Steroids are bad. Very bad. And what better way to demonize steroids than to link them to evil, Nazi doctors?! Schutz-Staffel soldiers were allegedly injected with steroids to increase their aggressiveness before battle in Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany. The specter of steroids has been reported as one of the factors underlying the violence and atrocities in Nazi-occupied territories and the systematic state-sponsored murder of millions of Jews during the Holocaust. Anything associated with Nazi Germany has been considered sinister and malicious. Steroids are no exception.
The association has conveniently demonized the entire class of hormones. The problem with the Nazi-steroid connection is that it, like much anti-steroid propaganda, is not true. Empirical evidence supporting an association between steroid use and Nazi soldiers simply does not exist.
German scientists, who happened to be working in Nazi Germany, were undeniably active in early steroid research during the 1930s and 1940s as were researchers in other countries. But the German contributions to steroid development did not extend to the theater of war. German steroid research, while significant, may not have been as extensive as the contributions of another group of researchers.
The myth of Nazi steroids has had the unfortunate effect of overshadowing the significant role played by Jewish chemists and entrepreneurs in the history and development of anabolic steroids. Jewish researchers arguably made a greater number contributions in the field than their Nazi-funded German counterparts.
It appears that the role of Nazis has been considerably overstated. Indeed, the Nazis did have a major impact on steroid development. It’s just not the direct impact we’ve been told to believe.
Nazi Germany indirectly influenced the early boom in steroid research by precipitating the mass exodus of Jewish researchers from Europe during the rise of the Third Reich.
- The first person to isolate and name the primary male androgen as “testosterone” in 1935 was of Jewish ancestry.
- A Jewish chemist from Ciba collaborated on the research team that shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for first synthesizing testosterone in 1939.
- The co-founder of the company that introduced Deca Durabolin and Sustanon 250 witnessed his two daughters being deported to a Nazi concentration camp as he himself went into hiding.
- The co-founders of the company that introduced Anadrol were Jewish emigrants who moved to Mexico.
- It was yet another Jewish refugee who was involved in the synthesis of Anadrol, Masteron and Superdrol.
Maybe it’s time we stop blaming the Nazi for anabolic steroids and start thanking the Jews?
Rather than demonize steroids, we should celebrate these remarkable compounds. The people involved in the creation of various anabolic steroids deserve credit and recognition and should be proud of the discoveries.
Organon (Oss, Netherlands), Ciba (Basel, Switzerland) Syntex (Mexico) and Schering (Berlin, Germany) were the four pharmaceutical companies that controlled the early development of steroids. Only Schering was linked to research funded by the Nazi-controlled government of Germany. The other three companies were either founded by Jewish entrepreneurs and/or dominated by Jewish organic chemists.
Ernst Laqueur co-founded Organon in 1923. Laqueur’s mother, Anna Levy, was a Jew from Poland. Laqueur, a non-practicing Jew who baptized his children in the Protestant church, was still forced into hiding from the German Occupation forces in Holland during the Holocaust because of his Jewish ancestry. Laqueur escaped deportation but his two adult daughters were not so fortunate and spent several months in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp before being liberated by Soviet troops when World War II came to an end.
Laqueur and his colleagues at Organon were the first to isolate and identify the primary male androgen from hundreds of pounds of bull testicles. Being the first to discover gave them the naming rights. They decided to call the hormone “testosterone” in the classic paper entitled “On Crystalline Male Hormone from Testes (Testosterone): More Active Than Androsterone Preparations from Urine or Cholesterol” in 1935. In the decades that followed, Organon introduced many drugs that became household names in the bodybuilding and athletic communities. These included Deca Durabolin, Durabolin, Sustanon 250 and Pregnyl (hCG).
The early method of extracting testosterone from bull testicles was quite expensive. Schering and Ciba independently discovered new, less expensive methods of synthesizing testosterone in August 1935. The 1939 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to German Adolf Butenandt (Schering) and Croatian Leopold Ružička (Ciba) for this reasearch.
