Doctors from Hell

The Horrific Account of Nazi Experiments on Humans


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Doctors from Hell is a chilling story of human depravity and ultimate justice, told for the first time by an eyewitness court reporter for the Nuremberg war crimes trial of Nazi doctors. This is the account of 23 men torturing and killing by experiment in the name of scientific research and patriotism. Doctors from Hell includes trial transcripts that have not been easily available to the general public and previously unpublished photographs used as evidence in the trial.

The author describes the experience of being in bombed-out, dangerous, post-war Nuremberg, where she lived for two years while working on the trial. Once, a Nazi sympathizer tossed bombs into the dining room of the hotel where she lived moments before she arrived for dinner. She takes us into the courtroom to hear the dramatic testimony and see the reactions of the defendants to the proceedings. This landmark trial resulted in the establishment of the Nuremberg code, which sets the guidelines for medical research involving human beings. A significant addition to the literature on World War II and the Holocaust, medical ethics, human rights, and the barbaric depths to which human beings can descend.

Vivien Spitz, the youngest court reporter at the Nuremberg Trials, gave more than 500 speeches on the lessons of the Holocaust to schools, churches, synagogues, and professional groups internationally. She was honored numerous times for her work, including commendations from Bill Clinton, Al Gore, US Senator Christopher Dodd, and the state of Israel. She was the first woman to report on the U.S. Senate floor and took down the words of four presidents. She died in 2014.

Doctors from Hell has been translated into six languages.


Praise for Doctors from Hell


In this personal account of her service in the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials, Vivien Spitz continues to contribute to the cause of human rights.

—President Jimmy Carter

I am proud to pay special tribute to Vivien Spitz as she receives the first NCRA Humanitarian Award in recognition of her service as a court reporter during the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials and her dedicated efforts to promote Holocaust remembrance.

—President Bill Clinton

You are to be commended for your work in recording more than 300,000 pages of testimony during the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials, and I want to salute you for your outstanding dedication and tremendous commitment to educating your colleagues and peers about hate crimes.

—Vice President Al Gore

As the first woman to report from the Senate floor you paved the way for so many others of great talent that may otherwise never have been heard. It is, however, your dedication to chronicling the truth about the Holocaust because of your work as a court reporter at the Nuremberg Trials that has earned you a special place in modern history. As you know, my father Thomas Dodd, was one of the lead prosecutors at the Nuremberg Trials. He taught me at a very young age the danger of sitting idly by while innocent people suffer. In that same spirit, you have devoted your time to making almost two hundred presentations to more than 20,000 people to spread the truth about the Holocaust so that this profoundly dark time in the history of our world does not repeat itself. I thank you for the profound difference your crusading spirit has made.

—United States Senator Christopher J. Dodd

By presenting your experiences to audiences across the United States, you have touched countless lives, and have explained in clear and powerful terms what can result when the world turns a blind eye to evil. Your impact on our society and on future generations is profound, and I believe there to be no more deserving recipient of the first NCRA Humanitarian Award than you.

—Consul General of Israel Yuvul Rotem

You are likely among the few significant remaining repositories of the horrors of what may be humankind’s darkest ages, and all the citizens of this planet owe you a debt of gratitude for what you have done to not allow those horrors to be buried along with the victims. You are the reporting profession’s true shining star, not because you were able to record the proceedings of the Nazi doctors’ trials, but because you have taken on the responsibility to bring deep meaning to the words ‘never forget.’

—Martin H. Block, former president of the National Court Reporters Association


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This shocking first-hand account of the monstrous behaviors of Nazi physicians by Vivien Spitz should be required reading for all medical, dental, nursing, and public health students and faculty. Time is better spent reading this book than filling out HIPAA forms and other well-intentioned but even less effective tools designed to protect patients’ interests.

