Dentists participated in the atrocities of the Holocaust
The horrors of dentistry are not confined to ancient times or the Middle Ages. In fact, one of the most horrific episodes in the history of dentistry came in the 20th century. During the height of the Second World War, qualified dentists worked at Nazi concentration and extermination camps. Here, they used their expertise to remove gold fillings from prisoners, with the money being sent back to help fund the Third Reich’s war efforts.
In 1959, Heman Pook, a German dentist, went on trial in Berlin. He was accused of using his professional skills to remove the gold teeth and fillings from the mouths of murdered concentration camp inmates. Addressing the court, Pook admitted carrying out thousands of such extractions, though he argued he was merely following orders. More specifically, along with several other qualified dentists, he took out gold teeth from the victims on the orders of Heinrich Himmler. The practice earned the Nazi regime millions of dollars a year.
In an interesting twist, in 2009, an historian found evidence to suggest that Adolf Hitler himself had benefitted from this grisly practice. According to this theory, the Nazi leader had 10 gold fillings put in over the course of 2010. It’s believed that the gold used for Hitler’s teeth was taken from the Jewish victims of the holocaust. The same research also found that Hitler’s personal dentist, a man called Hugo Blaschke, amassed huge quantities of dental gold – around 50kg to be precise – again, most likely to have been taken from the Nazi regime’s unfortunate victims.
Where did we find this stuff? Here are our sources:
“Dental pelican for tooth pulling, Europe, 1701-1800.” The Science Museum, History of Medicine Website.
“The dentures made from the teeth of dead soldiers at Waterloo.” BBC News, June 2015.
“Biscuit for breakfast – trench warfare was hard on soldiers’ teeth.” The Conversation, November 2016.
“The troubling history behind the healthy, happy smile.” The Spectator, May 2018.
“Man Was Enduring the Dentist’s Drill 9,000 Years Ago.” New York Times, April 2006.
“The History of Dentistry.” The American Dental Education Association.
“Dental History – an Overview.” Science Direct.
“A Brief History of America’s Most Outrageous Dentist.” Smithsonian Magazine.