Walter Schieber Starved Concentration Camp Inmates in Bizarre Experiments, and Killed Thousands While Testing Poisonous Chemicals
Walter Schieber (1896 – 1960) was a chemist who worked in textile manufacturing in prewar Germany. When World War II broke out, he joined the Reich Ministry of Armaments and War Production. He held a variety of official positions, including Chief of Armaments Deliveries, and Head of the Central Office for Generators. He was also a member of the SS, and rose to the rank of SS Brigadefuhrer – equivalent to a one star brigadier general in the US Army. He rose within the hierarchy of the Ministry of Armaments to become a deputy of its Minister, Albert Speer, and head of the Armaments Supply Office. In that capacity, he impressed sufficiently to get awarded the War Merit Cross by Hitler in 1943.
As a chemist, Schieber conducted some bizarre and needlessly cruel experiments on prisoners. In one such experiment in Mauthausen concentration camp in 1943, he wanted to find out about the impact of food shortage on slave laborers. So he picked 150 slave laborers, and instead of their usual watery broth, Scheiber gave them an artificial paste which he had personally designed, made up of used clothing. Not surprisingly, the experiment reached the obvious conclusion, that people can’t survive if you feed them used clothes. Of the 150 subjects, 116 died before the experiment ended.
Schieber was also the Armaments Ministry’s official liaison with IG Farben – the chemical conglomerate that produced the poisonous toxins used in the Holocaust. He oversaw the chemical giant’s production of tabun and sarin gasses, working closely with the company’s chief chemist, Otto Ambrose. While working with IG Farben, Schieber was linked to thousands of deaths from numerous chemical experiments on live subjects, upon whom the deadly chemicals were tested.
After the war, Schieber became friends with a US Army brigadier general in the Chemical Corps named Charles Loucks, who was stationed in Heidelburg, where he worked on nerve agents such as sarin gas and tabun. Because Schieber had intimate knowledge of the gasses used by the Nazis during the war, the two hit it off. Nonetheless, Loucks’ friendship with Schieber and other Nazi officials was fishy. So fishy that Loucks was called back to the Pentagon, where he was reprimanded by his superiors for getting too chummy with Nazis.
It did not stop Loucks, however – a repellent figure in his own right, who was drawn to Scheiber not despite his Nazi connections, but precisely because of those connections, particularly because he had been close to SS chief Heinrich Himmler. Luckily for Schieber, while the US Army might have been repelled by him, US intelligence was not. Loucks was given covert funds to hire Schieber to work for the US Army’s Chemical Corps for scientific research purposes. He did that work for 10 years, during which he was instrumental in helping the US develop its own sarin gas capability.
What was fortunate for Schieber was unfortunate for justice. Because he was useful to the US, he was shielded from accountability for his wartime misdeeds, and so was never prosecuted for his war crimes. As a 1947 official memo stated: “Dr. Scheiber’s talents are of so important a nature to the US that they go far to override any consideration of his political background“. In addition to his work for the Army’s Chemical Corps, Scheiber became a CIA asset for the remainder of his life.