Spitz was a 22-year-old court reporter during the doctors’ trials at Nuremberg following World War II. In Doctors from hell: the horrific account of Nazj experiments on humans, she recounts in vivid, objective detail the horrific human experiments conducted by 20 so-called physicians and medical assistants in Germany under the direction of the Nazis. The human experiments included “high-altitude” experiments in which concentration camp inmates were forced, without oxygen, into high-altitude chambers that duplicated conditions at up to 68,000 feet; removal of sections of bone, muscle, and nerves, including whole legs removed at the hips to transplant to other victims; artificial wounding and exposure to mustard gas; wounding of two limbs and treatment of one but not the other with sulfanamide antibiotics; intramuscular injection with fresh typhus; and collection of skeletons from 112 live Jewish inmates who were killed and defleshed.

When you read this account, do not skip past the critically important foreword by Fredrick R. Adams. It is Adams who helps put this horror into a modern and deeply disturbing context for us. Adams carefully documents how Nazi doctors shaped much of their human experimentation program after similar studies conducted earlier in the United States. He notes that “Germans lagged behind their American colleagues in implementing the eugenic endorsements of doctors.” Adams writes that as of 1995, Mississippi’s eugenic sterilization law allowing for compulsory sterilization of “the socially inadequate” was still in force. Indeed, Germany’s sterilization law, passed in 1933, came 26 years after the state of Indiana’s. What lessons have been learned from the medical experimentation horrors of the Nazis? Today, in my own field of cardiology, I am aware of clinical studies now ongoing, particularly in the areas of gene therapy and cell-based therapy, for which there are inadequately convincing animal data, yet patients are being subjected to experimentation that puts them at great risk. What chance do patients have, even the most well informed, when an arrogant and egotistically driven physician tells them that they are going to die unless they submit themselves to an unproven treatment? Are the patients told the truth – that we don’t have a lot of options, and this is an unproven therapy that will likely to do more harm than good, but we need to experiment on you?

As one reads Spitz’s beautifully written and fully documented account of the Nazi medical atrocities, one searches to understand the why and how. One clear motivation for the anti-Semitism among German doctors was the potential for personal and professional gain. For example, as Adams writes, “dismissal of Jewish scientists from the Kaiser Wilhelm Consortium provided dozens of openings for professional promotion and opportunities for advancement in addition to usurping the reins and funds of research grants.”

How far have we come? Can the worldwide community of physicians who did little or nothing in the 1940s afford to sit silently when modern-day leaders call for the same kind of ethnic cleansing so carefully and effectively practiced by German physicians 60 years ago?

As the shocking tale concludes and becomes numbing, the reader must ask what lessons there are for us today. The health care industry, in the parlance of our times, has become a dangerous driver of the kinds of abuses that were made famous by the Nazi doctors. Too much emphasis and reward is given to those who discover new treatments for patients. Thus, the driving force for some becomes the clinical trial that leads to FDA approval of the next blockbuster drug. Have we lost sight of the moral and ethical compass that was also absent among the German doctors during World War II? Is all the excess, glory, and fortune jeopardizing the very important and necessary rights of patients to truly informed consent? We pride ourselves in having come so far and learned so much in the past 60 years about how to respect patients’ rights, but when a giant company like Merck tries to hide data about a blockbuster drug because it may be harming some patients, we must ask ourselves – how far have we come?

One of the tenets of Judaism is to bear witness, not to forget, but rather to remember and learn from the past, to never let it happen again. As health care providers, we have a moral duty to first read Spitz’s alarming book and then to speak out to question and to hold our colleagues to a higher moral standard to ensure that there is no sequel to Doctors from hell.

The Journal of Clinical Investigation

As a court reporter at the Nuremberg trails from 1946 to 1947, Vivien Spitz became one of the first people to learn of the atrocities committed in Nazi Germany.. Spitz chose to be assigned to the trials of Nazi doctors and this experience at age 22 changed her life “significantly and forever” (p.10). The Nuremberg War Crimes Trials were the first international criminal trials in history. The book helps us to imagine what is must have been like to hear of these exercises in sadism as she did from the mouths of both perpetrators and victims. Spitz notes that there were no legal precedents in place for dealing with carefully orchestrated barbarism on a national scale. As a result she was what the SHOAH Visual History Foundation has termed “ a witness to history”. The trials essentially ushered in a new era in which terms such as “crimes against humanity” and “genocide” became necessary. Another landmark of history that was precipitated by these particular trials was the Nuremberg Code which established guidelines still in place today for medical research involving human beings. Spitz is clearly interested in both documenting the past and in using it as a cautionary tale in the present. From 1987 to 2004 she has been involved in Holocaust education using her status as a direct witness of events to challenge Holocaust deniers. Spitz felt strongly as a Christian of German ancestry that she had a particular obligation to address the issue of the Holocaust and this work is part of her ongoing commitment to education.

