|AUSCHWITZ: THE RACIAL CURE
|was so troubled that he wondered, Should one continue
to work and help the situation [facilitate the selections in that way] ... or
should one quit [get oneself transferred to a work Kommando] and know
that another person .... [would be] worse?
Jewish inmates, came to know how dangerous the medical block was. A Czech woman
survivor, for instance, remembered with gratitude the first piece of advice she
received in Auschwitz Stay out of the hospital and
spoke of two forms of suicide in the camp: To go to the [electric] fence
or to go voluntarily to the hospital. In contrast, for an inmate to be
assigned to work in the hospital was ideal: light, indoor work instead
of the life-destroying outside work details, more available food, and a place
of potential influence. Prisoners working there sought both to help people and
to consolidate their own position.
But when medical facilities became
severely overburdened, these privileged inmates could come to feel the whole
situation as completely untenable, and some prisoner, doctors (as Ernst B.
explained to me) were of the opinion that if a selection is done right,
it is better for those involved [selected] than if they starved to death in the
camp. While recognizing again the self-serving aspect of such a statement
from an SS doctor, the dedicated prisoner physician Lottie M. confirmed the
You saw them arrive .... The line went next to
our camp, our sick [block], ... and I said [to myself], Oh, will they
come into the camp or will they go to the gas chamber? If they come to the
camp, how awful. No beds, no sheets, no food, nothing. It will be more and
more. You see? And we couldnt stand it. We always said, Oh if
we are [able to stay at] the number we are now, . . . its tolerable. But
one more is already too much for us. So [at] the same time you hope that
they won't come [t]here, though you know that if they don't, . . . there was no
alternative besides the gas chamber .... And I say that is the big problem [in
relation to later] . . . guilt feelings.
|She was saying this as a woman of considerable candor and
integrity making a personal confession. The fact that prisoner doctors could
experience this ambivalence served to increase SS doctors acceptance of
their own deeper schism.
Dr. Magda V. conveyed the dedicated prisoner
doctors mixture of helplessness and reluctant acquiescence in overall
I asked the other girls [prisoner doctors] who
were there .... You know, we said, how many are dying? All right so,
roughly we knew what we can show them [the SS doctors]. The rest, ... we just
tell them, look healthy ... or stand up or do something or, you know, pull
yourself together. They [the people close to death] will die anyhow. There was
no chance of saving them, no chance .... If you selected ... them, all right,
so they were dead a day earlier or two hours earlier.