Siegfried Handloser

born on 03/25/1885 in Konstanz
died on 07/03/1954 in Munich

DGIM Member 1937 – 1954

Siegfried Handloser joined the committee of the DGIM in 1937 as a de facto Nazi emissary. He only got here through his political role, not through scientific achievement. He had not previously been a member of the DGIM.

Siegfried Handloser had studied at the Kaiser Wilhelm Academy for Military Medical Education. As a staunch military doctor, he became a consultant in the Army Medical Inspectorate of the Reich Ministry of the Armed Forces in 1928, corps and military district physician V in Stuttgart in 1932, and general staff and army group physician in Dresden in 1935. His further career took him to Army Group Command 3 in Vienna in 1938. He was Army Medical Inspector and Army Surgeon in the General Quartermaster's Office of the Army High Command from February 1941, and was appointed as the first Chief of Wehrmacht Medical Services ("Chief W San") at the High Command of the Wehrmacht in June/July 1942.1

Superior Wehrmacht Physician Authorized to Issue Orders

He cooperated with Ernst Robert Grawitz, "Reichsarzt-SS und Polizei," but was not his superior.2 But he was "superior to all medical personnel of the war army in medical service matters and superior to troops in all medical units of the armed forces in the war," including medical units of the Waffen-SS.3 Although the position of "Chief W San" was not a strong one, Handloser thus became responsible for all medical crimes in the Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS.4  At any rate, he did not fulfill his "duty of supervision" over the medical officers who were committing crimes in the concentration camps according to the strictly formal view of Wolfgang U. Eckart.5

Handloser experienced increasing criticism during the war, as there were deficiencies in medical supplies, which eventually came to a complete collapse. 6Although he was replaced as army medical inspector and army physician by Lieutenant General Paul Walter in the fall of 1944, he remained Chief W San and thus formally the top Wehrmacht physician authorized to give orders.7 Handloser worked on an academic career in parallel. He became an honorary professor at the universities of Vienna (1939) and Berlin (1943).8

Co-Responsible for Human Experiments at Buchenwald Concentration Camp

Handloser attended a meeting on December 29, 1941, at which it was decided to conduct human experiments to test typhus vaccines at Buchenwald concentration camp. They resulted in the deaths of about 100 people. The meeting was also attended by "Reichsgesundheitsführer" (Reich Health Leader) Leonardo Conti, the head of the Hygiene Institute of the Waffen-SS Joachim Mrugowsky, the president of the Reich Health Office Hans Reiter and the head of the Robert Koch Institute Eugen Gildemeister.9

Promoter of Forced Prostitution

Handloser actively operated the organization of forced prostitution in the territories occupied by the German Reich. It fell under the purview of the Wehrmacht Medical Service, of which he had been chief since February 1941.10 Handloser strove to minimize the danger of venereal disease and to prevent "sexual intercourse with Jewish women."11 Orderly prostitution was also intended to avoid undesirable contact with women in the occupied territories, which could have been used for espionage purposes. After Hitler refused parole for soldiers convicted of homosexual acts in 1942, Handloser turned his attention to this issue as well. In this context, the establishment of more Wehrmacht brothels to "remedy the sexual emergency" was discussed.12

Imprisonment for Life

Handloser was sentenced to life imprisonment for war crimes and crimes against humanity during the Nuremberg medical trial. The sentence was reduced to 20 years imprisonment by U.S. High Commissioner John McCloy on January 31, 1951. Housed in the Landsberg Fortress, he received temporary assistance, probably mostly in the form of food parcels, from Ernst Boehringer, co-owner of Boehringer Ingelheim.13

Following the ruling, it was expected that the DGIM would advocate on behalf of Handloser. The chairmen of 1949 and 1950, Curt Oehme and Walter Frey, initially reacted cautiously. Oehme, who in the case of the assessment of Wilhelm Beiglböck and his seawater drinking experiments considered intervention to be reasonable only on medical grounds – unlike Frey – clearly expressed: "In the case of Handloser, I pronounced [sic] the opinion that we can only correct factual medical errors. The questions of jurisprudence do not fall in our realm. It is correct that both are basically rooted in a sense of justice and injustice, but this is where paths [sic] clearly divert."14

DGIM in Favor of Pardon

Oehme's position did not prevail. After deliberations in a specially established three-member commission (Heilmeyer, Schoen, Kauffmann), the DGIM leadership decided to intervene, which may have been instrumental in mitigating Handloser's sentence.15 The DGIM addressed McCloy in a one-and-a-half-page letter on June 10, 1950. The letter stated, among other things: "The German Society of Internal Medicine feels obliged to ask you, High Commissioner, to give the Handloser case your sympathetic attention and to help correct an obvious error of judgment. The conviction was based on assumptions, which have since been proven to be incorrect. [...] The older and respected members of the German Society for Internal Medicine have known Professor Handloser for many years and cooperated with him for medical tasks during the war in some cases. They are convinced of the integrity of his personality and do not believe that he approved or promoted crimes against humanity and against the ethos of the physician. They do also not believe that the experiments in concentration camps were carrie out under his authority. [...] As much as we desire rehabilitation through revision of the sentence, our concern as a scientific association of physicians is primarily to obtain, by the most expeditious means of pardon, a reversal of the imprisonment which we consider unworthy and unjust."16

