Seminar: Medicine and Criminal Medical Experiments under the Nazis

Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial, Centre for Historical Studies


Two-day seminar (6-7 hours each day) or study day (6-7 hours)


Designed for people interested in this subject, especially nursing students, this seminar addresses how medical and nursing staff participated in the “euthanasia” killings of the Nazis. We also talk about the medical situation in Neuengamme concentration camp. Participants not only have the chance to explore the grounds and exhibitions on their own and in a guided tour, they also gain in-depth knowledge about the medical crimes committed by the Nazis both within and outside the concentration camp system. In the first part of the seminar, we focus on how the concept of health developed under the Nazis as well as the relationship between propaganda, racism, and health and social welfare policies (for example, forced sterilisations). In the next step, we talk about the mass killings (“euthanasia” and “child euthanasia”) of patients from 1939 to 1945 and the participation of medical and nursing staff. What chances were available to those actively involved to act differently? How did nurses and physicians justify themselves in court after 1945? At the end of this section, we focus on the question of the responsibility of medical practitioners and how most continued their careers virtually without interruption after 1945. In the second section, the participants learn about what the medical situation was like in the Neuengamme concentration camp. Breaking down into small groups, we work with accounts and drawings by prisoners and reports by SS physicians, some of which can be found in the memorial exhibitions, using these as a basis for exploring the following issues: the situation in the infirmary and the so called convalescence blocks where prisoners too ill to work were kept (Schonungsblocks), how the “euthanasia” killings of concentration camp prisoners continued, how medical experiments were conducted on prisoners, how the ill and weak were treated, and the significance of systematic malnutrition. The groups then present their research to the whole class for a discussion revolving around the question: How does what I have learned in this seminar affect me and my work in nursing today?


Study Day Variation
We recommend offering this seminar in the form of a study day only for groups who already know the Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial well. Working with the exhibitions and grounds takes several hours, leaving only enough time to enlarge upon a limited selection of the topics mentioned above.



Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial, Centre for Historical Studies

Jean-Dolidier-Weg 75

21039 Hamburg

Phone: +49 40 – 4 28 13 522