When Physicians Turn Murderers: A Lesson From the Past

By: Randy Engel

When a doctor does go wrong, he is the first of criminals. He has the nerve and he has the knowledge.” – Sherlock Holmes, ‘The Speckled Band’


On July 14, 1949, The New England Journal of Medicine published a historic warning to American physicians in the form of an essay titled “Medical Science Under Dictatorship,” written by Dr. Leo Alexander, Chief U.S. Medical Consultant at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials.[1]

The Major War Nuremberg Trials, thirteen in number, were held from November 20, 1945, to October 1, 1946, at the Palace of Justice in Nuremberg, in the German State of Bavaria. The trials were conducted by an international tribunal representing the United States, Great Britain, France, and the Soviet Union. Twenty-four individuals were indicted, along with six Nazi organizations determined to be criminal.  

Twelve additional trials took place from December 1946 to April 1949 under the auspices of U.S. military tribunals. The infamous Doctors Trial held from December 9, 1946, to August 20, 1947, included physicians and nurses who were accused of crimes against humanity, including medical experiments on prisoners of war. At the Judges Trial held from March 5 to December 4, 1947, sixteen lawyers and judges were charged with furthering the Nazi plan for racial purity by implementing the eugenics laws of the Third Reich.

From Small Beginnings…

According to Dr. Alexander:

Whatever proportions these crimes finally assumed; it became evident to all who investigated them that they started from small beginnings. The beginnings at first were merely a subtle shift in emphasis in the basic attitude of the physicians. It started with the acceptance of the attitude, basic in the euthanasia movement, that there is such a thing as a life not worthy to be lived.[2] This attitude in its early stages started with the severely and chronically sick. Gradually the sphere of those to be included in the category was enlarged to encompass the socially unproductive, the ideologically unwanted, the racially unwanted and finally all non-Germans. It is important to realize that the infinitely small wedged-in lever from which this entire trend of mind received its impetus was the attitude toward the non-rehabilitable sick.[3]  

Medical Science Under Dictatorship

In the introduction to his study, originally addressed to the U.S. medical profession, Alexander notes that science under dictatorship, including medical science, becomes subordinated to the guiding philosophy of the dictatorship:

Irrespective of ideological trappings, the guiding philosophic principle of recent dictatorships, including the Nazis, has been Hegelian in that what has been considered “rational utility” and corresponding doctrine and planning has replaced moral, ethical, and religious values. Nazi propaganda was highly effective in perverting public opinion and public conscience, in a remarkably short time. 

In the medical profession this expressed itself in a rapid decline in standards of professional ethics. Medical science in Nazi Germany collaborated with this Hegelian trend particularly in the following enterprises:

– The mass extermination of the chronically sick in the interest of saving “useless” expenses to the community as a whole.

– The mass extermination of those considered socially disturbing or racially and ideologically unwanted.

– The individual, inconspicuous extermination of those considered disloyal with the ruling group. 

– And the ruthless use of “human experimental material” for medico-military research.[4]

Laymen Also Propagandized

Alexander explains that “Even before the Nazis took open charge, a propaganda barrage was directed against the traditional compassionate 19th century attitudes toward the chronically ill, and for the adoption of a utilitarian, Hegelian point of view. Sterilization and euthanasia of persons with chronic mental illness was discussed at a meeting of Bavarian psychiatrists in 1931.”[5]

Medical professionals were not the only target of the growing Eugenics Movement in Germany and throughout Europe, the United Kingdom, and the United States, however.

The blockbuster German pro-euthanasia film, Ich Klage An (English title, I Accuse), specifically targeted laymen. 

Released in August of 1941, the film, commissioned by Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, grossed over 5.3 million Marks, making it one of the most profitable movies of the Third Reich (1933-1945).[6]

The plot centers on a beautiful young wife suffering from multiple sclerosis. Alas, she can no longer play the piano. Her equally handsome doctor-husband comes to the “rescue” and murders her with a fatal overdose. At his trial, the doctor accuses society of great cruelty for legally preventing “mercy killings.”[7]

As the French social-political philosopher Jacques Ellul points out in his classic work Propaganda – The Formation of Men’s Attitudes (1965), “The most favorable moment to seize a man and influence him is when he is alone in the mass. It is at this point that propaganda can be most effective.”[8] Movies obviously fit this bill. 

