Dr. Heinrich Mückter never hid the fact that he built his career in Nazi Germany. He testified at the German Thalidomide Trial that he was “Surgeon Major” and deputy director for the Institute for Typhus and Virus Research in occupied Poland.
The Nazi past of the defendants was per se not part of these criminal proceedings. However, it was known at the time of the trial that Mückter’s institute in Kracow was involved in deadly experiments on humans the SS conducted in various concentration camps. Mückter and his team were working on the development of a typhus vaccine, which was repeatedly tested on concentration camp inmates in Buchenwald and other places. The death figures of those inmates showed Mückter how well his vaccine was working. He fled Poland after the war and quickly found a new home at Grünenthal, where he became head of research.
Mückter later was credited with the invention of Thalidomide and received a percentage for every single pill that was sold. The drug would make him very wealthy. He was also one of the central figures at the Thalidomide Trial (1968-1970). Even though he had been alerted about the dangers associated with Thalidomide, Mückter did everything he could to make sure that his cash cow drug would stay on the market. The lawsuit suddenly ended after the company offered to pay survivors 100 Million D-Mark (about $30m CDN). None of the defendants, including Mückter, had to serve any jail time. He died in 1987. He never had to take any responsibility for what he did at Grünenthal during the Thalidomide era, nor for his involvements in the deadly medical experiments on humans during the Second World War.