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The Case of the Viennese Infanticidal Doctors:
A Gestapo Investigation into British Clandestine Radio Broadcasts
By Lee Richards

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Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1978-056-04A / CC-BY-SA [CC-BY-SA-3.0-de (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons

As the Federal Broadcasting Intelligence Service monitor thumbed the dial of his shortwave receiver and reached the 30 metre band, the voice of an Austrian Catholic priest in mid-sermon broke through the static...

"...My dear Catholics", the Priest announced, "While I am speaking here, the nurslings are being killed in cold blood in the Vienna University Children's Clinic - victims of a so-called scientific experiment in the service of the university. Without anything at all being said to their mothers, these small, innocent human beings lose their lives, in order to satisfy the desire for knowledge and the scientific ambition of two young physicians; these poor creatures starve until they die. The cold materialism of the heathenish authoritarian class has already progressed so far that these scientific experiments were carried out, and are being carried out still further, in spite of the most vigorous protests of Catholic doctors of this clinic. They have called these Catholic doctors 'out of date' and 'unprogressive', and have shouted them down." i

The priest went on to explain that two SS doctors at the Viennese clinic were conducting an experiment to analyse levels of Vitamin A remaining in the livers of deliberately starved newborn and under two year old children. SS doctors Goll and Fuchs were responsible for the deaths of twenty infants and still their experiments continued as "our godless rulers consider such experiments necessary".

The priest concluded the sermon with a prayer beseeching the Lord to curse the pride of the godless and suppress their insolence. The broadcast closed with its usual parting words "Long live Christ the King".

This Catholic radio station was rumoured to be under the direction of the Vatican but, unbeknown to the American radio monitors, was in fact a British clandestine station. ii Broadcasting from the heartland of rural Bedfordshire, it was in reality under the direction of Daily Express foreign correspondent Sefton Delmer. The priest making this broadcast in the late evening of 3 March 1943 was however a genuine Austrian clergyman named Father Eisenberger. Although the content of this particular broadcast was rather unsettling and could easily be dismissed as mere atrocity propaganda, the core story was actually based in truth. Dr. Herbert Goll and Dr. Leopold Fuchs were employed by the Pharmacological Institute of the University of Vienna and had been conducting research into Vitamin A deficiency in starved children. Preliminary results of their research were published in a Munich weekly medical journal in May 1942. This journal article almost certainly provided the background for Father Eisenberger's broadcast that night.

The story of the Viennese infant murdering doctors was revisited nine months later in a broadcast by another of Delmer's clandestine radio stations Kurzwellensender Atlantik. The shortwave station Atlantik was mostly directed towards German U-boat crews operating in the North Atlantic but soon included programmes for the whole Wehrmacht. It also included disturbing home news on the extent of Allied bombing of Germany and the corruption of war-profiteering Nazi bosses. On the evening of 7 December 1943, Atlantik added a new twist to the story:

"Rudolf Zeuchter attempted to murder SS-Sturmbannführer Dr. Goll of the Vienna University Clinic. Zeuchter, a soldier, on his return from the front, learned that his little daughter had died six weeks ago in the University Clinic and that she was one of twenty infants what, for experimental purposes, had been exposed to a hunger diet until one child after another had died." iii

The broadcast then repeated the details of the doctors' medical research into the levels of Vitamin A in the livers of infants following starvation diets.

The next instalment came in March 1944 when Atlantik followed up the story with additional developments:

"A report on the intentionally induced death of twenty infants through starvation, the result of racial-biological experiments by two SS doctors, will be presented to the special conference of bishops which will convene next week under the leadership of the Archbishop of Cologne. The report describes experiments that were conducted on twenty infants at the University Children's Clinic in Vienna by SS Hauptsturmführer Dr. Fuchs and SS Sturmbannführer Dr. Goll, to determine to what extent the human liver can compensate for the lack of Vitamin A.  The twenty infants on whom the experiments were conducted received a limited diet until they died.  A few of the infants, who received none of the vitamin, died in a few days or weeks.  Other infants placed on a limited diet lived for up to eighteen months. SS Hauptsturmführer Dr. Fuchs and SS Sturmbannführer Dr. Goll have repeatedly claimed that these socially beneficial racial-biological experiments were only conducted on children who were not viable or had diseases that would sooner or later have led to their deaths anyway."

This last transmission so concerned the German Security Services that the State Police Chief in Vienna was instructed to investigate the allegations concerning the doctors. iv Over a month later and following numerous correspondence the Police Chief replied to the Reich Security Office in Berlin. The Police Chief confirmed that the two doctors work at the Vienna clinic and did undertake the research ascribed to them. The results of their initial work was published in the Sonderdruck der Münchner Medizinischen Wochenschrift, No. 18, 1942, and he concluded was the likely source for the Atlantik broadcast.

The Vienna Police Chief also put on record that the experiments "were only carried out on premature babies or children who died shortly after birth, or on non-viable children." He also pointed out that neither of the doctors had ever belonged to the SS, neither had they been active in politics nor activities supporting the police and enjoy very good reputations. Although Dr. Goll had previously been a member of the Hitler Youth and had been a member of the Nazi Party since 1 May 1938.

In the interim the Director of the Vienna University Children's Clinic, a Prof. Dr. Hamburger, was informed in a letter from the Reich Health Office about the enemy broadcasts. The letter warned:

"It may perhaps be appropriate to be somewhat more cautious when summarising planned experiments so that they are not needlessly exploited."

But the warning was immediately followed with reassurance:

"As specifically directed by the Chief of Reich Health, however, I confirm to you that such experiments should, in the interests of science, absolutely continue to be conducted, since they do involve non-viable children.  Please do not take my letter as criticism, but rather as a suggestion for how to handle scientific efforts in the current war."

The reaction of the German authorities to the British clandestine broadcasts is illuminating. What the Reich Security documents make clear is that the German authorities were certainly not concerned about the nature of the doctors' experiments and indeed encouraged them but their primary worry was the experiments becoming common knowledge and also being associated with the SS.

 


i Federal Broadcasting Intelligence Service transcript of short wave broadcast of Clandestine German Catholic Station, March 3, 1943, US National Archives and Records Administration, Record Group 262.

ii See Black Boomerang by Denis Sefton Delmer, page 123.

iii G.9 Rumours, 7 December 1943, The UK National Archives, FO 898/72.

iv The following Gestapo and SD reports were captured and distributed by the US Information Control Division Intelligence Section. The documents were discovered in a safe of the Abteilung IV A 1 of the Reichssicherheitshauptamt in Berlin. German transcripts of the documents are in the Daniel Lerner collection, Box 4, Folder 3, Hoover Institution Archives. They have kindly been translated into English by William S Robinson.



 

 

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