Australian POWs in Crete were the subjects of medical experiments by a Nazi doctor during World War II

The Mail — Australian troops were among those subjected to atrocious wartime experiments by Nazi doctors during World War II, researchers have revealed.

The Sydney Jewish Museum’s resident historian, Professor Konrad Kwiet, and doctor and academic George Weisz have been investigating files Dr Weisz found detailing how five Australian prisoners of war were intentionally infected with hepatitis when they were held captive.

An SS doctor, Friedrich Meythaler, carried out the experiments while the men were held captive on the Greek island of Crete after being captured when Germans invaded the island in May 1941.

The soldiers were held on the Greek island of Crete after being captured when the German forces invaded in May 1941.

German forces took more than 1000 Australian troops prisoner after their invasion of Crete.

Dr Meythaler took their blood, x-rayed them, then injected them with blood from German soldiers infected with hepatitis.  The Australian prisoners of war who were taken captive and subjected to experiments have not been identified.

The doctor, who was studying human-to-human infection of hepatitis, monitored the men, finding after a few days they had enlarged livers, then increasing temperatures, among other symptoms.

Although they did not die from the experimentation, Prof Kwiet told the ABC it was not known how long the men suffered.

‘It falls into an area where those who are subjected to those crimes did not die, but we don’t know as to whether these experiments have had longer effects on the person.’

One of the POWs escaped to Egypt, before being shipped to Australia and reportedly notifying the military.

The other four were eventually taken back to a POW camp in a region of Germany.

One died after being shot while attempting escape, while the other three survived their imprisonment and eventually returned to Australia.

Prof Kwiet told the ABC ‘it’s a totally forgotten or unknown chapter in the history of Australian military men exposed to German experimentation.’

Dr Meythaler went on to publish his findings on hepatitis and become an expert in the field, as well as becoming director of medicine at Nuremburg Hospital and a professor at Erlangen University.

‘He was engaged in experiments that the Nazi regime offered him, enhancing his career and moving into an area of research that he normally would not have achieved in a more civilised or democratic society,’ Mr Kwiet said.

In a bizarre coincidence, Prof Kwiet – who was born in Germany in 1941 – found out while researching the story that once, long ago, his mother and sister, who were both doctors, met Dr Meythaler.

Prof Kwiet and Dr Weisz intend to publish a paper on their findings later in 2016.

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