Title: Auschwitz: A Doctor’s Eyewitness Account
Author: Miklos Nyiszli, translator Richard Seaver
Publisher: Arcade Publishing
Copyright: 1960, 2011 by Miklos Nyiszli; translation copyright 1993, 2011 by Richard Seaver
First of all, you need to know that this is not a complete review. I’m only 49 pages into the book. But it is absolutely compelling, and for reasons best stated by Bruno Bettelheim in the foreword:
Strange as it may sound, the unique feature of the extermination camps is not that the Germans exterminated millions of people–that this is possible has been accepted in our picture of man, though not for centuries has it happened on that scale, and perhaps never with such callousness. What was new, unique, terrifying, was that millions, like lemmings, marched themselves to their own death. This is what is incredible; this we must come to understand.
Thus far, I’ve made it, as I say, to page 49 of the text, barely a few steps into the book. Nyiszli has been chosen by the infamous Dr. Josef Mengele to be the forensic doctor of the 12th Sonderkommando. He is both marveling at his good fortune and horrified at the fate that awaits him. I will confess to being horrified, myself, that he preferred to work for Mengele rather than rebel, horrified that he was able to fool himself,
repeatedly referring to his work as a doctor, though he worked as the assistant of a vicious criminal. . . speak[ing] of the Institute for Race, Biological, and Anthropological Investigation as “one of the most qualified medical centers of the Third Reich” though it was devoted to proving falsehoods. That the author was a doctor didn’t at all change the fact that he, like any of the prisoner officials who served the SS better than some SS were willing to serve it, was a participant, an accessory to the crimes of the SS” (Bettelheim, foreword).
I will do a complete review once I’ve finished the book, but I’ll warn you now that it will take some time for me to plow through it. It’s painful.