Butenandt was forced to decline the award by the Nazi government leaving Ružička as the sole recipient of the award. While Ružička was Catholic, his collaborator on the testosterone research at Ciba, Alfred Wettstein, was Jewish.
The Catholic Ružička was also an outspoken opponent of the Nazi regime. He was a founding member of the Swiss-Yugoslav Relief Society that helped provide refuge in Switzerland from German Occupation forces in Europe during World War II. He had established a reputation for shielding and mentoring Jewish scientists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (Eidgenossische Technische Hochschule, or ETH) in Zürich.
In addition to their work on testosterone synthesis, Ružička and his international research team were the first to synthesize methyltestosterone and androstenedione.
Ružička came under increasing pressure for his protection of his Jewish colleagues at the Zurich-based ETH during World War II. Six chemists at ETH decided to leave in order to protect their mentor.
George Rosenkranz was one of six Ružička’s proteges at ETH that left Switzerland. He was interviewed for a position as Director of Scientific Research at Syntex in Mexico City on the same day that the Enola Gay dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.
Syntex was co-founded by German Jewish refugee Federico Lehmann and Hungarian Jewish refugee Emeric Somlo only a year earlier in March 1944.
Rosenkranz was directly involved in the creation of the steroids Anadrol (oxymetholone), Masteron (drostanolone acetate) and Superdrol (methyldrostanolone or methasteron).
(As a side note, Rosenkranz was responsible for hiring Austrian Jewish refugee Carl Djerassi to work at Syntex. Djerassi’s work was instrumental in the creation of an entirely different type of steroid hormone – the birth control pill.)
Stay tuned for my next articles where I completely deconstruct the myth of Nazi steroids.
Anabolic steroid. Prepn: Ringold et al., J. Am. Chem. Soc. 81, 427 (1959); Ringold, Rosenkranz, DE 1070632 (1959 to Syntex).
Vischer E, Meystre C, Wettstein A. Herstellung weiterer 1-Dehydrosteroide auf mikrobiologischem Wege. Helv Chim Acta 1955;38:1502-6.
Meystre C, Frey H, Voser W, Wettstein A. Gewinnung von 1,4-Bisdehydro-3-oxo-steroiden. HeIv Chim Acta 1956;39:734-42.
Synthetic estrogen antagonist. Prepn: H. J. Ringold et al., J. Am. Chem. Soc. 81, 427 (1959); H. J. Ringold, G. Rosenkranz, US 3118915 (1964 to Syntex).
H. J. Ringold and G. Rosenkranz. “Steroids. LXXXIII. Synthesis of 2-Methyl and 2,2-Dimethyl Hormone Analogs.” Journal of Organic Chemistry. 21. (1956): 1333.
Leopold Ružička and Alfred Wettstein. On the Artificial Preparation of the Testicular Hormone Testosterone (Androsten-3-one-17-ol). August 31, 1935.
“Ružička, Leopold.” Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography. 2008. Retrieved March 06, 2012 from Encyclopedia.com: [url]http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2830905308.html[/url]
Founders of Organon
Ernst Laqueur. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved February 22, 2012, from [url=http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernst_Laqueur]Ernst Laqueur – Wikipedia[/url]
Szpilfogel, S.A.;*Zeelen, F.J. Steroid research at Organon in the golden 1950s and the following years. Steroids, Volume 61 (8) Elsevier – Aug 1, 1996
Renata Laqueur:*Bergen-Belsen Diary, 1944-1945 ISBN 3771623081
Founders of Syntex
Djerassi, Carl. This Man’s Pill: Reflections on the 50th Birthday of the Pill, Oxford University Press, USA, 2004.*ISBN 0-19-860695-8*(autobiography)
George S. Cohen. Mexico’s Pill Pioneer. Perspectives in Health Magazine: The Magazine of the Pan American Health Organization. Volume 7, Number 1, 2002 Retrieved from http://www.paho.org/english/dpi/Number13_article4_7.htm