Although I Accuse was banned by the Allied powers after World War II, it can still be viewed today here in the States. In April 2019, the Hemlock Society of San Diego sponsored a showing of the German film at its Right-To-Die Festival (what a happy event that must have been!). Described as a “gentle and loving” film, I Accuse continues to be promoted on the Society’s website.[9]

The Nazi Aktion T4 Euthanasia Program 

Alexander provides detailed information on the first direct order for euthanasia issued by German dictator Adolf Hitler on September 1, 1939 (backdated from October), which followed the earlier issuance of the Gesetz zur Verhütung erbkranken Nachwuchses (Law for the Prevention of Hereditary Diseased Offspring) in 1933.[10]

The organization established to carry out the obviously involuntary mass murder of chronically ill and aged patients was dubbed Aktion T4 by the Allies. Its Medical Division was directed by abortionist Dr. Karl Brant, who also served as Hitler’s personal physician, while the Administration Division was headed by Nazi Party Business Manager, Phillip Bouhler.[11]

Brant was eventually hanged for his crimes and Bouhler suicided.

The original liquidation tally for the euthanasia killings – which took place primarily  in psychiatric hospitals in Germany, Austria, occupied Poland, and the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia between 1939 and 1945 – was set at 70,273, but was later updated to between 275,000 to 300,000 human beings after the war when additional medical files were discovered .[12]

It should be noted that the selection of patients to be exterminated was made by nurses and physician/consultants, mostly psychiatrists, who never actually examined the patients themselves, but rather based their decisions on a general vague survey. Their patients included not only the “mentally-defective” and the “physically sick,” but also those who were unable to work or could not be rehabilitated.[13]

Set apart was a separate organization devoted exclusively to the killing of children euphemistically known as “Realm’s Committee for Scientific Approach to Severe Illness Due to Heredity and Constitution.”[14]

Other euphemistically named Nazi agencies included the “Charitable Transport Company for the Sick,” which delivered the victims to the killing centers where they were murdered with carbon monoxide gas and later with cyanide gas (“cyclon B”); their bodies or body parts incinerated in a furnace, and their ashes sent home to the family.[15]

As a touch of “authenticity,” family members were sent a medical bill for the “Care service” (aka murder) of their relatives by the “Charitable Foundation for Institutional Care.” The invoice did not indicate for what they were actually being charged, and a fraudulent death certificate was issued to close the matter.[16]

Alexander notes that Nazi leaders believed that the German people would more readily approve of the mass killing of the physically and mentally ill than the extermination of political or racial enemies of the State. This assessment turned out to be true. 

However, as Alexander explains, this did not mean that they had no use for the latter grouping in other ways, including slave labor in concentration camps and involuntary medical experimentation.

Ktenology – The Science of Killing[17]

Much of the Nazi’s medical research and experimentation programs involved the development of new methods of mass killing and mass sterilization and castration to be used against conquered populations and “useless” Germans. Many of these research programs were labeled, “Terminal” meaning that a successful conclusion depended upon the test person being put to death.[18]  

To eliminate “disloyal” or “suspect” members of the ruling class, Hitler [like Stalin] was especially interested in the development of deadly poisons that, having produced the desired effect, left no trace. Early crude research experiments carried out on concentration camp prisoners included intravenous injections of phenol, gasoline, and several alkaloids. These, however, left telltale odors emanating from the corpse.[19]

According to Alexander, at the Dachau concentration camp, Polish Catholic priests were used as human guinea pigs to test artificially-induced septicemia.[20] Later, so as not to draw suspicion from Schutzstaffel (SS) members [Hitler’s powerful agents of security, surveillance, and terror], experiments employing live tubercle bascilli were conducted exclusively on children imprisoned at the Neuengamme camp .[21]

Physicians as Killers

All of the above “medical” experiments involved German physicians on a massive scale. Alexander asks the question of how the Third Reich (1933-1945) was able to motivate its medical professionals including doctors, nurses, and hospital administrators to actively participate in such a long-term horror show? 

