Nazi Doctors, Sexism and Lung Cancer

In Hitler’s opinion women should have focused solely on Kinder, Kuche, Kirche1 . German sexism predated Hitler. This created a beneficial situation for Nazi doctors. Women provided a huge control group for their epidemiological studies into lung cancer.2 They knew many men got lung cancer but women, in general, didn’t. The question was: Why? Nazi doctors discovered a correlation between smoking and lung cancer. The Nazi machine attempted to reduce tobacco use using the law and PR. Nazi discoveries about lung cancer were obliterated by a complete distaste for all their medical research. Most Nazi doctors were members of the SS so this further damned their research.

The Nazi ideal family

Hitler was a teetotal, non-smoking, vegetarian who believed in racial purity and the Master Race. Nazi science was focused on fulfilling Hitler’s beliefs. No specific orders were necessary as everyone was ‘working towards the Fuhrer’. Focussing on Hitler’s beliefs led to eugenics, the Holocaust, and dehumanising non-Germans and those Germans with significant disabilities, in brief, the complete perversion of medical scientific research. Nazi lung cancer research, on the other hand, was a triumph, which followed international procedures.

Sport, diet and healthy lifestyles were promoted throughout Nazi Germany.3 Nazi doctor Werner Huttig’s research proved tobacco damaged unborn children.4 Research at the prestigious Institute for the Struggle Against Tobacco Hazards at Jena University was led by Karl Astel. It was based on the pragmatic belief, We cannot change our genes, but at least we can safeguard them from future damage.”5 The Nazis were attempting to protect their citizens from a known hazard by using research into the harm tobacco caused. Jena University was well funded and this research had a high priority for the Nazis and, specifically, Hitler himself.

SS Doctor Karl Astel

Karl Astel was the director of Jena University and epitomises why Nazi science was ditched in the post-war period. Astel was a high ranking SS officer. He embraced Nazi philosophy, committing barbaric experiments in his so-called medical research projects. He committed suicide to avoid execution before the Nazi Doctors Trial,6 1946-7, even began. Only seven of twenty-three doctors on trial were executed and those who were jailed didn’t serve their full sentence. (The Allies had an amoral attitude towards Nazi scientists. They were an intellectual elite and had soft skills, which normal SS thugs didn’t have. They also often had skills that were in demand. The case of Wernher von Braun, the rocket scientist, is the most egregious example.)

A Nazi anti-smoking poster

Nazi research into tobacco’s effect drove policy. The Nazis were very keen to translate research into social action.
The Nazi anti-tobacco campaign included banning smoking in trams, buses, and city trains, promoting health education, limiting cigarette rations in the Wehrmacht, organizing medical lectures for soldiers, and raising the tobacco tax. The Nazis also imposed restrictions on tobacco advertising and smoking in public spaces, and regulated restaurants and coffee houses.7
The Nazis even identified passive smoking as a health hazard to non-smokers, hence the regulations in restaurants and the workplace.

They had compelling evidence and they used to it to try to create the pure society they craved. The tragedy of Astel’s Jena University research group was that they were grouped in with the horrific SS medical barbarisms. The result was that in Britain it took 75 years to catch up with Nazi Germany’s anti-smoking campaigns at a cost of hundreds of thousands of lives.

1 Children, Kitchen, Church

2 Epidemiological studies Epidemiology is the study of how often diseases occur in different groups of people and why. Epidemiological information is used to plan and evaluate strategies to prevent illness and as a guide to the management of patients in whom disease has already developed.

3 “Nazi Germany was governed by a health-conscious political elite bent on European conquest and genocidal extermination..”


see also the work done on tobacco and reduced fertility of women

Hitler helped finance Jena


6 Surprisingly Astel might have made a mistake as many SS doctors got relatively light sentences. Martin Staemmler, for example, carried on as a doctor- researcher in the post-war period.

For Staemmler see where he was implicated in the thalidomide scandal

7 When the British government introduced similar measures in 2007 this was characterised as being ‘brave’.

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