|AUSCHWITZ: THE RACIAL CURE
|greatly in their tone. Another survivor, whose work gave
him the run of the camp, explained that they [the Nazis] were
psychologically very [well] prepared for every situation, so that at
times the doctor was very friendly to the people .... asking, How
are you? and, What occupation [do] you have? When an
arriving inmate mentioned illness, looked weak, or was too young or too old,
the same doctor made the decision to send him or her to the gas chambers. This
survivor went on to tell of an incident (described to him by members of the
Sonderkommando)* when a doctor appeared in the room outside the gas
chamber where prisoners had to undress, noted a broken glass on the floor from
shattered eyeglasses, and told the people there,Please be careful that
you ... [don't] injure your[self]. The survivors conclusion:
So they [the Nazis] were, to the last moment .... using [the] hoax.
He went on to list the series of steps in SS doctors involvement
in the killing: first, the chief doctors assignments to his subordinates
concerning duty schedules and immediate selections policies second the
individual doctors service on the ramp, performing selections in a
very noble [seemingly kind] manner; third, the doctor riding in the
ambulance or Red Cross car to the crematoria; fourth, the doctor ordering
how many [pellets] of gas should be thrown in ... these holes from the
ceilings, according to the number of people, and who should do it
were three or four Desinfektoren; fifth, He observed through
the hole how the people are dying; sixth, When the people. were
dead.... he gave the order to ventilate, . . . to open the gas chamber, and he
came ... with a gas mask into the chamber; seventh, He signed a
[form] that the people are dead and how long it took and eighth he
observed . . . the teeth ... extraction [from] the corpses. This was the
survivor who concluded that the killing program was led by doctors
from the beginning to the end.
Other survivors conveyed their
sense of bizarre unreality (Living skeletons in striped uniforms, their
skulls shaven .... like silent shadows, climbing onto the trains strange
porters [who] took out our luggage) and the depth of their confusion
(Wild men in striped suits
Half Yiddish, half German; leave
everything; clubs descending, blows).³
One could be so numbed as to
be catatonic as a Jewish woman doctor, Gerda N., arriving in late June 1944,
We were in such a confusion
in such a
. They shaved off our hair and we got such terrible clothes ....
They took everything away. Our luggage, everything, . . . and I came to a camp
which was called Mexico .... There was nothing in it, . . . even no water. . .
. I think one thousand [people] in one barrack .... We got our first meal
* The Sonderkommando
consisted of Jewish inmates assigned to dispose of corpses of Jewish victims.
Sonderkommando, literally special command, could refer generally to
groups performing extraordinary tasks, including SS murder teams in the East.