Herta Oberheuser (15 May 1911 in Cologne, was a Nazi physician and a war criminal who worked at the Auschwitz and Ravensbrückconcentration camps from 1940 until 1943.
In 1937, Oberheuser obtained her medical degree in Bonn, having specialized in dermatology. Soon thereafter she joined the Nazi Party as an intern, and later served as doctor for the League of German Girls In 1940. Despite her political loyalty and willingness to devote long hours at the pediatric clinic, Oberheuser soon realized that as a woman in Nazi Germany her chances of receiving equal treatment in relation to her male colleagues in medicine were virtually nil. Indeed, the discrimination at the Düsseldorf clinic was blatant and hurtful, particularly financially. At a time when specialized medical textbooks could cost as much as 70 reichsmarks, Oberheuser’s monthly salary was 100 reichsmarks. Her male counterparts in Düsseldorf earned fully four times that amount. In 1940, she saw an advertisement in a Nazi medical journal about a job as medical officer for the “medical care of female criminals” at the Ravensbrück concentration camp. Since it paid a significantly higher salary than the one she was earning in Düsseldorf, Oberheuser applied for the position and was accepted. Oberheuser was appointed to serve as an assistant to Karl Gebhardt, then Chief Surgeon of the Schutzstaffel and Heinrich Himmler‘s personal doctor and confident, and with Fritz Ernst Fischer.
Oberheuser and Gebhardt came to Ravensbrück in 1942 in order to conduct experiments on its prisoners, with an emphasis on finding better methods of treating infection. They conducted gruesome medical experiments (treating purposefully infected wounds with sulfanilamide, as well as bone, muscle, and nerve regeneration and transplantation) on 86 women, 74 of whom were Polish political prisoners in the camp. She killed healthy children with oil and evipan injections, then removed their limbs and vital organs. The time from the injection to death was between three and five minutes, with the person being fully conscious until the last moment. She performed some of the most gruesome and painful medical experiments, focusing on deliberately inflicting wounds on the subjects. In order to simulate the combat wounds of German soldiers fighting in the war, Oberheuser rubbed foreign objects, such as wood, rusty nails, slivers of glass, dirt, or sawdust into the cuts.
Herta Oberheuser was the only female defendant in the Nuremberg “Doctors” Trial.
where she was sentenced to 20 years in prison—a sentence later reduced to five years.
Oberheuser was released in April 1952 for good behavior and became a family doctor in West Germany. She lost her position in 1956, after a Ravensbrück survivor recognized her, and her license to practice medicine was revoked in 1958. She died on 24-01-1978, age 66, in Linz am Rhein.