Background: In an effort to alter eye color during World War II, devout Nazi researcher Karin Magnussen had adrenaline eye drops administered to inmates at the concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. A Sinti family, with a high prevalence of heterochromia iridis, was forced to participate in this study. Members of this family, as well as other victims, were later killed and had their eyes enucleated and sent to Magnussen for examination. Magnussen articulated the findings of these events in a manuscript that has never been published. The author is the first ophthalmologist to review this manuscript. The generation who experienced the atrocities of World War II will soon be gone and awareness of what happened during this tragic chapter of world history is fading.
Objectives: To describe these events to raise awareness among future generations.
Methods: A literature review and archival search was conducted.
Results: Magnussen’s research was based on an animal study published in 1937. For Magnussen’s study, adrenaline drops were administered to inmates, including a 12-year-old girl from the Sinti family. As there was a reported case of deaf-mutism within the family, Waardenburg syndrome seems to be the most plausible explanation for this family’s heritable heterochromia.
Conclusions: The effort to change eye color was doomed to fail from the beginning because there was a probable diagnosis of Waardenburg syndrome. Extinction of humans for ophthalmological research is an insane act beyond imagination. For the sake of these victims, and for the generations who still feel their pain, it is imperative to tell their stories.