Thalidomide was introduced to pregnant mothers in 1957 as a supposedly safe medication for morning sickness. Sadly, this harmless medication was anything but: Many of the mothers who took thalidomide gave birth to babies with “flippers” for limbs. By the time a link between the drug and the birth defects was established, it was too late: Over 210,000 children were born with phocomelia – the medical term for the array of birth defects caused by thalidomide. Grunenthal, the German pharmaceutical firm that produced thalidomide didn’t issue any kind of apology to its victims until this past September. No financial compensation has ever been issued.
The thalidomide tragedy was the consequence of epic mismanagement and criminal neglect, but now, another wrinkle in the story has emerged: Some of the scientists employed by Grunenthal were Nazis:
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One of the most chilling aspects of this sordid tale is the assertion that “in the immediate postwar years, a rogues’ gallery of wanted and convicted Nazis, mass murderers who had practiced their science in notorious death camps, ended up working at Grünenthal, some of them directly involved in the development of thalidomide.” One of the most reprehensible was Otto Ambros, an inventor of sarin (the nerve gas), who had been convicted of mass murder at the Nuremburg trials but was subsequently freed.