The prisoners at Ravensbruck Concentration Camp learned to fear Dr. Fritz Fischer once they put two and two together, for each time Fischer and his boss Dr. Gebhardt came from Hohenlychen Sanatarium women suddenly disappeared. Lists of prisoners were called to the Revier, the camp clinic, and it was soon full of women lying in casts or paper bandages. The gossip network at the camp was stronger than the German camp administration ever realized and before long the whole camp knew the doctors were operating on healthy women.
Thinking they had anonymity since they placed towels over the patient’s faces during the operations, Fischer and Gebhardt (above) performed operations on healthy Polish women, who became known as “The Rabbits.” The operations were performed to test the efficacy of sulfa drugs, below.
Fischer and Gebhardt also removed healthy limbs from prisoners for use at the sanatarium. In Fischer’s trial testimony he describes in detail how he removed a prisoner’s arm, including the scapula, wrapped it in a clean sheet and drove with it back to Hohenlychen to surgically attach to Germans man named Ladisch. It is interesting to note that Fischer himself lost an arm on the battlefield.
Fritz worked under Dr. Karl Gebhardt, who headed up the posh Hohenlychen Sanatarium, a few kilometers from the Furstenburg Camp. A former TB clinic, the sanatarium was an elite place that earned quite a reputation during the Olympics in 1938, when athletes came here for training and rehabilitation. Both Himmler and Rudolf Hess practically lived there when not on official duty elsewhere.
Once the war ended, Dr. Fischer was tried in the Doctors Trial in Nuremberg. In the photo above Fischer is seated in the second row, far right, next to his colleaugeue Herta Oberheuser. The press dubbed Fischer, Oberheauser and Gebhardt “The Hohenlychen Three” since all three worked at the sanatarium at one point and had also participated in the experiments. Though Fischer testified in detail about his part in the operations, he was one of the few doctors who showed remorse at the trial and openly talked about how he felt badly operating on healthy young women. His attitude may have helped him live, for unlike Gebhardt, Fischer was not condemned to die.
Fischer was sentenced to life imprisonment but his time was reduced to 15 years in 1951 and he was released in March 1954. He continued to practice medicine and began a new career in Ingelheim, at the chemical company Boehringer, where he stayed until his retirement.