“Doctors from Hell” begins with Spitz’s trip with the U.S military to war ravaged Nuremberg in October 1946. The bombed out city, which was without heat or clean water, came as a shock to her and she and the rest of the allied forces were greeted with hostility by its inhabitants. The descriptions of her life in Nuremberg which are interspersed throughout the book are a record of her own loss of innocence. This included her realization that the father of a friend had been the leader of the Chicago branch of the German-American Bund, a fascist group that supported Hitler’s actions in Germany. The Americans adopted a siege mentality while in Nuremberg eventually living in the Grand Hotel which was the hub of American life during this period. The social life and camaraderie Spitz experienced there was the only counterbalance she had to the tale of horror that unfolded each day in the court room. This hotel was bombed by German terrorists in 1947, but miraculously no one was injured, however the event reinforced the social distance between Spitz and the German population.

The book is structured by the cases arraigned before the Tribunal made up of four American judges and indicting twenty Nazi doctors and three medical assistants. The experiments conducted by these doctors were committed upon prisoners of war without their consent. They included High Altitude, Malaria, Freezing, Poison and Sterilization experiments among others. Each chapter is devoted to one particular experiment and includes testimony from the trials, relevant photographs of victims and the doctors on trial. These sections are not for the faint of heart and depict the most barbarous acts imaginable. Almost as shocking as the actual acts is the complete lack of remorse shown by the defendants on the witness stand. Instead the accused, the majority of whom were highly educated doctors and surgeons, were resentful and defensive. Horrifyingly, one Gypsy man a victim of sadistic sea water experiments that left him permanently disabled, was questioned by a clearly racist defense council. This same man was harshly punished for attempting to stab the doctor who was responsible for his suffering and that of his fellow prisoners. In his own defense he stated, “ That man is a murderer. He has ruined by whole life.” Having read only extracts from these trials it is understandable that the author did not seek renew her contract at Nuremberg and returned to the United States in May 1948.

Upon returning to America Spitz experienced reverse culture shock faced with a country seemingly untouched by the tragedy that she had just witnessed. Spitz was deeply affected by the “coordinated evil and hatred on an unprecedented scale perpetrated by a modern, civilized society of my heritage”(p.273). Plagued by nightmares she did her best to carry on with life marrying and having two sons. In 1972 Spitz was asked to act as a parliamentary reporter in Washington. During this period she became increasingly disturbed that no efforts had been made by non-Jews to commemorate the Holocaust.

In 1980 she was present as a reporter for the bill that established the United States Memorial Council under the direction of President Jimmy Carter and Holocaust survivor and Chairman Elie Wiesel. In 1987 the next phase of Spitz’s work began when she became aware of a Holocaust denier in her hometown of Denver, Colorado. Spitz leapt into action unearthing transcripts and photographs that she had brought back with her from Nuremberg many years before. Since 1987 Spitz has spoken to more than forty thousand people all over the world in churches, universities, synagogues and law schools. She was also chosen to give testimony as part of Steven Spielberg’s SHOAH Visual History Foundation. As a result of her tireless efforts in Holocaust education in 2002 she was honoured as a “Righteous Gentile” by the University of Denver Holocaust Awareness Institute.

