Why Fritz Fischer was one of the most feared doctors at Ravensbruck.


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.

10 thoughts on “Why Fritz Fischer was one of the most feared doctors at Ravensbruck.”

  1. I suggest the novel, “Lilac Girls” for an insider view of the Ravenbruck medical experiments. Told from the viewpoint of an unrepentant Dr. Herta Obeuser, it is remarkable in its cold narrative. To follow up on sentencing if her and her colleagues, I found where long sentences were reduced to five years for her and fifteen for others. Truly disgusting and frightening.

  2. I have had to look up all of the people in your WONDERFUL book Lilac Girls! Thank you for writing such an informative book on a history so many of us THOUGHT we knew!! What beautiful strong women you wrote about! I will always remember them. It saddens me to know that the perpetrators weren’t punished enough. What makes it even worse is that our country had a say in that. Angry and sad…

    1. It makes me happy you will remember them, Jeanne. That was my goal in writing the book.

  3. I have just finished reading Lilac Girls and I too, have googled all the characters. Good books can have such an effect on us. I also thought I had some knowledge of the war but this was all new to me. How brave these wonderful women were, I feel I know them personally but I don’t think I would be as courageous as them. We should never forget them, especially now, with our world in such turmoil.

  4. It is sad to think after all the suffering, a bargain was made to reduce the sentences
    of such awful people. i thought people were more important than politics. Silly me!
    To all those who suffered, including a dear friend, I am so sorry.

  5. I just ordered the book lilac girls i passed it up before i am not sure why since the holocaust is a topic i frequently read about. Now very much looking forward to reading this on my kindle tonight.
    I am wondering how it was that Franz Ficher was able to live freely in the town of Ingleheim . Were he and his wife not ostracized ?
    It really is mind boggling that he received so little in the way of punishment, was able to live a long life and remained married to his wife! Held a job! A good job. Everything a normal person could do, he did . Fritz Ficher should have remained locked away for life . He did not deserve forgiveness and i just cannot understand how he was free!
    How these Germans in the town of Ingleheim were okay with him living amongst them???

    1. Fritz lived quietly and most people probably didn’t know who he was and what he’d done. Those who did know probably didn’t care–there were a lot of Nazi sympathizers still after the war.

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