Nazi Dentists on Trial: On the Political Complicity of a Long-Neglected Professional Community

Endeavour. 2020 Mar-Jun;44(1-2):100710. doi: 10.1016/j.endeavour.2020.100710. Epub 2020 Jul 27.


Studies on the complicity of the medical profession in the crimes of the Third Reich are on the rise. This also applies to the question of the extent to which doctors were brought to justice in international trials after World War II. This topic, however, has hardly been considered-let alone systematically investigated-with respect to German dentists. It is precisely this gap that this article will address. First, we quantitatively identify all dentists who were brought to justice in the post-war period. Second, we give a profile of this group. We focus on the following questions: Who among the group was brought to trial, and when? What crimes were they accused of, which sentences were handed down, and how did these sentences affect their future lives? Our study is based primarily on archival sources, which we analyzed with respect to the relevant secondary literature. Contrary to the widely-held assumption that dentists had almost never had been made to stand trial after the end of the war, we identified 48 dentists who were accused in court. The prototypical accused dentist was male, lived in a traditional family model, belonged to the National Socialist Workers' Party (NSDAP) and the Waffen-SS (Schutzstaffel), and was part of the so-called Kriegsjugendgeneration. The most frequent allegations made against these men were the theft of dental gold of murdered Nazi victims, an accusation unique to dentists; (accessory to) murder or manslaughter; and involvement in the deadly selections made in the concentration camps. In total, eight dentists were executed. Generally speaking, the earlier these proceedings and the sentencing took place, the harsher the sentence was. Many of those who received prison sentences subsequently found their way back into the dental profession.

Keywords: Death penalty; Dentists; Nazi crimes; World War II.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Dental Care / history*
  • Dentists / history*
  • Ethics, Dental / history
  • Germany
  • History, 20th Century
  • Human Experimentation / history
  • Humans
  • National Socialism / history*
  • War Crimes / history*
  • World War II*