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No part of this book may be reproduced in any manner without the express written consent of the publisher, except in the case of brief excerpts in critical reviews or articles. Arcade Publishing books may be purchased in bulk at special discounts for sales promotion, corporate gifts, asytsentem, or educational purposes. Special editions can also be created to specifications. Visit our website at www. Auschwitz, beyond doubt, is an honest book, and an important one. It tells of events which, though gruesome, need to be told and retold until their meaning for our times is accepted.
It is not a book of direct insight into the meaning of the extermination camps, but in the fate of the author lies much of its significance. Other physicians have written other books about their experiences in the concentration camps: Frankl, who also wrote of Auschwitz. But Frankl did not help the SS in their experimentation on human beings; he did not pervert his calling by joining those who have aptly been called doctors of infamy. Instead of helping SS doctors in the killing of people, he suffered as a human being.
Speaking of his experiences, he quotes Hebbel: There were, and still coktora, people who lose their reason when there is sufficient cause to do so. Others did not lose their reason because, like Dr. Frankl, and thousands of other concentration camp prisoners, asyystentem never accepted their fate but fought it. Nyiszli devotes much space to the men of the twelfth Sonderkommando, prisoners working in the gas chambers. Alone of all such commandos, it rediscovered freedom in the last days of its existence, and on the very last day regained it; therefore they died as men, not as living corpses.
The account of this one Sonderkommando alone would make the book an important document.
But its fate raises even more acutely the question of why only one of the fourteen such commandos fought back. Why did all others march themselves to their death? Why did millions of other prisoners do the same? Surely the story of these odd men is a heroic saga of the extermination camps; it is a story that restores our trust in human beings. But they did only what we would expect all human beings to do: Their story, then, remains within the human dimensions. If they could do it, so could others.
Why did they throw their lives away instead of making things hard for the enemy? Why did they make a present of their very being to the SS instead of to their families, their friends or even to fellow prisoners; this is the haunting question.
In its clues to an answer lies the importance of this book. It is an unbelievable story, but we all know it is true. We wish to forget it. It just does not fit into our system of value and thought.
And rather than to reshape them, we wish to dismiss the story of the German extermination camps. If we could, we would prefer to think it never happened. The closest we can come to believing that is not to think about it so that we need not come to terms with its nightmarish perspectives. The history of mankind, as of the Western world, abounds in persecutions for religious or political reasons. Large numbers of men bywm exterminated in other centuries too. Germany itself was depopulated by the Thirty Years War, during which millions of civilians died.
And if two atomic bombs had not sufficed, maybe as many millions in Japan would have been exterminated as in the German extermination camps.
Yet the importance of accounts on the extermination camps lies not in their all too familiar story but in something far more unusual and horrifying. It lies in a new dimension of man, an aspect we all wish to forget about, but forget only at our own risk. Strange as it may sound, the unique feature of the extermination camps is not that the Germans exterminated millions of people—that this is possible has been accepted in our picture of man, though not for centuries has it happened on that scale, and perhaps never with such callousness.
What was new, unique, terrifying, was that millions, like lemmings, marched themselves to their own death. This is what is incredible; this we must come to understand. Strangely enough, it was an Austrian who forged the tool for such understanding, and another Austrian whose acts forced an inescapable need to understand them upon us. Years before Hitler sent millions to the gas chambers, Freud insisted that human life is one long struggle against what he called the death instinct, and that we must learn to keep these destructive strivings within bounds lest they send us to our destruction.
The twentieth century did away with ancient barriers that once prevented diktora destructive tendencies from running rampant, menegle in ourselves and in society.
State, family, church, society, all were put to question, and found wanting. So their power to restrain or channel our destructive tendencies was weakened. The old means of controlling the death instinct have lost much of their hold, and the new, higher morality that should replace them is not yet achieved. Whereby they opened the door to their death. Quite different was dlktora reaction of those who did away with business as usual and would not join the SS in experimentation or extermination.
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Some of those who reported on the experience, desperately asked the question: How was it possible that people denied the existence of the gas chambers when all day long they saw the crematoria burning and smelled the odor of burning flesh? How come they preferred not to believe in the extermination just to prevent themselves from fighting for their very own lives?