Confirmation of DGIM Membership

Handloser, through his former collaborator, Wiesbaden-based DGIM member Hans Hartleben, thanked the professional society, but felt vilified by McCloy's accompanying statements to the amnesty, which emphasized the fundamental culpability of those pardoned.17 Upon Hartleben's request, Secretary Friedrich Kauffmann later informed him that "of course he would continue to be a member of our Society": "Let me assure you that I have taken a sincere interest in your fate throughout the years that have passed since the end of the war, and our Society could not muster any sympathy whatsoever for your hard lot."18 Handloser died a few weeks after Kauffmann's confirmation of membership. In his letter of condolence to his widow, Kauffmann emphasized "that the German Society of Internal Medicine has always taken the position that grave injustice was inflicted on your husband in the postwar years."19

However, he was no longer listed in the official membership directories. When Heinrich Pette commemorated the deceased members at the opening of the congress in 1955, he found appreciative words for Handloser: "To many of us he was closely connected in human terms by his comradely spirit. [...] The German Society for Internal Medicine has endeavored to correct and soften the harsh judgment passed on him in Nuremberg for years. We will honor the memory of this upright German man."20


See Insa Meinen, Wehrmacht und Prostitution während des Zweiten Weltkriegs im besetzten Frankreich, Bremen 2002, p.12; Ernst Klee, Auschwitz, die NS-Medizin und ihre Opfer, 4th ed. Frankfurt am Main 1997, p. 142 f.; ; Alexander Neumann, "Arzttum ist immer Kämpfertum". Die Heeressanitätsinspektion und das Amt "Chef des Wehrmachtssanitätswesens" im Zweiten Weltkrieg (1939-1945). Düsseldorf 2005, p. 112; Judith Hahn, Grawitz, Genzken, Gebhardt. Drei Karrieren im Sanitätsdienst der SS, Münster 2008, pp. 361 f.; Horst Zoske, Handloser, Siegfried Adolf, in: Neue Deutsche Biographie 7 (1966), pp. 608 f. (, accessed Feb. 12, 2014); Wolfgang U. Eckart, Generaloberstabsarzt Prof. Dr. med. Siegfried Handloser, in: Gerd R. Ueberschär (ed.), Hitlers militärische Elite. 68 Lebensläufe, 3rd ed. Darmstadt 2015, pp. 359-363.On the competencies, see Neumann, Arzttum, p. 119; Hahn, Grawitz, p. 398. See also Wolfgang U. Eckart, SS-Obergruppenführer and General der Waffen-SS Prof. Dr. med. Ernst Grawitz, in Ueberschär, Elite, vol. 2, pp. 63-71.Cited in Neumann, Arzttum, p. 86; cf. Hahn, Grawitz, p. 224.See Hahn, Grawitz, p. 362; Eckart, Handloser, pp. 88 ff.Eckart, Generaloberstabsarzt, p. 89.See Eckart, Generaloberstabsarzt, p. 89.See Eckart, Generaloberarzt, p. 89.See Zoske, Handloser.See Hahn, Grawitz, p. 328 and, for the overall context, Thomas Werther, Fleckfieberforschung im Deutschen Reich 1914-1945. Untersuchungen zur Beziehung zwischen Wissenschaft, Industrie und Politik unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der IG Farben, Diss. phil. Marburg 2004 (, on the calculation of those killed ibid, p. 118.See Meinen, Wehrmacht, p.12.Regina Mühlhäuser, Eroberungen. Sexuelle Gewalttaten und intime Beziehungen deutscher Soldaten in der Sowjetunion 1941-1945, Hamburg 2010, p. 226.See Meinen, Wehrmacht, p.12.See Michael Kißener, Boehringer Ingelheim im Nationalsozialismus. Studien zur Geschichte eines mittelständischen chemisch-pharmazeutischen Unternehmens, Stuttgart 2015 (= Historische Mitteilungen, Beihefte 90), p. 205 f.DGIM-Geschäftsstelle Wiesbaden, file Handloser, Oehme to Kauffmann, 1. 6.1949, carbon copy.DGIM-Geschäftsstelle Wiesbaden, file Bickenbach, Kauffmann to Berg, 30.3.1954.DGIM-Geschäftsstelle Wiesbaden, file Handloser, DGIM to McCloy, 10.6.1950, carbon copy.DGIM-Geschäftsstelle Wiesbaden, file Handloser, Handloser to Hertleben, 25.3.1951.DGIM-Geschäftsstelle Wiesbaden, file Handloser, Kauffmann to Handloser, 20.2.1954, carbon copy.DGIM-Geschäftsstelle Wiesbaden, file Handloser, Kauffmann to Elli Handloser, 15.7.1954, carbon copy.Heinrich Pette, opening address, in: Verhandlungen der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Innere Medizin 61 (1955), p. 1 f.

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