Jew and a medical doctor, the Auschwitz
prisoner Miklos Nyiszli - No. A8450 - was spared death for a
grimmer fate: to perform autopsies and 'scientific research' on his fellow
inmates at Auschwitz under the supervision of Dr. Josef Mengele, the chief
provider for the gas chambers.
Miraculously, Nyiszli survived to give an horrifying and sobering account,
one of the first books to bring the full horror of the Nazi death camps to
the public - Auschwitz: A Doctor's Eyewitness Account. You find
this account pp. 114-120:
number one's crematorium's gas chamber 3,000 dead bodies were piled up.
The Sonderkommando had already begun to untangle the lattice of flesh. The
noise of the elevators and the sound of their clanging doors reached my
room. The work moved ahead double-time. The gas chambers had to be
cleared, for the arrival of a new convoy had been announced.
chief of the gas chamber kommando almost tore the hinges off the door to
my room as he arrived out of breath, his eyes wide with fear or surprise.
"Doctor," he said, "come quickly. We just found a
girl alive at the bottom of a pile of corpses."
I grabbed my instrument case, which was always ready, and dashed to
the gas chamber. Against the wall, near the entrance to the immense room,
half covered with other bodies, I saw a girl in the throes of a death
rattle, her body seized with convulsions. The gas kommando men around me
were in a state of panic. Nothing like this had ever happened in the
course of their horrible career.
We moved the still-living body from the corpses pressing against it. I
gathered the tiny adolescent body into my arms and carried it back to the
room adjoining the gas chamber, where normally the gas kommando men change
clothes for work. I laid the body on a bench. A frail young girl, almost a
child, she could have been no more than fifteen. I took out my syringe
and, taking her arm - she had not yet recovered consciousness and was
breathing with difficulty - I administered three intravenous injections.
My companions covered her body which was as cold as ice with a heavy
overcoat. One ran to the kitchen to fetch some tea and warm broth.
Everybody wanted to help as if she were his own child. The reaction was
swift. The child was seized by a fit of coughing which brought up a thick
globule of phlegm from her lungs. She opened her eyes and looked fixedly
at the ceiling. I kept a close watch for every sign of life. Her breathing
became deeper and more and more regular. Her lungs, tortured by the gas,
inhaled the fresh air avidly. Her pulse became perceptible, the result of
I waited impatiently. I saw that within a few minutes she was going to
regain consciousness: her circulation began to bring color back into her
cheeks, and her delicate face became human again .. I made a sign for my
companions to withdraw. I was going to attempt something I knew without
saying was doomed to failure.
From our numerous contacts, I had been able to ascertain that Mussfeld had
a high esteem for the medical expert's professional qualities. He knew
that my superior was Dr. Mengele, the KZ's most dreaded figure, who,
goaded by racial pride, took himself to be one of the most important
representatives of German medical science. He considered the dispatch of
hundreds of thousands of Jews to the gas chambers as a patriotic duty. The
work carried out in the dissecting room was for the furtherance of German
medical science ...
And this was the man I had to deal with, the man I had to talk into
allowing a single life to be spared. I calmly related the terrible case we
found ourselves confronted with. I described for his benefit what pains
the child must have suffered in the undressing room, and the horrible
scenes that preceded death in the gas chamber. When the room had been
plunged into darkness, she had breathed in a few lungfuls of cyclon gas.
Only a few, though, for her fragile body had given way under the pushing
and shoving of the mass as they fought against death. By chance she had
fallen with her face against the wet concrete floor. That bit of humidity
had kept her from being asphyxiated, for cyclon gas does not react under
These were my arguments, and I asked him to do something for the child. He
listened to me attentively then asked me exactly what I proposed doing. I
saw by his expression that I had put him face to face with a practically
It was obvious that the child could not remain in the crematorium. One
solution would have been to put her in front of the crematorium gate. A
kommando of women always worked there. She could have slipped back to the
camp barracks after they had finished work. She would never relate what
had happened to her. The presence of one new face among so many thousands
would never be detected, for no one in the camp knew all the other
inmates. If she had been three or four years older that might have worked.
A girl of twenty would have been able to understand clearly the miraculous
circumstances of her survival, and have enough foresight not to tell
anyone about them. She would wait for better times, like so many other
thousands were waiting, to recount what she had lived through.
But Mussfeld thought that a young girl of sixteen would in all nai 'vete'
tell the first person she had met where she had just come from, what she
had seen and what she had lived through. The news would spread like
wildfire, and we would all be forced to pay for it with our lives. "There's
no way of getting round it," he said, "the child will
have to die." Half an hour later the young girl was led, or
rather carried, into the furnace room hallway, and there Mussfeld sent
another in his place to do the job. A bullet in the back of the