Question: Now, father will you tell the Tribunal what happened to you after your arrest?
Answer: When I was arrested I was first kept in prison for two months and from there we were sent into a cloister and from there still other priests were assembled until about ninety priests had been assembled altogether, and from there were sent to Strutthof near Danzig into the concentration camp which was located there. And, from there on the fifth or ninth of February we were transferred to Sachsenhausen-Oranienburg which is located near Berlin. On the 13th of December 1940, we were transferred again to Dachau. I was confined in Dachau until the arrival of the Americans until we were liberated that was on the 29th of April 1945.
Q: Now, father, were you a political prisoner in Dachau?
A: Yes. I wore a red insignia which all those who had been arrested for political reasons had to wear this insignia.
Q: Now, father, did there come a time when you were experimented on the concentration camp at Dachau?
A: Yes. Malaria experiments and also on one occasion we were engaged in high altitude experiments.
Q: Did you say high altitude experiments, Doctor?
A: No, I said aviation experiments.
Q: And what do you mean by aviation experiments?
A: Well, I have said it because we were dressed in aviatorís uniforms and then we were put into containers full of water and ice.
Q: Now, father, will you tell the Tribunal just what happened when you were experimented on with malaria? That is, when it happened and how you happened to be selected?
A: I was that weak that I fell down on the road because everybody was hungry in the camp. I wanted to be transferred to another assignment later on where we got some bread to eat between meals so my health could improve by the additional food. One man arrived and selected about thirty people for some easy labor. I also wanted to be selected for this assignment and those who had been selected for this work were led away. We went in the direction where the work was located and at the very last [page 875] moment instead of going to the place of work we were lead to the camp hospital. We did not know what was going to be done with us there. I thought to myself that perhaps this was going to be some detail for easier work in the hospital. We were told that we should undress and after we had undressed ourselves our numbers were taken down and then we asked what was going on and they told us, smilingly, "this is for air detail." But we were not told what was going to be done with us. Then the doctor came and told us all to remain and that we were to be x-rayed. Now that our numbers had already been taken down we were supposed to go to our blocks. I sat for two days in the block and afterwards I was again called to the hospital and there I was given malaria in such a manner that there were little cages with infected mosquitoes and I had to put my hand on one of the little cages and a mosquito stung me and afterwards I was still in the hospital for five weeks. However, for the time being no symptoms of the disease showed themselves. Somewhat later, I donít exactly recall, two or three weeks, I had my first malaria attack. Such attacks recurred frequently and several medicines were given to us for against malaria. I was given such medicine as neo-salvasan. I was given two injections of quinine. On one occasion I was given atabrine and the worst was that one time when I had an attack, I was given so-called perifer. I was given nine injections of that kind, one every hour and that every second day through the seventh injection. All of a sudden my heart felt like it was going to be torn out. I became insane. I completely lost my language my ability to speak. This lasted until evening. In the evening a nurse arrived and wanted to give me the eighth injection. I was then unable [sic] to speak and I told the nurse about all of the complications I had had and that I did not want to receive the injection. The nurse had already poured out the injection and said that he would report this to Dr. Schilling. After approximately ten minutes another nurse arrived and said that he would have to give me the injection after all. Then I said the same thing again, that I was not going to have the injection. However, he told me that he had to carry out that order. Then I replied that no matter what order he had, I would not be willing to commit [page 876] suicide. Then he went away and returned once again after ten minutes. He told me, "I know you know what can happen if you donít accept the injection." Then I said in spite of everything, "I refuse to receive a another injection and that I would tell that to the professor. "I requested that he himself know that I would not be willing to receive the injection. So that the nurse would not have any further difficulty after twenty minutes Dr. Ploettner came with four inmate nurses and he talked to my comrades. "There is going to be a big row here." Then I said, "If I have resisted for such a long time I will continue to do so." Dr. Ploettner, however, was very quiet. He only reached for my hand and he check my pulse, then touched my head and asked me what complications I had had. I told him what I had had after that injection. And then he told the nurse to give me two tablets in order to remove the headache and the pains in my kidneys. When I had been given that Dr. Ploettner was about to leave and told the nurses that they were to give me the rest of the injections. Then I said, "Hauptsturmfuehrer, I refuse to be given that injection." The physician turned around after I had said that and looked at me and said, "I am responsible for your life, not you." then when the injection he told the nurse the nurses complied with his order and it was then they gave me this injection. It was the same one to whom I had previously told that I did not want to have another injection. It was only strange that after the eighth injection no results happened as they had done previously so that, in my opinion, I think that the nurse gave me some other injection. On the morning I was given the ninth injection when I woke up in the morning the results were then as usual. I became sick and I began to feel cold and I had a high fever.
