|A Human Being in an SS
Uniform: Ernst B.
| often used in the camp] standing. Each time Dr. B.
spoke of it, he praised the act, though he gave it different meanings: an
expression of Mengeles disapproval of the entire annihilation
structure as a disgrace to SS principles and to his own religious
beliefs; to conceal the filth from the occupiers as an
expression of his belief in the German race; and because he
didn't want to leave anything behind that would make the SS look
In our last interview, Dr. B. spoke again with intensity
about the utter chaos at the time, with everybody fleeing and
the only one who noticed [the SS command] left the
crematoria standing, and returned with a few underlings to blast
them as thoroughly as possible.
If Mengele followed a pattern
(which I could demonstrate to B.) of alternating between civility and cruelty
to prisoners or of relegating a healthy twin to the gas chamber for
experimental purposes, then for him [Mengele] there was no
discrepancy. Here B. invoked Rudolf Höss, who
Auschwitz what it was but, at the same time, was in his private
life a person of absolute integrity. (For a discussion of the principle
involved and of distortions in B.s example, see page 201.) B.s
point seems to be that a genuine believer in the Nazi project could engage in
cruelty and murder with absolute integrity.
To Dr. B.,
Mengele was a free spirit of optimistic character, who acted on his
own beliefs even when contrary to official Auschwitz policy. As an example, B.
spoke of Mengeles strong stand against the annihilation of the Gypsy
camp. Set up as a family camp, the Gypsy unit rapidly deteriorated and became
extraordinarily filthy and unhygienic even for Auschwitz, a place of starving
babies, children, and adults. B. insisted that there were sufficient
rations ... delivered to the camp for all of them to survive, but that
certain adult Gypsies of high standing kept most of the food, thus denying it
to all others, including hungry children. The Auschwitz leaders,
shocked by the situation, came to the conclusion that it was
virtually impossible to change it and that the only solution was to gas
the entire camp. According to B., Mengele strongly opposed that decision,
made several trips to Berlin to try to get it reversed, and went so far as to
declare to other Auschwitz authorities that annihilating the Gypsy camp would
be a crime.
Ernst B. himself told of becoming deeply
interested in the Gypsy situation, and was appalled by what he described as
scenes of fathers and mothers eating while permitting their own children to
starve: conditions were atrocious,
worse than in all other
camps, and constituted "a very great problem." He added, Since I
survived [überlebt] that Gypsy camp, I have developed the worst
possible opinion of Gypsies. And when I see a Gypsy I make sure to get away
. I cant stand to hear Gypsy music.
phenomenon of blaming the victim is at the center of Dr. B.s perception
of the event. The intensity of his involvement and of his aversion to Gypsies,
suggests that he struggles with guilt feelings