12 Dark Historical Events Not Known by Many People

by Janhabi Banerjee2 years ago

7 “Radium Girls”, the radium necrosis victims of the WWI era, were a bunch of factory workers who were brutally exposed to the dangerous luminescent radium as they had to touch the radium-soaked paint sticks in their lips while working and experienced physical disfiguration and eventual death.

Radium girls
Image credits: libraries.rutgers.edu

“Radium Girls” were a group of women employees in the early WWI era who were hired to paint radium and instructed to touch the radium-soaked paint sticks to their lips. This resulted in severe radium necrosis and other diseases. They died a painful death.

The cruelty of business owners and their apathetic actions are not unknown in this 21st century. However, the extent of their inhuman activity can be shocking. In the early WWI era, the US Radium Corporation hired a massive number of women to paint watch dials and other luminous objects with radium.

Unaware of the deadly nature of the radioactive component, the women ingested a substantial amount of radium as they were instructed to sharpen the tip with their lips and tongues. As expected, the result was brutal.

A massive number of those women workers were affected by the radioactive element. Rotting jaws, disfigured tumors, and other severely infected body parts led to their death. It is outrageous that such an element was given to workers without proper protection.

On top of that, they were instructed to engage with it physically. The company was found guilty under various charges and had to bear the treatment and other necessary costs of the victims, who would then suffer for their entire life. (source)


8 MV Wilhelm Gustloff in WWII was sunk by the Soviet S-13 on 30 January 1945 in the Baltic Sea, and it caused huge casualties in marine history. More than 9,000 people lost lives which was six times more than the number of deaths caused due to the sinking.

MV Wilhelm Gustloff
MV Wilhelm Gustloff. Image credits: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-H27992 / Sönnke, Hans via Wikimedia

The sinking of the MV Wilhelm Gustloff on 30 January 1945 in the Baltic Sea resulted in more than six times the number of deaths suffered by the Titanic sinking, including around 5,000 children. The biggest loss of human life in maritime affairs took place in a deadly attack launched by a Soviet submarine on a German ship.

The number of deaths crossed 9,000 becoming one of the most terrible acts of war.  WWII has many gut-wrenching stories from both sides, as expected from the war. On one side, Hitler decimated millions of Jews. On the other side, the US dropped two atomic bombs destroying two cities.

One such incident was the MV Wilhelm Gustoff, a German armed military transport ship. It was sunk by the Soviet submarine S-13 resulting in the highest number of deaths in maritime history.  An estimate shows 9,000+ people lost their lives on that day.

Some of them died directly from the torpedo hits, while some died in the stampede. The rest sank in the cold icy sea. Such a ghastly number can dwarf the loss in the Titanic by six times. (source)


9 The unethical Vipeholm Experiment, started in 1945, used mentally disabled people to prove that sweets cause tooth decay. And as a fatal result, their teeth were ruined by the sticky toffee they were force-fed for the experiment.

The Vipeholm Experiment
Image credits: Edition.cnn.com

The Vipeholm Experiment was done to understand the effect of carbohydrates on dental health. The experiment was funded by the sugar industry. It was done on mentally disabled people by changing their diet to extremely sweet foods.

Although the research was successful as it showed clear results that excess amount of sugar causes dental harm by ruining 50 of the 660 test subjects’ teeth. The question of medical ethics was raised later.

Another interesting aspect of the study was that it resulted in lawsuits against the corporations that were funding it, so the research results got delayed for several years.

The study also proved that it is good for children to eat chocolate only once a week instead of eating throughout the week in a small amount. However successful, the question is still prudent: was it ethical to use mentally disabled persons as lab rats? (source)


10 The Cambodian Genocide, one of the dark events in history, is all about collectivizing agriculture and forcing professionals from different fields to toil in the fields. It resulted in deaths of 1.5 to 2.0 million from 1975-1979. Those who refused were subject to inhuman torture and killing in the S-21 detention camp followed by mass burying of their bodies.

The main mastermind behind the Cambodian genocide was Pol Pot. His idea of a utopian society was the real-life representation of George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984.

In 1970, a brutal civil war broke out in Cambodia between The Khmer Rouge and Norodom Sihanouk. The United States also got involved and dropped 70,000 soldiers and 500,000 tons of bombs over the next four years. This resulted in radicalizing more locals to join the Khmer Rouge.

On April 17th, 1975, Pol Pot became the leader of Cambodia with the help of his Khmer forces. He wanted to take Cambodia back to its proud roots of farmers and laborers, so the educated professionals, academics, and urban people naturally became the public enemy.

Many professionals like doctors, lawyers, and civil servants were forced to work in the fields. The infamous S-21 detention center only had 18 survivors out of its 18,000 prisoners. The Khmer Rouge also had their official torture manuals and considered torture to be more “productive.” (source)


11 In the early 2000s, Bayer sold thousands of HIV-infected blood-clotting agents to underdeveloped countries in Asia and Latin America resulting in thousands of deaths. They paid $600 million to settle the lawsuits.

Bayer sold thousands of HIV-infected blood-clotting agents
Image credits: Cbgnetwork.org

Drug companies have caused the death of thousands of innocents for a very long time. Due to technical factors or other problems, hundreds of medicines have failed to comply with the required standards, and yet it has been largely overlooked.

Bayer, one such company, has killed thousands of people in Asia and Latin America by dumping blood-clotting agents infected with HIV.

When the officials of America noticed that hemophiliacs were not responding to the new medicine, and instead conditions were worsening, it was revealed that the plasma of 10,000 donors was not screened for HIV resulting in such a massacre in the early 2000s. The company had to pay $600 million for the settlement of lawsuits. (source)


12 On 27 March 2017, around 800 baby corpses were found in a septic tank in County Galway, Ireland where the infamous Magdalene Asylum was situated. Reportedly, the deaths occurred from 1925-1961 due to malnutrition, tuberculosis, measles, or pneumonia. The bodies were buried without the knowledge of their worker mothers who were subject to torture and abuse.

Magdalen-asylum. Image credits: Wikimedia

The Magdalene Laundries that witnessed one of the dark events in history were set up by Catholic organizations around the early 1900s and were named after Mary Magdalene from the Bible.

The purpose of these organizations was to provide shelter to the “fallen women of the society,” i.e. unmarried mothers and their children. Later, the name was changed to Magdalene Asylum. It changed when the catholic organization started to take custody of the mentally ill and criminals as well.

The Magdalene Laundries were set up all across the world and were looked after by Catholic nuns. While this may sound good, the reality was completely different. Most of the women in the Magdalene Asylum had to work on heavy machinery and tolerate torture and abuse.

The babies and children suffered from malnutrition causing their demise, while others passed away from tuberculosis, measles, or pneumonia.

Within 1925-1961, the Magdalene Asylum was home to around 800 deaths who were buried without informing their mothers. The bodies were not even provided with a coffin. They were buried on unconsecrated grounds.

Their bodies remained there until they were found on 27 March 2017. The Irish government has provided a total compensation amount of 27.32 million pounds to 770 residents of laundries. (source)

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