Nazi German scientists secretly planned to breed ‘super-mosquitoes’ infested with malaria that could be air-dropped into enemy territory during World War II, a researcher has claimed.
Dr Klaus Reinhardt from Tubingen University has found historical evidence of biological weapons research in Nazi Germany.
While studying documents from the Waffen-SS Entomological Institute, an annex of Dachau concentration camp, Reinhardt wondered why the armed wing of the Nazi party needed to study insects.
It made no sense – during World War II, Germany already had several respected entomological research centers; nor did the SS institute study insects which presented a potential threat to Germany’s important food supplies, Klaus said.
After combing the archives, and building upon postwar studies, Reinhardt came to the conclusion that, although the institute was intended to combat insect-borne diseases such as typhoid, it also carried out research into whether mosquitoes – which host malaria – could be used in biological warfare.
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It has been debated for many years whether Nazi Germany sought to produce biological weapons despite Hitler’s ban on them. Reinhardt’s findings are likely to re-ignite that discussion, researchers said.
Heinrich Himmler, head of the Schutzstaffel (SS), commissioned the Entomological Institute in Dachau in January 1942, presumably after reports of lice infestation among SS troops, and following an outbreak of typhoid fever at Neuengamme concentration camp.
The instructions Himmler issued in 1942 were for basic research required to combat germ-carrying insects – involving the life cycles, diseases, predators and preferred hosts of beetles, lice, fleas and flies.
Reinhardt said that in 1944, the SS Entomological Institute was also tasked with testing various species of mosquito for their ability to survive without food or water – and thus, their suitability to be infected with malaria and air-dropped into enemy territory.
Reinhardt examined notes by the institute’s director, Eduard May.
He found lab reports which detailed experiments with anopheles mosquitoes, which can host malaria during part of its development.
May recommended the use of one particular anopheles mosquito species which could survive for more than four days.
Reinhardt considers this a clear indicator that the insects were to be used as an offensive biological weapon.
Reinhardt said one reason why Dachau was chosen as the location for the insect study facility was one of the infamous experimentation programmes carried out there – the inoculation of prisoners with malaria by Professor Claus Schilling, who was later executed at Nuremberg.
However, Reinhardt found no evidence that May collaborated with Schilling.
The research is published in the journal Endeavour.