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
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 the injections.
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 humid conditions.
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 impossible problem.
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 neck."