Karyl's Reviews > Auschwitz: A Doctor's Eyewitness Account

Auschwitz by Miklós Nyiszli
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's review
Mar 19, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: nook-reads, 2012, non-fiction, survival-disaster, holocaust, wwii
Read from March 19 to 21, 2012

In May of 1944, Dr Miklos Nyiszli, a Hungarian Jew, was brought to Auschwitz. Chosen to assist the awful Dr Mengele with his experiments on Jews, Nyiszli manages to survive nearly a year of residence at one of the worst death camps in Nazi Germany. The stories he tells of what was expected of him, and how people would be put to death for no better reason than the SS had run out of food to give them, and how killings would take place on a huge scale (3,000 at a time in the gas chambers) is horrifically shocking. Clearly Nyiszli was under great strain the entire time, working under a true monster of humanity in Dr Mengele, and knowing that soon his time at the crematorium would expire -- and he would lose his life. There are many times in which he tells the reader that he can no longer carry out his duties, so he'd leave the corpses he was to perform an autopsy on in the dissection room and go back to his room to try to decompress. I can understand why Nyiszli chose to work for Dr Mengele -- it was a life or death situation. In that case, self-preservation tends to take over, and it doesn't really matter how many others die as long as you yourself stay alive. I don't feel as though Nyiszli turned against his people. He was asked to perform autopsies and take measurements of dead people. On his rounds caring for the men who worked in the crematoria, he did his best to heal, even when they had attempted to commit suicide and put themselves out of their misery.

I disagreed with a lot of the foreword, however. In it, Bruno Bettelheim seems to argue that the Jews brought the Holocaust down on themselves because they didn't fight back hard enough. Throughout all of the literature I have read, fighting back was a good way to end up dead. Granted, no matter what, most Jews in Europe in the 1940s were dead men walking, but there was still a choice of dying immediately through resistance or possibly surviving to the end of the war, if one could survive the death camps, an admittedly remote chance. Besides, I firmly believe that man tends to overestimate the goodness of his fellow man, and still finds it difficult to believe even when faced with unadulterated and true evil. Many Jews didn't believe that things could really be *that* bad. Unfortunately that disbelief cost them their lives.

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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Erin (new) - added it

Erin I couldn't agree more with what you said of the foreward. I found it disrespectful and I'm not sure why it would be put in this book.

Karyl I agree that it seemed disrespectful. And I too wonder why it was included, and indeed, who this person is that wrote it.

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