“Doctor’s from Hell” is an extension of Spitz’s education work as it documents what she heard while covering the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials. As a person of conscience she was forced to grapple very early in her life with the most profound moral questions of our time. How could ordinary people sink to such levels of depravity? What are the implications of these actions for ethics? The foreword to this book by ethicist Fredrick R. Abrams M.D. situates the work in the context of contemporary issues. Abrams notes that unethical experiments performed without consent continued to occur in the United States after the writing of the Nuremberg code. Both he and Spitz emphasize the importance of individual conscience and societal vigilance. Spitz continues her mission to warn us that it is up to each person to ensure that they question all authority and “ not allow malignant evil to go unchallenged and unchecked” (p.293). The impassive faces of the Nazi doctors on the cover of the book and the testimony inside warn against what can happen if we do not.

Gillian McCann, Ph.D., Women and the Holocaust

In 1946, Spitz was a 22-year-old court reporter from Detroit when she was hired to transcribe the Nuremberg Trials. Spitz recounts her experience in “Doctors” and how Jews and others were subjected to hideous “medical” experiments.

This is an uncomfortable book to read, but the frankness with which Spitz delivers her own story makes it one of a kind.

—Lisa Siegel, Atlanta Jewish Times

Written by skilled journalist Vivian Spitz, who counts being the youngest court reporter at the Nuremberg Trials among her many accomplishments, Doctors From Hell: The Horrific Account Of Nazi Experiments On Humans presents literal testimonies of Nuremburg war crimes trials specifically pertaining to murderous medical experiments performed on living people. A bleak, stark, and severe account; the dry yet thoroughly detailed testimony speaks for itself. Information concerning the conviction and sentencing of defendents is also included. The author offers closing chapters about adapting to a normal life after her role in bearing witness to unspeakable atrocities, including her encounters with poisonous and sometimes threatening Holocaust deniers. A straightforward primary source appreciable to scholars and lay readers alike, and a welcome contribution to Holocaust Studies and reference shelves.

Midwest Book Review

Words speak volumes about Holocaust

Vivien Spitz deals in words.

She is a professional court reporter with decades of experience precisely reporting and transcribing testimony in a multitude of venues.

Yet what happens when the words the reporter is recording are so jarring, when the images they evoke are so disturbing, when the record she is keeping becomes one that she can never forget?

She writes a book.

Spitz was a court reporter at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials in Germany. For two years, 1946-48, she transcribed proceedings in one of the 13 trials that sought retribution for Nazi crimes against humanity. She had a bird’s-eye view of both perpetrators and victims and heard and saw enough firsthand testimony and material evidence to cause her to suffer from severe nightmares for three years after the trials ended.

“I would have tears writing the testimony, watching the victims, looking at their wounds, their covered-up bodies,” she told Jewish News recently. Spitz was in Phoenix to attend the National Court Reporters’ Association meeting, where she was a featured speaker.

Her book, Doctors from Hell, The Horrific Account of Nazi Experiments on Humans (Sentient Publications, $23.95 hardcover), details the landmark trial that established the guidelines for medical research involving human beings. With straightforward language, reinforced with excerpts of direct testimony and photos, Spitz takes the reader through the horrors of more than a dozen medical experiments perpetrated by the Nazis, from freezing to mustard gas, from sterilization to typhus.

For more than 40 years, after the nightmares subsided, after she returned to the States, married, had children and resumed her career as a court reporter, Spitz’s memories remained in a few cardboard cartons packed away in her Colorado home.

Eighteen years ago, she was impelled to open the boxes and begin to tell her story. Ten years later, she began to write her book.

Spitz was only 21 years old when she was tapped to go to Nuremberg. She was fresh out of business college, working as a freelance court reporter in Detroit, pleased to be supporting herself.

But in 1945, just after the end of the war, Spitz went to the movies.

“I saw the Movietone ‘Time Marches On’ and saw the atrocities committed by Germans,” she says.

The live footage in the newsreel captured Allied troops liberating the concentration camps and the horrific condition of the victims.

Spitz was in shock.

“I knew we were at war, we were losing lots of 17-year-olds,” she recalls. Her hometown, Woodstock, Ill., population 5,000, had lost 16 boys.

But seeing the Nazi depravity was something else, particularly painful because of her family’s German heritage.

