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It is not enough to relegate them to marginal tasks; the best way to bind them is to burden them with guilt, cover them with blood, compromise them as much as possible. They will thus have established with their instigators the bond of complicity and will no longer be able to turn back. As a result, he did not have a chance to rebuild his medical career in the west as others did , or to become one of those survivors able to guard the public use of their experience in Auschwitz through repeated interviews and participation in oral history projects.
Lillian Kramer in To engage with memoirs at these two conceptual levels presupposes an understanding of their epistemic normativity. Following James E. He studied medicine, first in Cluj in , then in Kiel between and It was a moment of immense gratification and accomplishment. He would remember the graduation and the short encouraging message to succeed in life he had received from the rector upon handing him the diploma when, 15 years later, he arrived in Auschwitz and was tattooed with his camp number: A In Germany, Nyiszli specialised in forensic pathology; his doctoral dissertation dealt with indications of causes of death in suicides.
In , Nyiszli returned to Transylvania and began practicing in the town of Oradea. He soon established himself as a forensic pathologist, often assisting the police and the courts in identifying unusual or disputed causes of death.
By , he could no longer practice as a private doctor. Throughout his text, Nyiszli is acutely aware that he is experiencing a unique and the most terrible suffering in the history of the Jewish people, but is also aware of the difficulty of describing this experience. Primo Levi also struggled to recount his camp experience and its compound functionality as a testimony :. I thought that my account would be all the more credible and useful the more it appeared objective and the less it sounded overtly emotional; only in this way does a witness in matters of justice perform his task, which is that of preparing the ground for the judge.
The judges are my readers. How does Nyiszli narrate his experience? When I lived through these horrors, which were beyond all imagining, I was not a writer but a doctor. Today, in telling about them, I write not as a reporter but as a doctor. At first, Nyiszli was under the impression that his stay in the camp would be short-lived:.
For the moment my situation was tolerable. Dr Mengele expected me to perform the work of a physician. I would probably be sent to some German city as a replacement for a German doctor who had been drafted into military service, and whose functions had included pathology and forensic medicine.
Here, plainly, we have the worldview of a physician, a man accustomed to viewing each moral problem through the prism of his profession, and to viewing it as entangled in the endlessly complex web of practical social reality in a concentration camp.
At the same time, Nyiszli is aware of his own medical knowledge and able to articulate the contours of a new life ahead. Moreover, he is deluded by the fact that his status as a Jew would be overlooked. This felt disjuncture for Nyiszli between his status as a prisoner and his civilian clothes operates throughout the memoirs and serves as a source of constant reaffirmation of his desire to survive.
After all I had learned, I was not sorry to have acted boldly and tried to better my lot. By having been chosen, the very first day, to work as a doctor, I had been able to escape the fate of being lost in the mass and drowned in the filth of the quarantine camp. More importantly, Nyiszli pictures himself as an accomplished medical specialist, one whose work was valued, not least by Mengele.
In the course of my entire medical career I had never had to work with such defective instruments as these, or in a room so primitively equipped.
These expectations were, however, short-lived. It is then that Nyiszli finally realises what would become of him:. I took it all in, paralysed with fright. A slow death, opening its maddening depths before me.
I felt I was lost. Now I understood why I had been given civilian clothes. This was the uniform of the Sonderkommando — the kommando of the living-dead. Medicines, medical instruments, dressings, all in sufficient quantity, were at my disposal. At this point, Nyiszli knows that his expertise is valued and needed; his confidence returns. Still, this did not bother me, for the years I had spent in pre-war Germany furnished plenty of material for discussion. They were much impressed by the fact that I spoke their own language better; or at least in a more cultured manner, than they did.
I soon realised that there were certain expressions they did not understand, although they carefully refrained from letting me know it. It is a revealing incident. For a moment, it is Nyiszli who is the superior man, empowered by his knowledge of German language and culture. But it was his medical expertise that was most valued, and not only by Mengele.
Working and sharing experiences with a forensic pathologist was an opportunity that other inmate doctors in Auschwitz found attractive. That these were bodies of other Jews did not inhibit the inmate doctors from wanting them for medical practice.
How does Nyiszli describe his relationship with Mengele? He met the SS doctor shortly after his arrival in Auschwitz.
