In order to obtain a professorship, Heissmeyer needed to present original research.
Although previously disproven, his hypothesis was that the injection of live tuberculosis bacilli into subjects would act as a vaccine. Another component of his experimentation was based on pseudoscientific Nazi racial theory that race played a factor in developing tuberculosis.
He attempted to prove his hypothesis by injecting live tuberculosis bacilli into the lungs and bloodstream of "Untermenschen" (subhumans), Jews and Slavs being considered by the Nazis to be racially inferior to Germans.
He was able to have the facilities made available and to test his subjects as a result of personal connections: his uncle, SS general August Heissmeyer, and his close acquaintance, SS general Oswald Pohl.
His experiment was conducted on 20 Jewish children at Neuengamme concentration camp. The children, along with their four adult caretakers, were murdered by being hanged in the basement of Bullenhuser Damm School in Hamburg.
After the war, Heissmeyer escaped detection and returned to his home in Magdeburg in postwar East Germany and started a successful medical practice as a lung and tuberculosis specialist. He was eventually found out in 1959. In 1966, he was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. At his trial he stated, "I did not think that inmates of a camp had full value as human beings." When asked why he didn't use guinea pigs he responded, "For me there was no basic difference between human beings and guinea pigs." He then corrected himself: "Jews and guinea pigs". Heissmeyer died on 29 August 1967.
- Medicine and medical ethics in Nazi Germany: origins, practices, legacies By Francis R. Nicosia, Jonathan Huener p.84
- The Nazi Doctors by Robert Jay Lifton: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide Publisher: Basic Books (August 2000) Language: English ISBN 0-465-04905-2 ISBN 978-0-465-04905-9
- The Murders at Bullenhuser Damm: The SS Doctor and the Children by Gunther Schwarberg Publisher: Indiana Univ Pr; First Edition (April 1984) Language: English ISBN 0-253-15481-2 ISBN 978-0-253-15481-1
- Doctors Under Hitler By Michael H. Kater Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press (February 2, 2000) Language: English ISBN 0-8078-4858-1 ISBN 978-0-8078-4858-6
- Page 84–85:Medicine and medical ethics in Nazi Germany: origins, practices, legacies By Francis R. Nicosia,Publisher: Berghahn Books; illustrated edition (April 1, 2002) Language: English ISBN 1-57181-386-1 ISBN 978-1-57181-386-2
- Admitting the Holocaust: Collected Essays By Lawrence L. Langer Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA (June 20, 1996) Language: English ISBN 0-19-510648-2 ISBN 978-0-19-510648-0