That afternoon in the movies, her perceptions of the war changed.

When Spitz learned that the U.S. War Department was recruiting court reporters to work in Nuremberg, she volunteered to go. “I was driven,” she says simply.

Spitz, the youngest of a pool of 26 court reporters, spent 18 months recording and transcribing testimony at Nuremberg.

Reporters worked in six-person teams, rotating every 15 minutes to report and then transcribe. The 12 trials resulted in more than 330,000 pages of transcripts, including the 11,538 pages for the medical case to which Spitz was assigned. The official transcripts were in English and translated and printed in German also.

Although Spitz waited more than 50 years to begin writing, she had begun speaking out about the Holocaust before that. An instance of Holocaust revisionism, perpetrated by a Colorado schoolteacher, provoked Spitz to delve into those boxes from Germany containing photos and other evidence accumulated during the trial.

The teacher referred to the Holocaust as the “Holohoax” in front of her high school history classes. The incident incited a public protest and resulted in a lawsuit; it spurred Spitz to action.

“I was livid,” Spitz says.

She pulled out several of the photographs from the trial, put together a speech about her experiences and started speaking to small groups in the Denver area.

“A mission found me,” she says simply, “and it blossomed.”

Spitz estimates that she has spoken to more than 45,000 students and adults in 39 states, Canada and even Singapore, where one of her two sons resides.

She has been challenged by revisionists on the stage, and once was escorted out of a venue by security because of a protest.

“I will do battle with any of them,” the feisty 80-something activist says. “But I will not debate. I will not dignify them with answers.”

Spitz says she had to write the book so that there would be a written record accessible to the general public of what she heard and saw.

“I knew I had to write the book and get it done before I die,” says the humanitarian. Her story was recorded by Steven Spielberg’s Shoah Foundation in 1995 and is in the archives at the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington. Her book has garnered praise from Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel and former President Jimmy Carter, among others.

Spitz says the lessons of the Holocaust still resonate today.

“This is the 21st century, and genocide is continuing,” she says. “Can we learn from the past?”

—Vicki Cabot, Contributing Editor, Jewish News of Greater Phoenix

Chronicling human depravity
Court reporter at ‘Doctors trial’ recalls experiences

Twenty-two-year-old Vivien Spitz was sitting in the court in Nuremberg, Germany, crying, but she knew she had to get ahold of herself.

“I was writing, and tears were falling on my notebook,” says Spitz, who was a court reporter at the Nazi doctors’ trial in 1946 and has written Doctors from Hell: The Horrific Account of Nazi Experiments on Humans (Sentient Publications, 2005).

“I lowered my head to keep people from seeing me. I knew I had to become dispassionate because I had a job to do.” A professional court reporter trained to record proceedings verbatim using shorthand, Spitz was especially appalled by the testimony she was hearing about freezing experiments, in which people were put into ice water or left naked outside in the cold for long periods of time. The Nazis ordered concentration camp women inmates to use their bodies to rewarm the victims, many of whom died.

The testimony concerning experiments on regeneration also repelled her. “Sections of bone were removed, legs were removed at the hips, arms were removed, including the shoulder blades, and muscles and nerves were removed from healthy concentration camp inmates, and then the attempt was made to transplant these body parts to other victims,” she writes.

“These attempts usually resulted in death. But, for those who lived, mutilation and permanent disability resulted.” Perhaps most of all, Spitz was disgusted by the attitudes of the 20 doctors and three medical assistants on trial. “They were proud of what they did,” she says. “They were trying to create a pure-blooded Aryan nation… . They were resentful and arrogant.”

Seven of those doctors were acquitted. Four physicians and three assistants were found guilty of war crimes, crimes against humanity and membership in the SS and sentenced to hang. Five other physicians were sentenced to life imprisonment, two to 20 years, one to 15 years and another to 10 years in prison.

Spitz, 80, grew up in Joliet and Woodstock, Ill. A Catholic, she says she often is mistaken for a Jew because of her last name.