When his group of prisoners was asked whether it included a pathologist, Nyiszli did not hesitate to put himself forward. Medicine, he believed, would be able assure his survival. Dr Mengele ordered all doctors to step forward; he then approached the new group, composed of some fifty doctors, and asked those who had studied in a German university, who had a thorough knowledge of pathology and practiced forensic medicine, to step forward. I glanced at my companions.
Perhaps they were intimated. What did it matter! My mind was already made up. I broke ranks and presented myself. It is clear nevertheless that, although he volunteered, Nyiszli did not know the exact nature of the work he had agreed to do.
His naivety is often disconcerting. Nyiszli remarks candidly on the opportunities offered by the camp in providing medical research not only with diverse human subjects but also with rare diseases, such as noma.
And so, because of its prevalence, research had been greatly facilitated and considerable progress made towards finding an effective method of treating it. As the chief medical officer at Birkenau, Mengele is described as directly involved in these and other experiments. Twins and dwarfs were his greatest interest. Each drawing was classified in a file set up for that express purpose, complete with all individual characteristics; into this file would also go the final results of this research.
Full of lacunae, they offered no better than partial results. Twin brothers died together, and it was possible to perform autopsies on both. Where, under normal circumstances, can one find twin brothers who die at the same place and at the same time? I began the dissection of one set of twins and recorded each phase of my work. I removed the brain pan. Together with the cerebellum I extracted the brain and examined them. Then followed the opening of the thorax and the removal of the sternum.
Next I separated the tongue by means of an incision made beneath the chin. With the tongue came the oesophagus, with the respiratory tracts came both lungs.
I washed the organs in order to examine them more thoroughly. The tiniest spot or the slightest difference in colour could furnish valuable information. I made a transverse incision across the pericardium and removed the fluid. Next I took out the heart and washed it. I turned it over and over in my hand to examine it.
If only it were possible, in the future, to have each German mother bear as many twins as possible! It deserves to be reproduced at length:.
He sent millions to death merely because, according to a racial theory, they were inferior beings and therefore detrimental to mankind.
This same criminal doctor spent long hours beside me, either at his microscope, his disinfecting ovens and his test tubes or, standing with equal patience near the dissecting table, his smock befouled with blood, his bloody hands examining and experimenting like one possessed.
The immediate objective was the increased reproduction of the German race. The final objective was the production of pure Germans in numbers sufficient to replace the Czechs, Hungarians, Poles, all of whom were condemned to be destroyed, but who for the moment were living on those territories declared vital to the Third Reich. Just as false was the theory concerning the degeneracy of the dwarfs and cripples sent to the butchers, in order to demonstrate the inferiority of the Jewish race.
There is no place for Jews in the German racial utopia. Why were the Jews the victims? Nyiszli asks. According to the Nazi ideologues:. By mixing with other races, they had sullied, and threatened to contaminate with degeneracy, the only pure race: the Aryan. Because of their blood, the Jews were harmful to that great race.
Moreover, they were dangerous because their teachers, their artists, their merchants and financiers had become so powerful they threatened the whole of Europe. His is an uncomfortable narrative and a troubling testimony about survival, shame and complicity.
Take the cleaning of crematoria of dead bodies after the gassing had occurred, for instance. He was certainly no hero. Yet his testimony remains a powerful one. There is now an established critical tradition in representing the Holocaust in all its aspects, but there is still need for a critical evaluation of witness testimony in general and memoirs in particular.
Auschwitz: A Doctor's Eyewitness Account
He was a doctor and was taken on to work in the Myklos Nyiszli is chosen by Dr. Mengele for a much more horrific fate. He is to help with "scientific research" on his fellow inmates. Nyiszli is named Mengele's personal research pathologist.
The ambiguous victim: Miklós Nyiszli’s narrative of medical experimentation in Auschwitz-Birkenau
Upon his arrival, Nyiszli volunteered as a doctor and was sent to work at No. He was under the supervision of Josef Mengele , a Schutzstaffel officer and physician. Mengele decided after observing Nyiszli's skills to move him to a specially built autopsy and operating theatre. He completed his medical degree in Following this, he specialized in forensic pathology in Germany. He returned to Transylvania with his wife and daughter in before migrating to Hungary in
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