Saturday, 17 March 2012

Auschwitz: A Doctor's Eyewitness Account

When the Nazis invaded Hungary in 1944, they sent virtually the entire Jewish population to Auschwitz. A Jew and a medical doctor, the prisoner Dr. Miklos Nyiszli was spared death for a grimmer fate: to perform "scientific research" on his fellow inmates under the supervision of the man who became known as the infamous "Angel of Death" - Dr. Josef Mengele. Nyiszli was named Mengele's personal research pathologist. In that capactity he also served as physician to the Sonderkommando, the Jewish prisoners who worked exclusively in the crematoriums and were routinely executed after four months. Miraculously, Nyiszli survived to give this horrifying and sobering account.

There are some books that you just can't comment on. Not because you have nothing to say, but because there simply are no words to express how you feel about what you've read. If I could propose a review in images only, they would be the following:

  • -shocked gaze of a brown eye
  • -faces, bleak with despair
  • -clouds of black smoke
  • -a flash of stainless steel
  • -shimmer of gold on bone
  • -orange flames streaming from chimneys

I read this account because I had studied bits of the holocaust in University, and having recently read Those who save Us, I found that my memories of what we had learned and discussed 10 years ago had faded.

It was one thing to shock those memories back to life; but quite another thing to read a first hand account. The only reason I couldn't give it a full five stars is because of how it ended... But I suppose, having been written in a logical, no nonsense fashion by a doctor, the abrupt ending made sense. Rebuilding after a horror like that is likely a whole other story.

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