Working for a court reporting agency in 1945, she began to see movie theater newsreels reporting on horrors committed by the Germans.

“I couldn’t believe that the Germans were capable of such atrocities,” says the woman, whose mother’s family is of German origin.

“I was proud of my mother’s heritage,” she says.

But Spitz says she began to hate the Germans during the course of the trial, when it became obvious that the German population had looked away while the outrages were being committed.

After her experiences in Nuremberg, she returned to the U.S. and her court reporting career. From 1972 to 1982, she lived in McLean, working as the official reporter of debates and chief reporter for the U.S. House of Representatives.

Now a Denver resident, she writes that she had “stuffed the memories of the horror of the Nazi doctors’ trial into a cocoon in the attic of my mind, determined to go on with my life.”

But the “cocoon burst wide open in 1987” when she read about a school teacher in nearby Aurora who referred to the Holocaust as the “Holohoax.”

“Holohoax! I was so livid, fired up with passion that I hauled out transcripts, material, and original press photographs I had brought from Nuremberg and stored away in boxes all these years,” she writes.

Using those materials, Spitz created a lecture and 30 slides, and took to the road to deliver her message. Since 1987, she has spoken to more than 40,000 people in the U.S., Canada and Singapore.

“I want people to gain the realization that the lessons of the Holocaust have never been learned, genocides are still occurring,” she says of her lectures and book.

“I wrote the book for the general public and students. I want people to know the depth to which human depravity can go and the evil that is inherent in every single person.

“I want children to be educated about the Holocaust.”

— Aaron Leibel, Arts Editor, Washington Jewish Week

Nuremberg trial court reporter remembers

It’s 1948 and young Vivien Spitz’s nightmare keeps recurring.

“I’m escaping from a concentration camp through a tunnel in a barbed wire fence,” she said. “I have several children with me and I’m trying to keep them quiet so the Nazi guard, with his bayonet, will not hear them.”

In her dream, Spitz never makes it out of the tunnel.

Even now ­ wide awake and 80 years old ­ she is still consumed by visions that have not dulled in six decades.

“The whole purpose of my story,” Spitz said in a phone interview from the US, “is to tell the world what I saw… I have been driven to write this book because of the horror that I experienced.”

“This book” is Doctors from Hell: The Horrific Account of Nazi Experiments on Humans, and “the horror” is the gruesome testimony of nearly two dozen German doctors that Spitz recorded at the Nuremberg trials. The book, released a month ago, details Spitz’s 19 months in Germany after World War II, when she worked as a court reporter for the US government at the war crimes tribunal.

It is the culmination of 18 years of efforts by a devout Catholic to perpetuate the memory of crimes visited upon European Jewry. After years of trying to forget those crimes, Vivien Spitz wants the world to know what happened.

As the war was coming to a close, Spitz was a young court reporter in Detroit.

“I couldn’t believe what I was seeing in the newsreels at the movie theaters,” she said. “I had been proud of my German heritage until that point” ­ her mother’s family had come to the US in the mid-19th century ­ “but it just tore at the core of my heart when I saw the atrocities.”

When the War Department began recruiting court reporters for the war crimes trials, Spitz volunteered. In late 1946 she became one of 26 chosen for the task and was sent to Nuremberg, where court reporters, translators and media were housed in the Grand Hotel. It was one of the few buildings in the city to have survived Allied bombings.

Shortly before her arrival there was the famous trial of Hermann Goering in the International Military Tribunal.

“Many of the reporters who did the Goering trial did not stay on for the others because they could not stand the horror, day in and day out,” said Spitz.

Yet Spitz was one of few workers to bear the horror of United States of America vs Karl Brandt et al, the so-called “Doctors Trial,” including more than 20 doctors indicted for cruel experiments on prisoners, and at least parts of the 12 other trials heard by US military courts at Nuremberg.

The Doctors Trial was “the first and most horrifying of the trials that I reported,” said Spitz. Each trial taxed the professional and emotional limits of the court workers, she said. Some of the Jewish reporters knew German, but Spitz, despite her heritage, did not.

