So What Are You Reading?

Reviews of Books.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Auschwitz: A Doctor's Eyewitness Account

Auschwitz: A Doctor's Eyewitness Account by Dr Miklos Nyiszli

Originally published in Hungarian in 1947, this is one of the early first person narratives to depict the mass murders at Auschwitz, one of many German concentration camps of World War II. Miklós Nyiszli was a Romanian Jew sent to the death camp with his wife and 15 year old daughter in May 1944. As they got out of their box cars they were sorted by gender, "for a bath and to be disinfected" the good-natured guards said. He did not know if he would ever see his family again.

From the remaining men Dr. Mengele, the chief medical officer of the camp, ordered all doctors to step forward and asked if there was a pathologist with a knowledge of forensic medicine. Nyiszli answered and, after questioning, was singled out from the others. Thus began his one year as Dr. Mengele's assistant, performing autopsies and other medical tasks for Mengele's research on twins and congenital deformities.

Nyiszli lived in and had his lab in one of the four crematoriums and witnessed first-hand much of the mass murders and incinerations of the last year of the camp. His life with the Jews who worked the gas chambers and crematoriums, the Sonderkommandos, makes up another major part of his story.

The author writes in his Declaration at the beginning of the book that he is not trying to be a reporter or to write literature; he is a doctor, writing as a doctor would write. His story was made into a play and later a movie called The Grey Zone by Tim Nelson.

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