Protocol Nr. 3632
On May 22, 1944, along with 26 of my colleagues (all commandeered medical doctors) I was sent from the Aknaszlatina ghetto to Auschwitz. Following selection I was sent to the right and, after a 24-hour stay in Auschwitz, I was transferred to Buna with an inmate population of 14 thousand. There I had worked for about 12 days in the 197th construction company when the chief medical officer of the Buna camp (an SS-Hauptsturmführer) summoned all physicians to appear before him. We lined up, all fifty of us. They told us that professional pathologists could volunteer for light work. Of the fifty physicians two of us stepped forward; I was all the more eager to volunteer as I had already realized I would not last much longer working in the concrete mixing brigade. Following a thorough oral examination and an interview, the two of us were accepted. I studied medicine in Germany and practiced as a pathologist for many years. I easily passed the test, as did my colleague who worked in a Medical School in Strasbourg. Within one hour, accompanied by two armed SS guards, we were put in a well-equipped Red Cross ambulance. To my horror, we were driven to the courtyard of Crematorium 1 in Auschwitz where our documents were handed over to the commander of the Crematorium, Oberscharführer Mussfeld. They immediately gave us firm instructions what we may and may not look at. Then we were led into a clean room, and Oberscharführer Mussfeld let us know that it was furnished specifically for us at the orders of dr. Mengele. The Crematorium staff, known as the Sonderkommando and counting some two hundred inmates, lived on the second floor. The Oberscharführer immediately requisitioned for us a full set of clothing and underwear of excellent quality taken from gassed victims. Dr. Mengele arrived after a few hours and put us through another oral examination lasting about one hour. He then gave us our first assignment: it involved the medical examination of selected individuals with some form of abnormal development. We took measurements of these people, then Oberscharführer Mussfeld shot them in the head with a “Kleinkaliber”, i.e., a 6-mm gun, after which we were ordered to perform an autopsy and prepare a detailed report. Subsequently, we applied chloride of lime to the abnormally developed corpses and sent the thoroughly cleaned and packed bones to the Anthropological Institute in Berlin-Dahlem. These experiments were repeated sporadically, until one day at midnight SS officers woke us and led us to the dissecting room, where dr. Mengele was already waiting for us. In the workroom next to the autopsy room there were 14 Gypsy twins under SS guard, sobbing bitterly. Without saying a word, Dr. Mengele prepared a 10-cm3 and a 5-cm3 syringe. From a box he took out evipan, from another he placed chloroform in 20-cm3 vials on a table. Then the first twin was brought in, a young girl of around 14. Dr. Mengele ordered me to undress her and place her on the autopsy table. Then he administered an intravenous injection of evipan in the right arm. After the child lost consciousness, he touched for the left heart ventricle and injected 10 cm3 of chloroform. The child was dead after a single convulsion and Dr. Mengele had her taken to the morgue. The murder of all 14 twins happened in the same way that night. Dr. Mengele asked us if we could perform 7-8 autopsies. To this we replied that to do precise scientific work, we could dissect an average four corpses a day. He accepted that. We received subjects for our scientific autopsies either from the camp or recently arrived transports. In the months of May, June and July an average of 3-4 Hungarian transports arrived at the Auschwitz Judenrampe. The selections were performed in shifts by Dr. Mengele and Dr. Thilo. Ability to work was the sole selection criteria and at times it was quite invasive. As part of the selection process, newly arrived transports were divided into two groups – one to the right, the other to the left. The right side meant life, the left side the crematorium. In terms of percentage, 78-80% was sent to the left: children, mothers with young children, the elderly, pregnant women, the handicapped and disabled servicemen. In a few minutes, the crowd on the left started to move slowly to the left, carrying their personal belongings. The crematoria were around 200 meters from the Judenrampe, and the crowd of approximately 2000 people passed under the gate to crematoria 1, 2, 3 or 4 as ordered. At the crematorium, they descended 10-12 concrete steps and entered an empty, underground room with a capacity of 2000. The first row stopped instinctively at the entrance, but once they read the signs “Disinfection” and “Bath” printed in all major languages, they were reassured and descended the steps. They were immediately ordered to undress; there were benches and numbered clothes hooks along the walls of the room. As part of a careful misinformation strategy, the SS reminded everyone to memorize their number to make sure they would find their clothes after the bath without problem. The crowed would have been reassured, although the fact that men, women and children were made to undress in front of each other caused many to take fright. After about ten minutes the crowd of 2000 was herded more roughly into the next concrete room with a capacity of around 2000 without any furnishing or even a window. This was the gas chamber. The heavy oak doors were shut behind them, the lights were turned off and in a few minutes a luxury car with the Red Cross insignia drove up. A doctor with the rank of captain and his assistant unloaded four metal containers weighing approximately 1 kg each. They removed the four concrete lids covering the ventilation shafts leading to the underground bunker, they put on their gas masks, punctured the top of the metal containers and dumped the bean-sized, purple or rather red-wine coloured chlorine pallets into the vent holes. Then they immediately covered the openings with the concrete slabs. On one occasion I overheard as the SS doctor urged his assistant: "Gib schon das Fressen den Juden!" On contact with air, the pallets generated chlorine gas that caused the most cruel death by suffocation within 5 to 10 minutes. After thirty minutes the ventilators were switched on, members of the Sonderkommando on duty opened the door of the gas chamber and there lay 2000 corpses covered in blood (from bleeding noses) and faeces. Instead of being scattered evenly on the bunker floor, they were piled up on top of each other one story-high, explained by the fact that the chlorine gas reached the upper layers with some delay. The Sonderkommando washed the corpses with a hose and the bodies were then loaded in a freight elevator and transferred to the furnace room. The room had 15 working furnaces, each with its own electric ventilator. A trained staff dragged the corpses by hooking the crooked end of a walking cane into their mouths. Three bodies were stacked in each furnace at a time, which took twenty minutes to burn to ashes. Before cremation, a dentist commando removed golden teeth from the dead bodies. The so-called “ash commando” was ordered to remove the ashes from time to time and crush the bones that did not burn fully. Once a week the ashes were dumped into the nearby Wistula river. On November 17, 1944, burning at the crematoria was stopped all over Poland and no inmates were murdered after that date. However, to eliminate eyewitnesses to the darkest secrets of the political SS, members of the 846-strong Sonderkommando from crematoria 1, 2, 3, and 4 were executed between 1:30 and 2:30 p.m. the same day. The victims included one hundred Hungarian Jews, as well as forty Russian military officers, and the rest were Jews from France, Holland, Belgium and Poland. We doctors lay there among our comrades under the machine guns, but Dr. Mengele – whose race biology work has not been completed yet – took us from among the condemned. We continued our work quietly in the deserted crematorium without gassing and summary executions until January 18, 1945, when the Russians broke through the German lines at Varanovice and Krakow and by midnight moved within 6 km of Auschwitz. The SS fell into a panic; they took us into the camp where they abandoned us to our fate. Mixed in a crowd of around 4000 inmates no one knew that we were members of the Sonderkommando. The same night unknown SS guards took us on a forced March to Mauthausen.