She therefore required the help of Allied translators, who together with the court reporters comprised “a very tight community.” “There was the issue of security, firstly,” Spitz explained. “The whole city was devastated, bombed-out… Nazis were still hiding in the rubble. We were not allowed to go out on the street after 7 p.m. because of the Nazis who were shooting at anybody who looked like US or Allied personnel. They would eventually bomb the dining room of the Grand Hotel while I was in it, as I was going downstairs for dinner.”

Conditions at the once regal hotel were better than anywhere else in town but less than inviting, she recalled. “We had no heat or hot water,” she said. “In the wintertime it was ice cold. The food was all cold storage ­ nothing was taken from the German economy at all ­ powdered eggs and coffee for breakfast, cereal, cold fruit…”

To help the workers temporarily forget the revelations they were recording about euthanasia, sterilization, poison injections and more, Spitz said, the American government provided entertainment in the form of German orchestras and trapeze acts. The workers also bonded with the American soldiers who were working with them and were housed with them at the hotel.

Spitz would marry one such GI, an army officer who had been in charge of 22 major Nazi defendants. Back in America, however, family life helped Spitz put her own experiences in Nuremberg behind her.

“I became a military wife for a while and traveled with him to two bases in the US, reporting court-martial cases. We had two sons and eventually came to Denver. I started working as a Denver District Court reporter within eight years of Nuremberg,” she said, trailing off.

In 1972, when Spitz’s husband returned from a stint in Korea, the couple divorced. Around then, in the days before stenotype recording, Spitz’s high-speed manual shorthand skills landed her a job as a parliamentary reporter in the House of Representatives. In 10 years of work there she would record the State of the Union addresses of presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, as well as addresses to Congress by visiting heads of state.

It was not until a few years later that Spitz, retired from court reporting and living again in the Denver area, would revisit her days in Nuremberg.

“I never talked about my experiences until 1987, when a high school teacher in my Denver suburb referred to the Holocaust as the ‘Holohoax,'” she said. That got her blood boiling.

“I had brought home photographs with me of captured German film… I had all of this stored away for 40 years in a box. I got it all out and started making a lecture.”

Spitz started speaking to attorneys’ groups, then to local schoolchildren. Since then she has spoken to audiences all over the country, gaining attention from local and national media, and even spent five years on the board of the University of Denver’s Holocaust Awareness Institute. After Steven Spielberg’s Shoah Foundation filled three tapes with an interview of her in late 1995, Spitz started thinking about writing a book. Since her fellow World War II court reporters were all several years older than her, Spitz fears that she is one of the last surviving witnesses to the testimony given at Nuremberg.

Speaking with her, it is clear that the still-energetic octogenarian is infuriated that thousands today would deny what she heard with her own ears and saw with her own eyes. Doctors from Hell, she said, is her way of fighting them.

—Sam Ser, The Jerusalem Post


Vivien Spitz tried to keep the horror sealed off for nearly 40 years. The cavernous courtroom in Nuremberg. The camp survivors describing the grotesque procedures performed on them by Nazi doctors. The piercing stare and mocking arrogance of Adolf Hitler’s personal physician, Karl Brandt, as he sat in the prisoners dock a few yards away.

Spitz spent 19 months as a civilian court reporter at the Nuremberg war crimes trials, including nearly a full year on what’s known officially as the Medical Case. In that 1946-47 proceeding, 20 physicians and three assistants were tried for almost unimaginable crimes. The doctors created deep burns on subjects’ arms to simulate battlefield exposure to a phosphorus bomb; forced prisoners to live on nothing but seawater until many went mad; injected malaria and typhus into healthy men and women; sterilized Jews, Gypsies and others by burning their genitals with X-rays; severed legs and arms for use in transplantation experiments; killed dozens of Jews to obtain a suitable number of skeletons for display at a university museum.

“I wrote shorthand on a reporter’s notebook, and my tears — I would have tears coming out my eyes, falling down on my ink, smearing the ink,” says Spitz, who was 22 when the Medical Case began.