And, not surprisingly, he has little difficulty in answering the question given the totalitarian nature of the Nazi dictatorship [and all totalitarian dictatorships]  which feed on fear, hostility, suspicion, rivalry, and other forms of fratricidal warfare.[22]

According to Alexander, the Nazis, especially the SS, employed “an age-old method used by criminal gangs everywhere: that of making suspects of disloyalty clear themselves by participation in a crime that would definitely and irrevocably tie them to the organization. In the SS, this process of reinforcement of group cohesion was called ‘Blutkitt’ (blood cement)…”

“The important lesson here,” Alexander concludes, “is that this motivation, with which one is familiar in ordinary crimes, applies also to war crimes and to ideologically-conditioned crimes against humanity – namely, that fear and cowardice, especially fear of punishment, or ostracism by the group, are often more important motives than simply ferocity and aggressiveness.”[23]

From “War Crimes” to “An Act of Compassion” – The Netherlands Experience                                                                                               

It is a great irony that Alexander uses his essay to praise the medical profession of the Occupied Netherlands for its refusal to participate in the German Euthanasia program. During the entire occupation of Holland, Dutch doctors refused to carry out a single euthanasia death.[24] This was true.

Austrian-born Arthur Seyss-Inquart was the Reich Commissar for the Occupied Netherlands Territories. When the Dutch physicians declared that they would not cooperate with the Nazi euthanasia and sterilization orders, which were cloaked in euphemistic language, Seyss-Inquart threatened to revoke their licenses 

The physicians held the line and returned their licenses and removed their shingles, while continuing to see their patients secretly. They no longer wrote out death or birth certificates. Even after one hundred doctors were arrested and sent to concentration camps, the Dutch physicians remained faithful to their Hippocratic oath and they cared for the widows and orphans of the arrested doctors. They resisted to the end and won. 

Seyss-Inquart, on the other hand, was sentenced to death by hanging for war crimes at the Nuremburg trials. 

The victory of the Dutch physicians, however, was short lived. 

As the British journalist Malcolm Muggeridge later observed in his classic 2008 essay, “The Humane Holocaust,” it only took thirty years after the war for the Dutch physicians to turn into  veterinarians and to transform euthanasia from a “war crime” into “an act of compassion.”[25]

Thus, the Netherlands was the first European country to give doctors the legal power to kill their born ill patients via euthanasia and assisted suicide in 1993, although the killings did not come into full vigor until 2002. The murder of unborn patients via induced abortion had already been legalized in Holland in 1981-1984.   

The euthanasia movement in the Netherlands received its initial impetus in medical circles with the publication in 1969 of a booklet titled, “Medical Power and Medical Ethics,” by Leiden psychiatrist J.H. van den Berg. Berg argued that new technological capabilities of medicine had become counterproductive in many cases because they were guided by the traditional medical-ethical prescript to maintain, restore, and protect life. Berg proposed a more utilitarian medical ethic in which medicine would reorient itself from preserving biologic human life to sustaining meaningful personal life.[26]

In January 1996, Dutch doctors Henk ten Have and Jos Welie reviewed the status of euthanasia in the Netherlands as follows:  

… the moral principle of respect for individual autonomy was the cornerstone of the original ideologic theory justifying the medical practice of euthanasia.[27]

Since the first court case in 1973, public debate on euthanasia in the Netherlands has become more intense. The past decade, however, has shown a shift in the euthanasia debate from the level of critical medical-ethical arguments, justifying or opposing euthanasia within the physician-patient relationship, to the socio-ethical and political problems of whether and how to regulate the actual practice of euthanasia given newly accumulated empirical data. Medical-ethical viewpoints regarding euthanasia in clinical practice have been moved to the background.[28]

… The present situation … leads to the following three conclusions: (1) in daily health care practices, the crucial distinction between voluntary and nonvoluntary termination of life is losing meaning; (2) contrary to previous decades, society tends to accept cases of nonvoluntary termination of life more easily… and (3) although the Dutch debate on euthanasia began as a protest again contemporary medicine’s power over death and dying, the general acceptance of euthanasia and the recent legislation MAY INCREASE MEDICAL POWER BY SHIFTING THE BALANCE FURTHER IN THE DIRECTION OF PHYSICIANS (emphasis added). Euthanasia is, after all, the ultimate step in medical interventionism; suffering is to be relieved by any means, even when it entails the elimination of the sufferer.[29]             

Alexander’s Views on Euthanasia in the U.S.

Having praised Dutch physicians for their resistance to euthanasia during World War II, Alexander asks (in 1949) if there are any danger signs that American physicians have been infected with Hegelian, cold-blooded, utilitarian philosophy and whether early traces of it can be detected in their medical thinking that may make them vulnerable to departures of the type that occurred in Germany.  

