A Jew and a medical doctor, the Auschwitz prisoner Miklos Nyiszli - No. A8450 - was spared death for a grimmer fate: to perform autopsies and 'scientific research' on his fellow inmates at Auschwitz under the supervision of Josef Mengele, the chief provider for the gas chambers.
Miraculously, Nyiszli survived to give an horrifying and sobering account, one of the first books to bring the full horror of the Nazi death camps to the public: Auschwitz: A Doctor's Eyewitness Account.
number one's crematorium's gas chamber 3,000 dead
bodies were piled up. The Sonderkommando had already
begun to untangle the lattice of flesh ... The chief
of the gas chamber kommando almost tore the hinges off
the door to my room as he arrived out of breath, his
eyes wide with fear or suprise. "Doctor," he
said, "come quickly. We just found a girl alive
at the bottom of a pile of corpses".
grabbed my intrument case, which was always ready, and
dashed to the gas chamber. Against the wall, near the
entrance to the immense room, half covered with other
bodies, I saw a girl in the throes of a death rattle,
her body seized with convulsions. The gas kommando men
around me were in a state of panic. Nothing like this
had ever happened in the course of their horrible
moved the still-living body from the corpses pressing
against it. I gathered the tiny adolescent body into
my arms and carried it back to the room adjoining the
gas chamber ... I laid the body on a bench. A frail
young girl, almost a child, she could have been no
more than fifteen.
took out my syringe and, taking her arm - she had not
yet recovered consciousness and was breathing with
difficulty - I administered three intravenous
injections. My companions covered her body which was
as cold as ice with a heavy overcoat. One ran to the
kitchen to fetch some tea and warm broth. Everybody
wanted to help as if she were his own child.
reaction was swift. The child was seized by a fit of
coughing which brought up a thick globule of phlegm
from her lungs. She opened her eyes and looked fixedly
at the ceiling. I kept a close watch for every sign of
life. Her breathing became deeper and more and more
regular. Her lungs, tortured by the gas, inhaled the
fresh air avidly. Her pulse became perceptible, the
result of the injections. I waited impatiently. I saw
that within a few minutes she was going to regain
consciousness: her circulation began to bring color
back into her cheeks, and her delicate face became
human again ..
made a sign for my companions to withdraw. I was going
to attempt something I knew without saying was doomed
to failure ... From our numerous contacts, I had been
able to ascertain that Mussfeld had a high
esteem for the medical expert's professional qualities
... And this was the man I had to deal with, the man I
had to talk into allowing a single life to be spared.
calmly related the terrible case we found ourselves
confronted with. I described for his benifit what
pains the child must have suffered in the undressing
room, and the horrible scenes that preceded death in
the gas chamber. When the room had been plunged into
darkness, she had breathed in a few lungfuls of cyclon
gas. Only a few, though, for her fragile body had
given way under the pushing and shoving of the mass as
they fought against death. By chance she had fallen
with her face against the wet concrete floor. That bit
of humidity had kept her from being asphyxiated, for
cyclon gas does not react under humid conditions.
were my arguments, and I asked him to do something for
the child. He listened to me attentively then asked me
exactly what I proposed doing. I saw by his expression
that I had put him face to face with a practically
no way of getting round it," he said, "the
child will have to die.
an hour later the young girl was led, or rather
carried, into the furnace room hallway, and there
Mussfeld sent another in his place to do the job. A
bullet in the back of the neck .."