Victims of medical experiments of Auschwitz
The Holocaust seems so distant, so far removed from our reality. For us, it is hard to even conceive of the massive horrors and atrocities committed by Josef Mengele and the Nazis. But the few "Mengele twins" survivors remember. They remember being only kids when they were spared from outright execution, but delivered to a decidedly crueler fate.
The Angel of Death, Josef Mengele, was obsessed with twins and performed horrific experiments on them for reasons that still remain unclear. One of his experiments was with eye color. Mengele or one of his assistents would inject dyes into an eye of a child, preferably a set of twins. The dyes often resulted in injury, sometimes complete blindness, not to mention excruciating pain.
Another series of experiments which Mengele performed was with twins in whom he would inject one with a deadly virus, and after that twin died, kill the other to compare organ tissue at autopsy.
He carried out twin-to-twin transfusions, stitched twins together, castrated or sterilized twins. Many twins had limbs and organs removed in macabre surgical procedures, performed without using an anesthetic. Only few of the estimated 3,000 twins at Auschwitz survived his sadistic madness.
The twins, Bernard and Simon Zajdner, born Dec. 28, 1929, were sent to Auschwitz, with their sister, Micheline, on May 20, 1944. The twins were victims of Josef Mengele's inhuman "medical experiments". They were murdered - Micheline survived.
Hedvah and Leah Stern
Miraculously Hedvah and Leah Stern survived Auschwitz. They later recalled:" When they opened the door to our cattle car, our mother became very frightened, "Stay with me, children," she told us refusing to let go of our hands. But then some prisoners told her in Yiddish, "Tell them you have twins. There is a Dr. Mengele here who wants twins ..."
Marc Berkowitz and his twin sister Francesca were two of Mengeleís victims. Arriving at Auschwitz from Czechoslovakia in March 1944 with their mother, 12-year-old Marc and his twin sister, Francesca, were singled out by Mengele for medical experimentation:
"Before the experiments began, Mengele came and tattooed my number personally. They put us in freezing baths, smeared chemicals on our skin, but it was the needles we were most afraid of. After the first 150 injections I stopped counting ... One morning in July 1944 I spotted my mother among a long line of women moving toward the gas chamber. Mengele called me in and gave me an errand to the crematorium. He knew I would see my mother go to her death. A couple of days later he asked me if I still believed in God."
Years later, Marc Berkowitz still suffered from pains due to the injections.
When the Nazis invaded Hungary in 1944, Isabella Leitner and her family were herded in a ghetto and finally sent to Auschwitz where her mother and baby sister were gassed immediately. Isabella, the author of several books about the Holocaust, was exposed to horrors that words cannot describe, tortured, used. She later remembered the arrival at Auschwitz:
"I packed for my journey to Auschwitz on May 28, 1944 - my 20th birthday. As we alighted from the cattle car - my mother, my brother and my four sisters - there was Mengele, looking magnificent with his dog, his pistol, his riding crop. He sent my mother to the crematorium immediately. She was too old to live. And my youngest sister, Potyo, she was too young for him at 13 ... Mengele was as smooth, as civilized, as elegant as you can imagine, good-looking even. You would never suspect the evil. He was the genius of death. I have a sort of revenge. It would kill Mengele to see that I gave birth to two of the most magnificent, beautiful, intelligent children ... "
Isabella Leitner survived - not as a destroyed soul, not as a person utterly crushed by suffering, but as a wonderful, open woman with pure delight in life.
A surviving Mengele twin, Moshe Offer, later recalled the death of his brother:
"Dr. Mengele had always been more interested in Tibi. I am not sure why - perhaps because he was the older twin. Mengele made several operations on Tibi. One surgery on his spine left my brother paralyzed. He could not walk anymore. Then they took out his sexual organs. After the fourth operation, I did not see Tibi anymore. I cannot tell you how I felt. It is impossible to put into words how I felt. They had taken away my father, my mother, my two older brothers - and now, my twin ..."