Q: Father, do I understand you to say that you were injected with malaria in the middle of 1942?
A: It was approximately in the middle of 1942 when I was infected with malaria.
Q: And you were not asked your consent to the malaria experiment?
A: No. I was not asked for my consent.
Q: And you did not volunteer for this experiment?
A: No. I was taken in the manner which I have just described.
Q: Did you make any protest?
A: In 1942 it was very difficult in the camp to lodge any protest. When I protested with this eighth injection which I was to be given, I clearly realized that it would have the most serious consequences for me. Later on such things could be risked, but in that year I still think that I would have been unable to do that, and I donít think it would have been to any avail.
Q: Now how many people were experimented on with you, that is, malaria experiments?
A: In the hospital when I had my attacks, there were approximately fifty to sixty people; the numbers changed.
Q: And do you know the approximate total number of inmates experimented on with malaria in Dachau?
A: Towards the end I heard that approximately one thousand two hundred prisoners were subjected to these experiments.
Q: Do you know whether or not any of those inmates died as a result of the malaria experiments?
A: Several have died, but if this was the direct result of malaria, I do not know. I know of one case when the patient died after having been given Perifere injections. Then I still know another priest who died, but afterwards and prior to his death he was sent to another room.
Q: Was it customary to transfer patients out of the block in which there were conducting the malaria experiments if it appeared that they might die?
A: It looked to me as if this patient of whom I have just spoken had been moved for the reason so it could not be seen that it happened in the case of malaria, but I do not know if people died as a result of malaria because I am not an expert on the subject.
Q: How many recurrences of malaria fever did you have, Father?
A: I cannot give you the exact number any more. However, those attacks recurred frequently, I think about five times, and then I still had treatment in bed for some time, and then there were several more, and altogether I had ten attacks, one every day. Then I reached a temperature of 41.6.
Q: Do you still suffer any effects from the malaria?
A: I still have had some after effects, but I do not know if this is only of malaria because I was also subjected to another experiment.
Q: Well, will you tell the tribunal about this other experiment?
A: During those malaria attacks on one occasion I was called by Dr. Prachtol and I was examined by a Polish physician, and Dr. Prachtol told me, "If I have any use for you, I will call you." However, I did not know what was going to be done with me. Several days later, that was on the seventh of October, 1942, a prisoner came and told me that I was to report to the hospital immediately. I thought I was going to be examined once more, and I was taken through the malaria station to block 5 in Dachau, to the fourth floor of block 5. There the so-called aviation room, the aviation experimental station was located there, and there was a fence, a wooden fence so that nobody could see what was inside, and I was led there, and there was a basin with water and ice which floated on the water. There were two tables, and there were two apparatus on there. Next to them there was a heap of clothing that consisted of uniforms, and Dr. Prachtol was there, two officers in Air Force uniforms. However, I do not know their names. [page 879] Now I was told to undress. I undressed and I was examined. The physician then remarked that everything was in order. Now wires had been taped to my back, also in the lower rectum. Afterwards I had to wear my shirt, my drawers, but then afterwards I had to wear one of the uniforms which were lying there. Then I had also to wear a long pair of boots with catís fur and one aviatorís combination. And afterwards a tube was put around my neck and was filled with air. And afterwards the wires which had been connected with me they were connected to the apparatus, and then I was thrown into the water. All of a sudden I became very cold, and I began to tremble. I immediately turned to those two men and asked them to pull me out of the water because I would be unable to stand it much longer. However, they told me laughingly, "Well, this will only last a very short time." I sat in this water, and I had and I was conscious for one hour and a half. I do not know exactly because I did not have a watch, but that is the approximate time I spent there.
