One of the earliest books about Auschwitz was written by Dr. Miklos Nyiszli and first published in the Hungarian language in a Budapest newspaper from February 16, 1947 through April 5, 1947. My copy of the book, which is entitled Auschwitz, a Doctor’s Eye-Witness Account, was first published in English in 1960. In his book, Dr. Nyiszli describes his work as a pathologist, who assisted Dr. Josef Mengele by doing autopsies for his experiments in the Gypsy Camp at Auschwitz II, aka Birkenau. I also blogged about Dr. Nyiszli’s book here.
Yesterday, I blogged about the experiments allegedly done by Dr. Mengele in Block 10 in the main Auschwitz camp, according to information given to students by a tour guide. Not according to Dr. Nyiszli, who wrote about Dr. Mengele doing medical experiments only at Birkenau. He did not mention that Dr. Mengele worked at the Auschwitz main camp.
On page 31 of his book, Dr. Nyiszli wrote that “Three categories of experiments were performed here (in the Gypsy camp): the first consisted of research into the origin and causes of dual births [...] The second was the search to discover the biological and pathological causes for the birth of dwarfs and giants. And the third was the study of the causes and treatment of a disease commonly called “dry gangrene of the face.” According to Dr. Nyiszli, this disease was “exceptionally rare,” but in the Gypsy Camp, it was “fairly common.” Dr. Nyiszli wrote that “the syphilis rate in the Gypsy Camp was extremely high” and from this it had been deduced that “dry gangrene of the face” was related to “hereditary syphilis.” Other writers refer to this disease as “Noma.”
Dr. Nyiszli wrote that he arrived at Auschwitz on a train with other Jews from Hungary in May 1944; he went through a “selection” at which Dr. Mengele asked for doctors to volunteer to work as doctors. Dr. Nyiszli was the only doctor, out of 50 doctors on that transport, who volunteered.
Because he volunteered to help the Nazi doctors, Dr. Nyiszli was given civilian clothes, and allowed to sleep in the “twelfth hospital barracks,” instead of being put into the quarantine barracks. The twelfth hospital at Birkenau? Yes, Dr. Nyiszli wrote that “The head doctor of barracks hospital number 12 was Dr. Levy, professor at the University of Strasbourg…”
One of the survivors of the Ebensee sub-camp of Mauthausen, according to Martin Gilbert’s book “Holocaust,” was Dr. Miklos Nyiszli, who is shown in the photo above, wearing a white coat. When Auschwitz was evacuated in January 1945, Dr. Nyiszli was among the prisoners on the death march to central Germany. As the American Army approached, he was marched again to Ebensee, a sub-camp of Mauthausen in Austria, according to Martin Gilbert.
On page 30 of his book, Dr. Nyiszli wrote about Dr. Josef Mengele’s experiments in the Gypsy camp, where Dr. Mengele was the head doctor.
This quote is from Dr. Nyiszli’s book:
…. I gazed across the barbed wire enclosure. Naked dark skinned children were running and playing. Women with Creole-like faces and gaily colored clothes, and half naked men, seated on the ground in groups, chatted as they watched the children play. This was the famous “Gypsy Camp.” The Third Reich’s ethnological experts had classified gypsies as an inferior race. Accordingly, they had been rounded up, not only in Germany itself, but throughout the occupied countries, and herded here. Because they were Catholics, they were allowed the privilege of remaining in family groups.
There were about 4,500 of them in all. They did no work, but were assigned the job of policing the neighboring Jewish camps and barracks, where they exercised their authority with unimaginable cruelty.
The Gypsy Camp offered one curiosity: the experimental barracks. The director of the Research Laboratory was Dr. Epstein, professor at the University of Prague, a pediatrician of world renown, a KZ prisoner since 1940. His assistant was Dr. Bendel, of the University of Paris Medical School.
