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He studied medicine from 1919-1926 in Göttingen, Munich, and Berlin. Poppendick received his medical license on 1 February 1928. Then, he worked for four years as a clinical assistant at the First Medical Clinic of Charité in Berlin. From June 1933-October 1934, he was the assistant medical director at Virchow Hospital in Berlin.
In 1935, he completed training as an expert for "race hygiene" at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Anthropology, Human Genetics and Eugenics. After this, he became the adjutant of the ministerial director Arthur Gütt at the Reich Ministry of the Interior. He was also the chief of staff at the SS Office for Population Politics and Genetic Health Care, which in 1937 became the SS Main Race and Settlement Office. Poppendick was departmental head and staff leader of the Genealogical Office.
At the beginning of World War II, he was drafted as an adjutant to a medical department of the army and took part in the attack on Belgium, France and the Netherlands. In November 1941, Poppendick was accepted into the Waffen-SS. In 1943, Ernst-Robert Grawitz of the Reich Physician SS appointed him to lead his personal staff. Poppendick joined the NSDAP in 1932 (party member No. 998607) and the SS (No. 36345). He reached the rank of Oberführer in the SS.
Poppendick was implicated in a series of medical experiments done on concentration camp prisoners, including the medical experiments done in Ravensbrück. At the American Military Tribunal No. I on August 20, 1947, he was acquitted from being criminally implicated in medical experiments, but was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for membership in a criminal organization, the SS. He was released on January 31, 1951. Later on, Poppendick managed to get his medical services paid by insurance, in Oldenburg.
- Nuremberg Trials Project: A Digital Document Collection, "Helmut Poppendick Affidavit, 14 January 1947", Harvard Law School Library Item No. 849.
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