A description of a “medical and zoological institute” established by the Germans in Riga, in which Jews from the ghetto were used in experiments to determine the best methods of combatting mortal diseases spread by lice, was given here today by five of the “guinea pigs.”
The five, Simon Peyros, a chemist, and his 16-year-old son Mikhail; Rudolf Mierhelson, a timber expert; David Doligitzer, a furrier; and Percy Gurevich, a lecturer in philology at the Riga University, said that they were among a large group taken to the “institute” from the Riga ghetto. All the others died.
After being brought to the institute, the Jews were instructed to return to the ghetto, under armed guard, and collect lice, which abounded in the unsanitary hovels in which the Jews were forced to live. When thousands of lice had been collected in glass jars, the victims were returned to the institute.
They were then ordered to undress and lie down on beds under which open jars of lice had been placed. Within a short time, they were covered with bites, which turned into festering sores, resulting in severe pain and high fevers. Various “remedies,” such as alcohol, insect powders, vinegar and other mixtures, were doused on their heads and bodies by German doctors, who stood by and watched their sufferings, ostensibly for the purpose of observing which mixture worked most efficiently.
Rather than endure any further “experiments,” the five made a break for freedom, when they were detailed to bury some of their comrades. They were sheltered by non-Jewish friends until the Red Army freed Latvia last month.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.