Had he remembered the success of the Eugenics Movement in the United States in favor of the “well-born” during the four decades preceding the Second World War he probably would not have asked the question. 

In any case, Alexander gives the American medical profession a guarded pass. 

As a positive sign, he notes that in the United States there were some encouraging trends including the societies of patients afflicted with various chronic diseases that have sprung up. These societies, (aka non-profit patient advocacy groups), Alexander says, are dedicating themselves to guidance and information for their fellow sufferers and for the support and stimulation of medical research.[30]

He notes that these special medical societies, which receive inspiration and guidance from outstanding physicians, are having an extremely wholesome effect in introducing fresh motivating power into the ivory towers of academic medicine. 

“It is indeed interesting,” he says, “that these societies are activated by and for people suffering from illnesses who, under certain dictatorships, would have been slated for euthanasia.”[31]

Again, we have another irony, as Alexander cites the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, later renamed the National Foundation/March of Dimes, as one of these worthy societies. For less than two decades after his remarks were printed, the NF/MD NF/MOD was fully committed to the “Health by Death ethic” Alexander so harshly condemned.[32]

But perhaps the greatest irony of all in his essay is Alexander’s praise of the pharmaceutical industry which he saw as a positive element of a free democratic society.[33] According to Alexander, the pharmaceutical industry, “with great vision,” has invested considerable effort in the sponsorship of new (medical) research.[34]

Conclusion of “Medical Science Under Dictatorship”

Although Alexander’s essay on the horrific course that medical science followed in Nazi Germany, his critique could have as easily been applied to Stalin’s dictatorship (1929-1953) in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) as well, but for obvious political reasons was not.[35]

That being said, I believe the conclusion of Alexander’s essay is worth quoting in full: 

Dictatorship can be indeed defined as systems in which there is a prevalence of thinking in destructive rather than in ameliorative terms in dealing with social problems. The ease with which destruction of life is advocated for those considered socially useless or socially disturbing instead of educational or ameliorative measures may be the first danger sign of loss of creative liberty in thinking, which is the hallmark of democratic society.[36]

All destructiveness ultimately leads to self-destruction; the fate of the SS and of Nazi Germany is an eloquent example. The destructive principle, once unleashed, is bound to engulf the whole personality and to occupy all its relationships. Destructive urges and destructive concepts arising therefrom cannot remain limited or focused upon one subject or several subjects alone, but must inevitably spread and be directed against one’s entire surrounding world, including one’s own group and ultimately the self. The ameliorative point of view maintained in relation to all others is the only real means of self-preservation. 

A most important need in this country is for the development of active and alert hospital centers for the treatment of chronic illnesses. They must have active staffs similar to those of the hospitals for acute illnesses, and these hospitals must be fundamentally different from the custodial repositories for derelicts, of which there are too many in existence today. Only thus can one give the right answer to divine scrutiny: Yes, we are our brothers’ keepers.[37]

The COVID-19 Experience – Physicians As Technicians 

It’s been more than seventy-two years since Dr. Leo Alexander wrote these moving words. 

Today, it’s no longer possible to talk about the “slippery slope” of euthanasia or abortion. Those days are far gone. Americans, indeed, the whole world, appears to be sitting at the bottom of the moral dung heap of the slippery slope as the COVID-19 scamdemic has clearly demonstrated.

No, we don’t have the Nazi dictatorship of the hobnail boot on our necks; we have something indescribably worse. We have the dictatorship of the test tube – of the physician turned technician as an agent of the all-powerful Deep State  as described by the French philosopher Jacques Ellul in his classic work, The Technological Society.[38] 

From every side we are commanded to “follow the science.” Few suggest we follow God and his Commandments, first and foremost. 

If there is anything that we can be grateful for from the faux COVID-19 “pandemic” that has engulfed the world, perhaps it is that God has apparently seen fit to give humanity a second and last chance to resist what has been dubbed the “New World Order,” and return to His Order of Grace, Holiness, and Virtue.

Regarding the physician turn killer, which is the main topic of this article, these two-years of the COVID-19 “pandemic” have given a totally new meaning to the axiom “Physician, heal thyself.” 