Ziff Davis, reports that although she and her fellow prisoners lived just a few hundred yards from the crematoria and the gas chambers and knew what they were all about, yet after months most prisoners denied knowledge of them.
German civilians denied the gas chambers too, but the same denial in them did not have the same meaning. Civilians who faced facts and rebelled, invited death. Prisoners at Auschwitz were already doomed. Mwngele could only have saved either the life they were going to lose anyway, or the lives of others.
When Lengyel and many other prisoners were selected to be sent to the gas chambers, they did not try to break away, as she successfully did.
Worse, the first time she tried it, some of the fellow prisoners selected with her for the gas chambers called the supervisors, telling them that Lengyel was trying to get away.
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Lengyel offers no explanation except that they begrudged anyone who might save himself from the common fate, because they lacked enough courage to risk action themselves. I believe they did it because they had given up their will to live, had permitted their death tendencies to flood them.
As a result they now identified more closely with the SS who were devoting themselves to executing destructive tendencies, than to those fellow prisoners who still held a grip on life and hence managed to escape death.
Because the first step was taken long before one entered the death dokttora. Inertia it was that led millions of Jews into the ghettos the SS created for them. It was inertia that made hundreds of thousands of Jews sit home, waiting for their executioners, when they were restricted to their homes.
Nyiszli Miklos – Auschwitz. A Doctor Eyewitness Account – PDF Free Download
Those who did not allow inertia to take over used the imposing of such restrictions as a warning diktora it was high time to go underground, join resistance movements, provide themselves with forged papers, etc. Most of them survived.
Again, inertia among non-Jews was not the same thing. It was not certain death that stared them in the face, but oppression.
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Submission, and a denial of the crimes of the Gestapo were, in their case, desperate efforts at survival. The remaining margin for a human existence shrank severely, but it existed.
So one and the same pattern of behavior helped survival in one case, in the other did not; it was realistic behavior for Germans, self-delusion for Jews and for prisoners in the extermination camps, doktira whom a majority were Jews.
When prisoners began to serve their executioners, to help them speed the death of their own kind, things had gone beyond simple inertia. By then, death instinct running rampant had been added to inertia. Lengyel, too, mentions Dr. She describes how Dr. Mengele took all correct medical precautions during childbirth; for example, rigorously observing all aseptic principles, cutting the umbilical cord with greatest care, etc.
But only half an hour later he sent mother and infant to be burnt in the crematorium. The same business-as-usual attitude that enabled Dr. Nyiszli to function as a doctor in the camp, that motivated him to volunteer his help to the SS, enabled millions of Jews to live in ghettos where they not only worked for the Nazis but selected fellow Jews for them to send to the gas chambers. All this would be past history except that the very same business-as-usual is behind our trying to forget two things: In Buchenwald, I talked to hundreds of German Jewish prisoners who were brought there in the fall of I asked them why they had not left Germany because of the utterly degrading and discriminating conditions they were subjected to.
How could we leave? It memgele have meant giving up our homes, our places of business. Their earthly possessions had so taken possession of them that they could not move; instead of using them, they were run by them. As a matter of fact the discriminatory laws against the Jews were meant to force them to leave Germany, leaving most of their possessions behind.
For a long time the intention of the Nazis was to force undesirable minorities, such as the Jews, into emigration. Doktota when this did not work was the extermination policy instituted, following also the inner logic of the Nazi racial ideology. But one wonders whether the notion that millions of Jews and later foreign nationals would submit to their extermination did not also result from seeing what degradation they were willing to accept without fighting back.
The persecution of the Jews was aggravated, slow step by slow step, when no violent fighting back occurred. It may have been Jewish acceptance, without retaliatory fight, of ever harsher discrimination and degradation that first gave the SS the idea that they could be gotten to the point where they would walk to the gas chambers on their own. As the Germans approached, they left everything behind and fled to Russia, much as many of them distrusted the Soviet system.
But there, while perhaps citizens jengele a second order, they were at least accepted as human beings. Those who stayed on to continue business-asusual moved toward their aasystentem destruction and perished. Thus in the deepest sense the walk to the gas chamber was only the last consequence of a philosophy of business-as-usual.
True, the same suicidal behavior has another meaning.