Shown in the 1944 photo above, from left to right, are Dr. Josef Mengele, Richard Baer, Karl Hoecker, and Walter Schmidetski.
Richard Baer, known as the last Commandant of Auschwitz, was the commander of the main camp; his adjutant was Karl Hoecker.
Dr. Josef Mengele was one of 30 SS officers at Auschwitz II, aka Birkenau, who decided who would live and who would die in the gas chambers.
Notice that, in the title of my blog post today, I did not use the term Dr. when writing about Mengele, although he had a medical degree and a PhD, making him a Doctor twice over. When you send people to the gas chamber, day after day, as Mengele did, you can no longer have the title of Doctor.
This morning, I read a news article here, which has this quote about Mengele:
Minia [Jay], 90, recalled how [Dr.] Mengele would be surrounded by an entourage as he picked people to be sent to the crematorium complex, where Zyklon B, a cyanide based pesticide, was used as a weapon of mass murder.
I looked up the meaning of the word entourage, just to be sure that I knew the meaning of the word, and found this definition:
a group of attendants or associates, as of a person of rank or importance:
“The opera singer traveled with an entourage of 20 people.”
The following quote is from the news article, cited above:
Minia Jay says it was a “miracle” she did not die at the hands of the evil SS officer [Mengele], notorious for carrying out deadly experiments on prisoners.
Minia, 90, recalled how Mengele would be surrounded by an entourage as he picked people to be sent to the crematorium complex, where Zyklon B, a cyanide based pesticide, was used as a weapon of mass murder.
“I was sent to the corner of this dark room by the crematorium,” recalled Minia, now a greatgrandmother.
“We were waiting to die but then no transportation arrived from the ghetto so the guards couldn’t be bothered to go through the process for just a few people and I was sent back.”
The second time, she said, “We were selected naked and I’d lost so much weight you could count my ribs. I had tuberculosis so I knew I would be picked.
“Mengele pointed at me and said, ‘You, this way’.
“At that moment I could see I was not going to leave Auschwitz alive but I was still a young girl so I decided to save myself.
“I was watching him like a hawk as he was continuing to select people. When he turned, I turned.
“I could see this woman at the door, stopping people from escaping. If she had seen me I wouldn’t be here today.“I could see that those who had not been selected had been grouped into fives.“A girl in one of the groups spotted me and put four fingers up – they were one short. I don’t know how but I managed to stand with her and then we were all sent to work in Germany.” Minia remains close friends with the girl, Rela, now 80 and living in Israel. After being liberated in 1945, Minia and Rela were among 729 young Jewish people offered safe haven in Britain and were sent to the Lake District in a group of 300 children who became known as the “Windermere Boys”.
The memory of this slightly built man, scarcely a hair out of place, his dark green tunic neatly pressed, his face well scrubbed, his Death’s Head SS cap tilted rakishly to one side, remains vivid for those who survived his scrutiny when they arrived at the Auschwitz railhead. Polished boots slightly apart, his thumb resting on his pistol belt, he surveyed his prey with those dead gimlet eyes, Death to the left, life to the right. Four hundred thousands souls — babies, small children, young girls, mothers, fathers, and grandparents — are said to have been casually waved to the lefthand side with a flick of the cane clasped in a gloved hand. Mengele was the chief provider for the gas chambers and their crematoria. He had a look that said ‘I am the power,’ said one survivor. At the time, Mengele was only 32 years old.