Irene Hizme and Rene Slotkin
Irene and her twin brother, Rene, were born in Czechoslovakia and were only four years old when they were taken with their mother to Theresienstadt. Shortly afterward, they were sent to Auschwitz, where they were separated. They never saw their mother again. They survived for almost three years in Auschwitz where they were experimented on by Josef Mengele as part of his twins research. Irene later recalled:
"I remember the first time I saw Mengele he was wearing green, dark green. And I remember his boots. That was probably the level my eyes were. Black, shiny boots. He was asking for twins, twins ..."
"The first time we went to the infirmary, he took blood. It was very painful ... They gave me injections in the arm and the back, and X-rays. I'd be extremely sick for a while."
After the war, Irene was adopted by a family on Long Island and spent several years tracking down Rene, who was still in Europe. In 1950, the family was finally able to bring him to the United States and reunite the twins. And both got married with children.
Frank Klein was interned at Auschwitz-Birkenau for seven months. He later recalled how he and his family arrived at the Auschwitz railhead:
"The first time I saw Mengele was the day I arrived at the camp with my twin brother, Otto, my mother, my aunt and my sister. One of the men on the train platform asked my mother if Otto and I were twins. When my mother said, "Yes," he said, "I'll be right back." A few minutes later, he took us to Mengele. For the next hour we watched the selection process. My mother was sent to the gas chamber, and so was my aunt.
My brother and I survived and I've had a nightmare ever since the camp. I dream that Mengele is taking my brother away to kill him ..."
At 19, in March 1943, Ernest Michel arrived in Auschwitz after five days and four nights in cattle cars. He was born in Mannheim, Germany, in 1923 to a Jewish family which had been living in Germany for over 300 years. He was arrested on September 3, 1939, three days after the outbreak of World War II, and spent the next five-and-one-half years in slave labor and concentration camps.
Ernest Michel, Auschwitz number 104995, worked as an orderly in the Auschwitz infirmary and later recalled Mengele:
"One day in the summer of 1944 we took eight women, mostly young and all healthy, into the room where the experiments would take place. I saw Mengele standing there in his uniform, surrounded by three or four others. As we brought in each girl, an officer would strap her down. After a while the screaming inside stopped. When we took them out two of the eight were dead, five were in a coma, one was still strapped to the cot. Mengele was standing there, discussing it very casually. The only word I could hear was 'experiment'."
Ernest Michel's parents, grandmother, uncles, aunts, cousins were all murdered by the Nazis, gassed in Auschwitz. He survived and arrived in the United States in 1946. He was active in the survivor community for many years and served as Chairman of the World Gathering of Holocaust Survivors in Israel in 1981.
As surviving Mengele victim Alex Dekel later stated:
"Mengele ran a butcher shop - major surgeries were performed without anesthesia. Once, I witnessed a stomach operation - Mengele was removing pieces from the stomach, but without any anesthetic. Another time, it was a heart that was removed, again, without anesthesia. It was horrifying. Mengele was a doctor who became mad because of the power he was given. Nobody ever questioned him - why did this one die? Why did that one perish? The patients did not count. He professed to do what he did in the name of science, but it was a madness on his part ..."
Inmate-doctor Gisela Perl was a Romanian physician, a gynecologist, and a Jew who spent two years in Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen as a member of the camp hospital staff. In her book I WAS A DOCTOR IN AUSCHWITZ, the first edition published in 1948, she describes the life at Auschwitz and hospital "treatments" of unspeakable brutality.
This is Gisela Perl's horrifying account of an incident when Josef Mengele caught a woman in her sixth attempt to escape from a truck transporting victims to the gas chamber:
"He grabbed her by the neck and proceeded to beat her head to a bloody pulp. He hit her, slapped her, boxed her, always her head - screaming at the top of his voice, 'You want to escape, donít you. You canít escape now. You are going to burn like the others, you are going to croak, you dirty Jew.'
As I watched, I saw her two beautiful, intelligent eyes disappear under a layer of blood. And in a few seconds, her straight, pointed nose was a flat, broken, bleeding mass. Half an hour later, Dr. Mengele returned to the hospital. He took a piece of perfumed soap out of his bag and, whistling gaily with a smile of deep satisfaction on his face, he began to wash his hands ..."