During this time the temperature was lowered very slowly in the beginning and afterwards more rapidly. When I was thrown into the water my temperature was lowered very slowly in the beginning and afterwards more rapidly. When I was thrown into the water my temperature was 37.6. then the temperature became lower. Then I only had 33 and then as low as 30, but then I already became somewhat unconscious and every fifteen minutes some blood was taken from my ear. After having sat in the water for about half an hour, I was offered a cigarette, which, however, I did not want to smoke. However, one of those men approached me and gave me the cigarette, and the nurse who stood near the basin continued to put this cigarette into my mouth and pulled it out again. [page 880] I managed to smoke about half of this cigarette. Later on I was given a little glass with Schnaps, and then I was asked how I was feeling. Somewhat later still I was given one cup of Grog. This Grog was not very hot. It was rather luke warm. I was freezing very much in this water. Now my feet were becoming as rigid as iron, and the same thing applied to my hands, and later on my breathing became very short. I once again began to tremble, and afterwards cold sweat appeared on my forehead. I felt as if I was just about to die, and then I was still asking them to pull me out because I could not stand this much longer.
Then Dr. Prachtol came and he had a little bottle, and he gave me a few drops of some liquid out of this bottle, and I did not know anything about this liquid. It had a somewhat sweetish taste. Then I lost my consciousness. I do not know how much longer I remained in the water because I was unconscious. When I again regained consciousness, it was approximately between 8 and 8:30 in the evening. I was lying on a stretcher covered with blankets, and above me there was some kind of an appliance with lamps which were warming me.
In the room there was only Dr. Prachtol and two prisoners. Then Dr. Prachtol asked me how I was feeling. Then I replied, "First of all, I feel very exhausted, and furthermore I am also very hungry." Dr. Prachtol had immediately ordered that I was to be given better food and that I was also to lie in bed. One prisoner raised me on the stretcher and he took me under his arm and he led me through the corridor to his room. During this time he spoke to me, and he told me, "Well you do not know what you have even suffered." And in the room the prisoner gave me half a bottle of milk, one piece of bread and some potatoes, but that came from his own rations. Later on he took me to the malaria station, [page 881] block 3, and there I was put to bed, and the very same evening a Polish prisoner it was a physician; his first name was Dr. Adam, but I do not remember his other name [page 882] He came on official orders. He told me, "Everything that has happened to you is a military secret." You are not to discuss it with anybody. If you fail to do so, you know what the consequences will be for you. You are intelligent enough to know that." Of course, I fully realized that I had to keep quiet about that.
On one occasion I had discussed these experiments with one of my comrades. One of the nurses found out about this and he came to see me and asked me if I was already tired of living, because I was talking about such matters. But, in the way these experiments were conducted, I do not need to add anything further to it.
Q: How long was it before you recovered from the effects of those freezing experiments?
A: It took a long time. I also have had several (pause) I have had a rather weak heart and I have also had severe headaches, and I also get cramps in my feet very often.
Q: Do you still suffer from the effects of this experiment?
A: I still have a weak heart. For example, I am unable to walk very quickly now, and I also have to sweat very much. Exactly, those are the results, but in many cases I have had those afflictions ever since.
Q: Were you in good physical condition before you were subjected to Malaria and Freezing experiments?
A: Since the time of this starvation I weighed 57 kilograms in Dachau. When I came to the camp I weighed about one hundred kilo; I lost about one half of my weight. In the beginning, I was weighed, and I was in bed for about a week. And then my weight went down to forty-seven kilo.
Q: How much do you weigh now, father?
A: I can not tell you exactly but I have not weighed myself lately but I think at this time I weigh fifty-five kilogram.
Q: Do you know how you were pre-warmed in these freezing experiments?
A: I was warmed with these lamps, but I heard later that people were rewarmed by women.
Q: Do you know approximately how many inmates were subjected to the freezing experiments?
A: I can not tell you anything about this, because it was kept so secret; and because I was in there quite individually, and I was quite single during this experiment.
Q: Do you know whether anyone died as a result of this experiment?
A: I can not give you any information about that, either. I have not seen anybody. But it was said in camp that quite a number of people died there during this experiment.