Auschwitz: A Doctor’s Eyewitness Account by Dr. Miklós Nyiszli is a non-fiction memoir of a Jewish Hungarian medical doctor who performed “research” on other Jews with the evil Dr. Josef Mengele aka “Angel of Death.” This is not an easy book to read, but an important one.
Dr. Miklós Nyiszli, a Jew as well as a medical doctor, was sent to Auschwitz when the Nazis invaded Hungary in 1944. Dr. Nyiszli — No. A8450– was picked by the monster himself, Dr. Josef Mengele, to perform “scientific research” on the inmates and eventually became Mengele’s personal research pathologist.
Auschwitz: A Doctor’s Eyewitness Account by Dr. Miklós Nyiszli tells the sober first hand account of a doctor who was selected by Dr. Mengele, evil incarnate, to help him perform medical experiments in Auschwitz. Whether it was a blessing to survive the war or the live with the knowledge that you unwittingly helped the biggest criminals the world has ever seen commit genocide is something Dr. Nyiszli struggles with.
My great-aunt, Sarah, was one of the children experimented on by the malevolent Dr. Mengele. She died young, in the mid 70s, when I was a child, but I will always remember how beautiful she was. Later I found out that she asked my parents that I stop visiting her because she didn’t want me to see her dying.
I have read a lot of World War II books, and it still amazes me of the horrors which occur, and even more amazing is the way people reacted. Jews walking to the slaughter and Germans, Austrians, Poles, and more who simply stood by and watched. One of the most interesting parts of the book was the excellent introduction by Bruno Bettelheim and the one by Richard Seaver who attempts to explain this phenomenon which, unfortunately, we see to this day.
Dr. Nyiszli describes the horrifying things he has done and seen. Early in the book he turns a bit to a fantasy claiming that his research was used by the “most qualified medical centers of the Third Reich” in the world. That institution, the Institute for Race, Biological, and Anthropological Investigation was focused on proving racial superiority, something which cannot be proven.
It’s BS now as it was BS then, and I’m sure the Doctor knew it was BS when he wrote the book.
Yet, who am I to judge?
As in any memoir of significance and importance, this one also is riddled with personal stories which really drive the tragedy of the Holocaust into the heart. After all, such huge numbers whether they be six million (Jews that were murdered), 12 million (total people which were murdered in the Nazi concentration camps), 22–25 million (deaths of soldiers in World war II) or 55–75 million (deaths of civilians in World War II) are so enormous that they defy logic and are one of the reasons people deny these events ever happened despite the overwhelming number of evidence.
Dr. Nyiszli tells us stories he witnessed. A teenager who survived the horrors of the gas chambers (there is a chilling account of what happened inside), which he brought back from the dead only so she can be marched out and shot half an hour later. The amazing story of the twelfth Sonderkommando, the Jews who worked the crematoria and revolted before they were brutally murdered. The Nazis replenished the Sonderkommando every four months, the first assignment of the new Sonderkommando was to get rid of the bodies of the old ones and await their fate.
The book is a cautionary tale on many levels; it is also an important historical document and an excellent read. It was not easy to get through this book, and I had trepidation about reading it at all. But I’m glad I did and you will be, too.