To Bear Eternal Witness

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I just finished reading a most gut-wrenching book, Auschwitz: A Doctor’s Eyewitness Account by Dr. Miklos Nyiszli.

I came across this book after learning that my wife’s grandmother had been selected by Dr. Josef Mengele (may his name be forever cursed) for torturous experiments at the Auschwitz concentration camp during the Holocaust.

This New York Times Bestseller is a vivid eyewitness account by a Jewish forensic pathologist, who worked directly for Dr. Mengele, and tells of the unspeakable cruelty and horrors at Auschwitz, the largest Nazi death camp vastly accounting toward the twelve million people exterminated by the Nazis, six million of them Jews.

Even after thoroughly reading this, I cannot do justice to recap the horrors that Dr. Nyiszli recounts from being right there with Mengele, but the images are duly etched in my mind from it.

  • The Jews crushed into the cattle cars for days, the living with the dead.
  • The arrival at Auschwitz, the separation of family members, and the selection by Dr. Mengele: to the left for immediate liquidation or to the right for the labor camps with grueling inhumane work, vicious beatings, overcrowding, starvation, and disease leading up to their ultimate extermination.
  • The enormous camps with the double barbed wire fences, guard towers manned with machine guns, guards with vicious attack dogs, and of course, the electrified inner fence.
  • The steps leading down to the gas chambers, men and women forced to undress together, packed into the “showers,” the doors locked, the room blacked out, and the Zyklon B gas administered to their agonizing suffocating deaths, followed by shaving of all the hair, removing of the gold teeth, and finally into the fiery ovens of the crematoria.
  • Alternatively, you could face any of a number of other horrible deaths at the hands of the murderous Nazis, including injections of chloroform directly into prisoners’ hearts, incendiary phosphorous bombs, a bullet to the back of the neck, and being thrown half-alive to be burned in the fiery pits and mass graves.
  • The experiments and studies by Mengele designed to falsely demonstrate that the Jews were a genetically inferior race who deserve to be “completely annihilated” and to find ways for the Nazis to increasingly propagate and to perfect the purity of the Aryan “Master Race.”

I won’t go into the details that Dr. Nyiszli provides for all the world to know what really happened in the inner-workings at Auschwitz, even as the Nazis desperately tried to keep it a secret and actually killed the hundreds of workers who manned the gas chambers and crematoria and replaced them with a new set every four months.

Through Dr. Nyiszli’s firsthand account of working with the murdered and those soon-to-be, which he tells in a chillingly cold and matter-of-fact way, I was able to experience this as if I myself was there seeing the atrocities committed and the horrors suffered. Perhaps, because it is such an absolutely traumatic topic, I was surprised to find myself suppressing my actual deep feelings about it, and instead focusing on what happened to us. For the brief time reading this book, I felt as if I was there, back then.

From my experience, once you pick up this book, you cannot put it down until you finish it completely, and I urge everyone to make this a must-read, especially as there will soon be no more Holocaust survivors to tell us, in-person, the hell that they lived through.

About the Author
Andy Blumenthal is a business and technology leader who writes frequently about Jewish life, culture, and security. All opinions are his own.
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