She left the weary, bombed-out city of Nuremberg and hadn’t been home long in Detroit before the recurring nightmares began. She was trying to lead a group of children out of a death camp. The visions haunted her sleep for three years, and she finally decided that the only way to stay sane was to stuff the Medical Case far into the back of her head, never to think about it or speak of it.

More than four decades later Spitz was living in suburban Denver when a local teacher made news by telling her students that the Holocaust was really the “Holohoax.”

And the longtime seals inside Spitz’ head broke open.

In outrage over Holocaust denials, she created a lecture for high school and middle school students, some of whom had never heard of Hitler, and, in her 70s, became more and more active in telling the story of the Nuremberg trials. At 80, she would finally publish the book “Doctors From Hell,” recounting what she had seen and recorded in 1946 and 1947.

The book’s publication was timed to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Dachau (April 29) and the national Holocaust Remembrance Day, which was Thursday.

The Journal-Constitution interviewed Spitz last week by phone at her home in Aurora, Colo. On page E4 is an edited transcript of that conversation.

“There was not one scintilla of any kind of remorse shown . . .” VIVIEN SPITZ, court reporter at the Nuremberg war crimes trials

—Richard Halicks, Atlanta Journal Constitution

For Vivien Spitz’s brave accuracy in reporting the Nuremberg trials, the important message of the human capacity for cruelty against one another and the potential for its recurrence that must be cautioned against, Doctors from Hell is a highly accomplished piece deserving of acclaim. Whether readers are studying the Holocaust and society, educating themselves in human history or simply seek a fine example of dedicated journalism, they will have their reward long before the last entry of Vivien Spitz.

—Dr. Alan Greenberg, Orco Publishing

about the author

Vivien Spitz

Vivien Spitz was a Fellow of the Academy of Professional Reporters of the National Court Reporters Association, and was an Official Reporter of Debates and Chief Reporter in the United States House of Representatives from 1972 to 1982. During this time she reported Presidents Nixon, Ford, Carter, and Reagan on their State of the Union addresses to the nation. She reported as well all foreign Heads of State who addressed Congress, including King Juan Carlos of Spain, President Anwar Sadat of Egypt, and Prime Minister Itzhak Rabin of Israel. She reported President Carter's establishment in 1978 of the President's Commission on the Holocaust, appointing Elie Wiesel as Chairman.

By contract with the United States War Department, Mrs. Spitz reported the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials in Germany from 1946 to 1948, including the Nazi Doctors Case. She recorded verbatim the words that came from the mouths of witnesses and victims who survived the heinous experiments "in the name of scientific medical research" conducted by doctors who had taken the Oath of Hippocrates to heal and cure, turned into doctors who became torturers and murderers.

Beginning in 1987 she made presentations on The Nazi Doctors Case of the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials, to over 37,000 people in the United States, Canada, and Singapore using graphic slides of captured German film showing experiments the doctors conducted on concentration camp victims without their consent. Her message was about basic human rights and the dignity of life, the difference between good and evil, and indifference to evil.

Steven Spielberg's SHOAH Foundation on December 22, 1995, conducted a videotaped interview of her which is in the U. S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Tony Randall, Producer of Judgment at Nuremberg, in April 2001 had her appear on the Broadway stage following a performance to speak and answer questions.

In recognition of her presentations to refute claims that the Holocaust never happened, she received the 1994 Human Relations Award presented by the Denver Beth Joseph Congregation, in December 1995 the America-Israel Friendship League Humanitarian Award, in 1996 a Humanitarian Award presented by the Greater Miami Jewish Federation Commerce and Professions Division, and in 2000 the 30,000-member National Court Reporters Association's first Humanitarian Award ever presented in the association’s 101-year history.

Vivien Spitz was a member of the University of Denver Holocaust Awareness Institute's Speakers Bureau, and in 2002 was honored as a "Righteous Gentile" at their Remembrance and Hope Ceremony. In 1978 and 1993 she was listed in the World Who's Who of Women at Cambridge, England; in 1981 in Marquis' Who's Who of American Women.

She died in 2014, at age 89.