Before the outbreak of World War II, racial categorization and eugenics were at the forefront of scientific inquiry. The Nazi Party subscribed itself to pseudoscientific ideas regarding genetics in order to push their racial ideologies to the brink of extremism. Hitler and other high-ranking officials had a strong vision for the future of the country. People of particular ethnic backgrounds and conditions were not in line with that vision. It was believed that the only way to truly purify the nation would be to purge it of any “inferiors.” It was this reasoning that fueled the fires that would engulf the lives of at least 6 million people. Exterminating the population currently in existence was not good enough, they needed to push the agenda even further. The Nazi’s sought to entirely eradicate entire groups of people for good through the use of various methods of forced sterilization.

“The frailest woman will become a heroine when the life of her own child is at stake. And only the will to save the race and native land or the State, which offers protection to the race, has in all ages been the urge which has forced men to face the weapons of their enemies.”

― Adolph Hitler, Mein Kampf

By 1933 the Nazi Party had passed legislation for the sterilization of the sick and disabled. Sterilization laws stated that institutionalized individuals and those with genetic illnesses were to undergo surgical sterilizations. This would come to be expanded to criminals, homosexuals, and mixed-race children (Rosenberg). Heinrich Himmler, a German Nazi politician and one of the main architects of the holocaust, began seeking out doctors whose research could uncover quicker and more effective methods of sterilizing large groups of people. It was not only unfathomable to perform surgical sterilizations on all prisoners, but it also had too long of a recovery time. Camps depended on the forced temporary labor of the prisoners and recovery times of surgical castrations were typically between 3-4 weeks. 

In 1938, Himmler assigned such a task to Dr. Carl Clauberg, a trained gynecologist who had been behind groundbreaking research assisting infertile women in conceiving (Girgis). Before joining the Nazi Party, he had worked as head of the Department of Women’s Disease in Chorzów, Germany. Not only was he a leading figurehead in the field of reproduction at the time, but many of his findings are still considered to be medical canon. In fact, his research even helped in the future development of the birth control pill. Himmler tasked him and other medical professionals with finding both a quick and effective means of sterilizing large groups of people (Girgis). Clauberg performed his experiments on prisoners in Auschwitz and Ravensbruck during his career. In block 10 at Auschwitz, on the second floor, between 150-400 women were held there and injected with prepared toxins. The toxin would cause a localized reaction involving the swelling, and obstruction, of the fallopian tubes. Complications included peritonitis, hemorrhages, fever, sepsis, and organ failure. Some of the prisoners who lived through the experiments were later put to death deliberately in order to allow for autopsies to be performed (“Carl Clauberg”). In 1943 Carl Clauberg sent correspondence to Himmler with the following message:

“The non-surgical method of sterilizing women that I have invented is now almost perfected…If the research that I am carrying out continues to yield the sort of results that it has produced so far, then I shall be able to report in the foreseeable future that one experienced physician, with an appropriately equipped office and the aid of ten auxiliary personnel, will be able to carry out in the span of a single day the sterilization of hundreds, or even 1,000 women” (“Auschwitz-Birkenau”).

Another physician assigned to study methods of sterilization was Dr. Hurst Shuman. His experiments took place in the Birkenau camp and mainly involved  radiation. He would expose men’s testes and women’s ovaries to x-rays in order to discover the perfect dosage of radiation to render them sterile. X-ray sterilization caused burns and open sores on prisoners and the method was far less predictable than the findings of Clauberg. After many “failed” tests, Schumann would go on to express an open preference for surgical castration over the x-ray, whose results were overall unsatisfactory. 

By the end of 1945 it is estimated that between 300,000 and 450,000 people were sterilized against their will. The Nazi party used scientific development to carry out complete biological destruction. Only a fraction of the individuals experimented on who survived the genocide would be able to eventually have biological children. Many more of the victims would go through their adult lives watching other couples build families around them. Thousands of men and women were deprived of the chance to naturally conceive a child of their own. They were excluded from one of the most fundamentally important roles we can play as human beings by the Nazi Party, whose horrors and capabilities must not to be forgotten. 

You can take a virtual tour through Block 10 at Auschwitz HERE

Courtesy of

Until Next Time



·         “Auschwitz-Birkenau: Nazi Medical Experimentation.” Jewish Virtual Library. Accessed 30 March, 2023.

·         “Carl Clauberg.” Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum. Accessed 30 March, 2023.

·         Girgis, Linda. “Top 14 Most Evil Doctors of the Last Two centuries.” Physician’s Weekly. 25 October, 2019. Accessed 30 March, 2023.

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