On page 64 of his book, Dr. Nyiszli wrote about doing autopsies on twins for Dr. Mengele’s research on eye colors. The quote below is from page 64:
Of the four sets of twins, three had ocular globes of different colors. One eye was brown, the other blue. This is a phenomenon found fairly frequently in non-twins. But in the present case, I noticed that it had occurred in six out of the eight twins. [...] During my examination of the four sets of twins, I discovered still another phenomenon: while removing the skin from the neck I noticed, just above the upper extremity of the sternum, a tumor about the size of a small nut. Pressing on it with my forceps I found it to be filled with a thick pus. This rare manifestation, well known to medical science, indicates the presence of hereditary syphilis and is called Dubois’ tumor. Looking farther, I found that it existed in all eight twins.
As far as I recall, from my reading of Dr. Nyiszli’s book several years ago, he did not mention that Dr. Mengele experimented on turning brown eyes blue.
Dr. Nyiszli made many mistakes in his book, and some revisionists believe that his book is a complete fraud. One mistake that he made, on page 50, was when he described how an SS man put the gas pellets into one of the underground gas chambers. He wrote: “He advanced across the grass, where, every thirty yards, short concrete pipes jutted up from the ground.” The grass on top of the gas chamber was shown in the movie, “The Grey Zone” which is based on his book.
The gas chambers in Krema II and Krema III at Birkenau were only 5 feet underground, and three feet above ground. Did the Nazis plant grass on the concrete roof of the gas chamber? The photo below shows the roof of the gas chamber in Krema II, covered by about two inches of snow.
Dr. Nyiszli wrote that the undressing room and the gas chamber were the same size and that 3,000 people could be gassed at the same time. The photo below shows the ruins of the Krema II undressing room at Birkenau. Does this look like a room that would hold 3,000 people?
Dr. Nyiszli wrote that the undressing rooms were 200 yards long. That’s not how it looked to me when I saw the ruins in 2005.
Dr. Nyiszli mentioned Crematorium 1 several times in his book. He was probably referring to Krema III because he said that it was close to the soccer field. On page 68, he mentioned that the prisoners and the SS men played soccer together.
The most serious mistake that Dr. Nyiszli made in writing his book was his description of how he left the camp where he was working as a doctor. On page 206, he described how he woke up just after midnight on January 18, 1945 and “The SS had fled.” The following quote is from his book:
We left, filled with feverish sensation of liberation. Direction: The Birkenau KZ, two kilometers from the crematoriums. Immense flames glowed along the horizon there. It was probably the KZ burning.
[...] We left by the main gate. No one stopped us. The abrupt change seemed incredible.
He implies that he was in the main Auschwitz camp, or maybe in the Auschwitz III camp (Monowitz) and on January 18th, the day that the SS marched 60,000 prisoners out of the camp, he and a few of his fellow prisoners headed to Birkenau. However, his description of his days in the camp before this fits the description of Birkenau. He was in Birkenau, and he headed for Birkenau. On the next few pages, he describes the march out of Birkenau which he said lasted 20 days. Then it took another 5 days by train to reach the main Mauthausen camp. He stayed at Mauthausen three days before being sent to the Melk an der Donau sub-camp. On April 7, 1945, he was transferred to the Ebensee camp, the fourth camp “through whose yawning gates I had passed.” He was liberated from Ebensee on May 5, 1945 by American soldiers.
Remarkably, Dr. Nyiszli and his wife and daughter all survived Birkenau. On the last page of his book, he wrote about being reunited with his wife and daughter. “They were in good health and had just been freed from Bergen-Belsen, one of the most notorious of the extermination camps.”
Dr. Nyiszli died of a heart attack in 1956, at the age of 55.
In his book, Dr. Nyiszli described how he did autopsies on each child in a set of twins because Dr. Mengele killed both children in his experiments on twins. Eva Moses Kor and her twin sister were subjects of Dr. Mengele’s experiments. Eva Moses Kor has a new book out, “Surviving the Angel of Death,” which you can order at Amazon here. The photo below shows the Moses twins marching out of the camp after it was liberated by Soviet soldiers. Strangely, both Eva and her sister survived, which is not the way that Dr. Nyiszli described Dr. Mengele’s experiments.