Stories of torture and terror in death camps like Auschwitz are all-too common when reading about the Holocaust, but a surprisingly small number of people are familiar with the terrible story of what happened to the children of Bullenhuser Damm.
The story was set into motion by Kurt Heissmeyer, an SS physician. Heissmeyer wanted to obtain a professorship but was unable to do so without presenting original research of a medical nature. His focus was on tuberculosis, and he wanted to prove that the injection of live tuberculosis bacteria into subjects would serve as a vaccine against the drug. He also wanted to prove that race played a factor in the development of the disease. Both of these ideas had already been disproven, but Heissmeyer was undeterred.
After experimenting with Slavs and Jews held prisoner by the SS, Heissmeyer moved his attention to Jewish children. Josef Mengele selected ten boys and ten girls from the Auschwitz concentration camp. Along with the children, four women prisoners were also sent to Heissmeyer. Of these, two were nurses, one was a doctor, and one a pharmacist. All of the women except for the doctor – Paula Trocki – were killed upon arriving.
Heissmeyer injected the children with tuberculosis and removed their lymph nodes surgically. The children were watched and examined as their diseases progressed. Quickly, the children became seriously ill as the disease ravaged their bodies.
By April 20th, 1945, the war was nearly over. Hitler was underground in his bunker, his suicide fast approaching. Heissmeyer realized that the war was over as well, and decided to murder the children to try to hide the experiments from the Allies. The children were transported to the Bullenhuser Damm School and taken into the basement of the building.
The children were told that they had to be vaccinated against typhoid, and were then injected with high doses of morphine. Then, they were taken to an adjoining room and hung from hooks on the wall. The first child was so light that an SS officer had to 'hug' the child and use his own weight to tighten the noose and kill the child. The rest were hung two at a time. None of the children were older than twelve years of age. The murders occurred while the British army was just three short miles from the camp.
Today, the Bullenhuser Damm Memorial remains open as a way of remembering the all-too short lives of these children.
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