Although I read Ellul’s book a half-century ago, it wasn’t until an attending physician attempted to ram the COVID-19 vaccine into my arm, after which a lengthy verbal debate ensued followed by a quick exit (mine), did I come to appreciate what the transition from doctor to technician really means. And frankly, it scared the hell out of me.    

The Need for Hippocratic Health Centers 

There is obviously no quick fix for the deadly medical holocaust we are facing worldwide, but I think that Alexander was on to something when he talked about separate and independent non-governmental clinics or hospitals or other forms of medical facilities where doctors have taken and abide by the Hippocratic oath; where healing is recognized as an art form not a business or corporate function; where patients can truly get informed before consent; where abortion, euthanasia, and all forms of eugenics are condemned; where staff advocates can assist all, most especially, the elderly and disabled patient in obtaining both life-giving and life-saving treatments for acute and chronic diseases – in short –  full, prolife medical facilities like those we see most often associated with groups like Birthright which help mothers and their preborn children.

I believe that there is still a hard core of prolife physicians in this country and abroad, including those who sacrificed their careers to provide life-saving ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine to their COVID-19 patients, who are capable of establishing such centers so that Americans can regain a true choice in the selection of physicians and medical care they want for themselves and their families.  

The End

[1] Amazing historical footage of the Nuremberg trials are available online. See Front Row Seat at the Nuremberg Trials, November 1945 – Bing video for a good introduction to the Nuremburg war trials that followed World War II. 

[2] See Alfred Hoche and Karl Binding, The Release of the Destruction of Life Devoid of Value, Suzeteo Enterprises, Germany, 2012.

[3] Dr. Leo Alexander, M.D., “Medical Science Under Dictatorship,” Bibliographic Press, N.Y., reprint, 1996, p. 23.

[4] Ibid., p. 4.

[5] Ibid., p.4-5.

[6] See Introduction at 1993-i-accuse.pdf (cnc.bc.ca). David Holm’s English translation of the film is also  available at the same site.

[7] See Wikipedia at Ich klage an (I Accuse) at Ich klage an – Wikipedia.

[8] Jacques Ellul, Propaganda – The Formation of Men’s Attitudes, Vintage Books, 1973 reprint, p.9.

  See also Ellul’s The Technological Society, the author’s most famous work. 

[9] See https://www.hemlocksocietysandiego.org/i-accuse-ich-klage-an/.

[10] Alexander, p. 6.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid., p.7.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid., pp. 6-7.

[16] Ibid., p.7.

[17] Ibid., pp. 12-13.

[18] Ibid., p. 12.

[19] Ibid., p.14.

[20] Ibid., p.15.

[21] Ibid., p. 16.

[22] Ibid., p. 21.

[23] Ibid., p. 22.

[24] Alexander, p. 24.

[25] Malcolm Muggeridge “The Humane Holocaust,” published in Human Life Review, October 12, 2008. This essay is available at The Humane Holocaust | The Yorkville Institute (wordpress.com).

[26] Henk A.M.J. ten Have, MD, PhD, and Jos V.M. Welie, MMS, JD, PhD, “Euthanasia in the Netherlands,” Critical Care Clinics, Vol. 12, No. 1., January 1996, pp. 97-108.

[27] Ibid., p. 99.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Ibid., pp. 106-107. 

[30] Ibid., p. 30.

[31] Ibid., p. 31.

[32] See uscl.info/edoc/doc.php?doc_id=44&action=inlinedoc.php (uscl.info),  and doc.php (uscl.info).

[33] Alexander, p. 31.

[34] Ibid.

[35] General Secretary “Uncle” Joseph Stalin, attended the Yalta Post-WWII Conference in Crimea held February 4-11,1945 along with President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill for the purpose of dividing up Germany and Europe. That Stalin was responsible for the murder of more than 40 million human beings, mostly his own countrymen, was ignored by the West which had a serious case of willful amnesia in the Stalin era. By the time the West came to its senses, it was too late. See Robert Conquest, The Great Terror – A Reassessment, Oxford Press, NY, 1990.

[36] Alexander does not appear to have read Pope Leo XIII’s condemnation of the heresy of Americanism in his 1899 Apostolic Letter Testem Benevolentiae. See Testem Benevolentiae Nostrae – Papal Encyclicals.

[37] Alexander, p. 32.

[38] Jacques Ellul, The Technological Society, Alfred A. Knopf, N.Y., 1964. Originally printed in French in 1954.