|AUSCHWITZ: THE RACIAL CURE
|failed and he was put on a truck to the gas
chamber, he was rescued by a Polish block chief whom I had
taken care of in the past.
Moreover, one could finally take
active steps for ones own survival or that of others; and sometimes
for getting oneself transferred to a better or less dangerous situation, one
could make use of influence, have special access to food on the medical blocks,
or even arrange that certain records be altered.
But a prisoner doctor
quickly came to see the series of falsifications that underlay the medical
structure. These included elaborate falsification of the cause of death, not
only for prisoners selected for phenol injections or the gas chambers, but even
for special executions ordered by the Political Department and carried out in
medical blocks by means of phenol injections. In the latter, there could be
arrangements resembling those of the euthanasia project, as Dr. Jan
W. made clear: Telegrams, ... official forms, statements to the family
the exact time of death in hours and minutes, though the victim died
four days earlier, . . . the cause of death ... this or that - pneumonia, for
instance. However appalled by the world of SS doctors, prisoner doctors
had no choice but to adapt to it.
For Dr. Henri Q., what Nazi doctors
did was an abomination of medicine by men who were trained to
heal, help, relieve suffering and prolong life, and there they did just the
opposite. A prisoner doctor, aware of how little he or she could do,
could feel (as Dr. Gerda N. put it) like a prisoner in a camp [who] had a
[medical] degree but really didn't do [the] work of a physician. Prisoner
doctors had to connect with, even as they struggled to attenuate, the Auschwitz
medical reversal of healing and killing.
Whatever their privileged
state, prisoner doctors were constantly reminded of Auschwitz truths and of the
extreme danger just underneath any apparent security. Dr. Q., for instance,
remembered one Sunday morning:
We had seen parades of deported women [women
inmates] for three hours. They were coming from the crematoria to the station.
Each woman was pushing a child's baby stroller .... And those were the
strollers that their children had been taken to the gas chambers in. They were
taking them back to the station for the Germans to send to Germany to be used
there. We understood, . . . but even we refused to believe this concrete
| SS doctors applied considerable pressure to involve
prisoner doctors in the overall Auschwitz system because they needed the
latters coopera- [tion]
* It is not clear from this
description how much the mothers understood about the deaths of their children,
or whether the mothers themselves were destined for the gas chamber in
accordance with the policy of killing mothers with children, or whether the
incident occurred at a time when mothers were permitted to survive.