German Medical Association apologizes for Nazi-era experiments

Helen Rappaport, survivor of Auschwitz and the experiments of Dr. Joseph Mengele, lights a candle at a Holocaust Remembrance Day Ceremony at the Harold Washington Library April 21, 2005 in Chicago, Illinois. The ceremony was held to remember the victims and honor the survivors of the Holocaust. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Scott Olson/Getty Images
holocaust, joseph mengele, human experiments
Helen Rappaport, survivor of Auschwitz and the experiments of Dr. Joseph Mengele, lights a candle at a Holocaust Remembrance Day Ceremony at the Harold Washington Library April 21, 2005 in Chicago, Illinois.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

(CBS/AP) BERLIN - The German Medical Association has adopted a declaration apologizing for sadistic experiments and other actions of doctors under the Nazis, asking forgiveness of victims.

In the statement adopted earlier this week in Nuremberg, the association, called the Bundesarztekammer, said many doctors under the Nazis were "guilty, contrary to their mission to heal, of scores of human rights violations and we ask the forgiveness of their victims, living and deceased, and of their descendants."

In addition to performing pseudo-scientific experiments in concentration camps, German doctors also were key to the Nazi's program of forced sterilization or euthanasia of the mentally ill or others deemed "unworthy of life."

The medical association says "these crimes were not the actions of individual doctors but involved leading members of the medical community" including academic and renowned research institutions, and should be taken as a warning for the future.

"In the history of apologies for crimes and abuses carried out in the name of medicine this is the most important ever made," Dr. Art Caplan, professor of bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, wrote in an editorial on MSNBC. "It does nothing to soften the horror of the Holocaust but it both ascribes responsibility where it belongs and ends any further efforts to deny or obfuscate what actually happened.

The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum has more on Nazi medical experiments.