Week 9 Preparedness Blog: Germany's World War Two Bioterrorism Program

Week 9 - April 13, 2018

by David Culp, Emergency Preparedness Coordinator, Illinois Public Health Association

Germany's World War Two Bioterrorism Program

Roman General Julius Caesar was the first to reference the lands east of the Rhine River and north of the Danube River as Germania. Despite numerous attempts at unification, most notably the Holy Roman Empire, which encompassed German states and German speaking areas across Central Europe from 962 until 1806, these lands would largely remain a conglomeration of feudal kingdoms for centuries; each valuing their territorial and governance independence. Conquests of French Emperor Napoleon would demonstrate value in alliances for defense and mutual support towards territorial acquisition and maintenance, resulting in the development of provincial nations and city states throughout Germany. The most powerful provincial nation of Prussia, with its vision of unification towards domination, would gradually subjugate the smaller, less powerful and less visionary nation states of Germany; leading to establishment of a German Empire. The German Empire would develop global commanding scientific knowledge and industrial power by the beginning of the 20th century, becoming the dominant nation of continental Europe.

Germany would continue to aggressively build their military forces and industrial capacity, as well as acquiring overseas colonies as a source of raw materials, particularly in Africa; rivaling the British Empire internationally in naval capabilities, manufacturing and exporting power. These moves were of increasing concern to Great Britain, France and Russia, leading to establishment of the military alliances, which would eventually plunge Europe into World War One. Horrendous manpower losses and colossal economic costs during the war would result in ever increasing civil unrest throughout Germany and its eventual suing for peace, followed by the collapse of Kaiser Wilhelm II’s Empire and installation of the Weimar Republic. The Post World War One years were extremely difficult as reparation payments to the victorious allies crippled Germany with massive amounts of debt, combined with the loss of key industrial territories and resource rich colonies, compounded by worldwide economic depression and significant diminishment of national pride thru the crippling of their military forces.

It was during these tumultuous times the National Socialist German Worker’s Party (Nazis) began its takeover of the German government. Power was consolidated by huge military spending, substantially stimulating the economy, significantly reducing unemployment and returning the nation to martial prominence. The Nazis appeared to be the saviors of Germany, but they had mortgaged their fiscal future for short term economic impact. Massive military spending, though putting German workers back to work, had led to increasingly large amounts of debt, which the self-cancelling of war reparation payments would not ease. Furthermore, German industry lacked the necessary materials for producing and supporting their greatly expanding military forces; particularly iron ore and oil. Nazis determined that only thru conquest of territory and resource acquisition from nations throughout Europe could they successfully maintain their growing empire. Simultaneously, the Nazis had begun a war of persecution against German citizens: political opponents, those of Jewish descent, members of LGBTQ community, the disabled and those of Slavic origin; spreading their hatred into those countries they conquered, enslaving and killing members of these groups and more.

As in World War One, Germany found itself in the unenviable position of fighting more resource rich and more highly equipped nations on multiple fronts. During World War One, German forces had utilized chemical and biological warfare agents developed by their highly advanced industries in attempts to negate the dominant resources of the Allies. During World War Two, Germany would once again turn to scientific knowledge and expertise to gain advantage over their adversaries. Among many prototype weapons, German scientists and engineers developed highly advanced Tanks, along with the first Jet Fighters and Rockets, the latter forming the basis for American Space Program via providing safe emigration of Nazi rocket scientists into the United States after the war.

Officially, the Nazis forbid the development of chemical and biological weapons. However, the Germans would study launching malaria infected mosquitos on their enemies at Dachau concentration camp and the pontine marshes of Italy would be flooded to instigate malaria outbreaks in Allied troops after their invasion in 1943. The Germans experimented with rickettsia and hepatitis weaponry, noting the British and Americans had significant enough concerns with potential of German bio attacks (particularly anthrax) that they initiated their own biowarfare research programs. Some hypothesized Nazi Dictator Adolf Hitler forbade the use of chemical and biological weapons due to his being temporarily blinded from a mustard gas attack while serving as a German soldier in World War One. However, he had no qualms about conducting horrific medical experiments on, or using cyanide chemical agent to kill, twenty million people in his concentration camps during the Holocaust.


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