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Auschwitz. An eyewitness account of Mengele's infamous death camp. by Miklós Nyiszli (1960)

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I will not rate this book as I read it years ago, before I could fully wrap my head around the atrocities of Auschwitz. I would like to go back and reread this book.
  meggarrett0609 | Aug 6, 2014 |
On the one hand, this book was totally as expected: a description of the often-told horrors of Auschwitz by in inside witness. And yet it manages to shock again, not just through the physical cruelty described herein, but with the psychologically dehumanising effects of the extermination programme. People in this camp were resigned to their eventual deaths, including the Sonderkommandos (jews who worked in the gas chambers and the cremation ovens) who knew that they would survive four months at most. And yet only one of the 14 Sonderkommandos decided to go down fighting (and to destroy one of the four crematoria in the process). The author continues to perform autopsies for Dr. Mengele on sets of twins that were murdered especially for this purpose, as if he were working "in the pathology university faculty of a middle-sized town". I was struck by little details that illustrate this madness: the prisoners inthe Sonderkommando would trade food for 140 gramme gold coins (melted from gold tooth fillings extracted from the gassed corpses),since that was the only currency they could have access to. Nazis would talk to a Jew (especially a useful jew like the expert pathologist who wrote this book), but would never greet him when arriving or leaving - because they didn't deserve to be further acknowledged. Not a fun read, but one I will remember for a long time. ( )
  fist | Jul 19, 2014 |
Take nothing for granted! ( )
  wallerdc | Mar 26, 2014 |
A sad book. The foreword is very strong. After and even while reading this book I had many questions. Weird because I have read so many books about this horrible war and about the people that survived the camps but this was the first time I started to wonder and think. Maybe because of the total of numbers Nyiszli mentioned in this book and that made me realize how many people were living in Auschwitz. Some of those questions were answered by the foreword written not by the author but by Bettelheim. ( )
  Marlene-NL | Apr 12, 2013 |
I enjoyed this book a lot, to the extent you can "enjoy" a book about the Holocaust. Dr. Nyiszli was in a very, very unique position as a prisoner at Auschwitz. As an accomplished doctor with a great deal of experience in dissection, he was afforded comparatively luxurious accommodations at Auschwitz so that he could assist Dr. Josef Mengele in his medical "research." He worked in the crematoriums, so he witnessed the masses of people being led to the gas chambers, the firing squads, and so-called medical research on living subjects, particularly twins. This book is a chronological account of his time at Auschwitz.

If you are looking for a lot of details on Nazi medical research, you really won't find it here. It's more a personal account of how Dr. Nyiszli used his academic and practical background to survive, and how he was largely spared from physical abuse but could not avoid psychological horrors. He does talk about his dissections and what he learned about Nazi experiments, but the detail is more in his observations about life as a crematorium worker.

There is a long introduction to this book that is a rambling philosophical treatise on why concentration camp prisoners behaved the way they sometimes did. Why they willingly got on trains to go to the camps, why they didn't fight, etc, etc. I read a little bit of this section and ended up skipping it. I found that the facts of the book spoke for themselves, and that we can understand the "whys" by trying to conceive of the horrors that the prisoners faced for years.

Overall, a horrifying but necessary read. ( )
  slug9000 | Apr 12, 2013 |
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Dr. Miklos Nyiszli, a Jew and medical doctor, tells of his experiences at Auschwitz during World War II.

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