|Selections in the Camp
] dren and caressed them tenderly. The
little ones . .. . wept with their mothers and held on to them. But, . . . when
several SS leaders-among them Lagerführer Schwarzhuber and Dr.
Mengele appeared in the doorway of the changing room, those standing
near flew into a rage. Suffering and sorrow gave way to unrestrained hatred for
those men ....
After a while I heard the sound of piercing screams,
banging against the door, and also moaning and wailing. People began to cough.
Their coughing grew worse from minute to minute, a sign that the gas had
started to act. Then the clamour began to subside and to change to a
many-voiced dull rattle, drowned now and then by coughing. . .
seemed to me that today death came more swiftly than usual. Barely ten minutes
had passed since the introduction of the gas crystals when there was quiet in
the gas chamber.8
|When this member of the Sonderkommando came down on
the elevator from the crematorium with a few of his fellow-prisoner workers, he
found the camp commander (head of the subcamp) and Mengele standing just
outside the gas chamber:
The doctor was just switching on the light. Then
he bent forward and peered through a peep-hole in the door to ascertain whether
there was still any signs of life inside. After a while he ordered the
Kommandoführer, to switch on the fans which were to disperse the
gas. When they had run for a few minutes, the door to [the] gas chamber, which
was secured with a few horizontal bolts, was opened.9
|SS doctors were similarly involved again especially
Mengele in the killing of the four thousand inhabitants of the Gypsy
camp on 1 August 1944 (see also page 375). Mengele was chief doctor of that
camp, and so active was he in the annihilation process that many prisoners I
spoke to assumed that he himself was responsible for it and had given the
specific order. There is evidence that he actually opposed that annihilation;
but once it was ordered, he applied extraordinary energy toward carrying it out
(see page 323).
Prisoner doctors who had worked there at the time told
me that Mengele seemed to be all over the camp at once that day, actively
supervising arrangements for getting the Gypsies to the gas chamber. He had
been close to some of the Gypsy children bringing them food and candy,
sometimes little toys, and taking them for brief outings. Whenever he appeared,
they would greet him warmly with the cry, Onkel
[Uncle] Mengele! But that day the children were frightened.
Dr. Alexander O. described the scene and one childs plea to
Mengele arrived at around eight oclock or
seven-thirty. It was daylight. He came, and then the children .... A Gypsy girl
of eleven, twelve, . . . the oldest [child] of a whole family maybe