MFDJ 04/04/24: Seemingly Kind Nazi Doctors

Today’s Seemingly Kind Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Nazi doctors and others involved in the reception process at Auschwitz varied greatly in their tone. A survivor, whose work gave him the run of the camp, explained that “they [the Nazis] were psychologically very [well] prepared for every situation,” so that at times “the doctor was very friendly to the people… asking, ‘How are you?’ and, ‘What occupation [do] you have?'” When an arriving inmate mentioned illness, looked weak, or was too young or too old, the same doctor made the decision to send him or her to the gas chambers. This survivor went on to tell of an incident (described to him by members of the Sonderkommando*) when a doctor appeared in the room outside the gas chamber where prisoners had to undress, noted a broken glass on the floor from shattered eyeglasses, and told the people there, “Please be careful that you… [don’t] injure your[self].” The survivor’s conclusion: “So they [the Nazis] were, to the last moment… using [the] hoax.”

New arrivals at Auschwitz being sorted 

He went on to list the series of steps in SS doctors’ involvement in the killing: first, the chief doctor’s assignments to his subordinates concerning duty schedules and immediate selections policies; second, the individual doctor’s service on the ramp, performing selections “in a very noble [seemingly kind] manner”; third, the doctor riding in the ambulance or Red Cross car to the crematoria; fourth, the doctor ordering “how many  [pellets] of gas should be thrown in… these holes from the ceilings, according  to the number of people, and who should do it… There were three or four Desinfektoren“; fifth, “He observed through the hole how the people are dying”; sixth, “When the people were dead… he gave the order to ventilate… to open the gas chamber, and he came… with a gas mask into the chamber”; seventh, “He signed a [form] that the people are dead… and how long it took”; and eighth, “he… observed… the teeth… extraction [from] the corpses.” This was the survivor who concluded that “the killing program was led by doctors—from the beginning to the end.”

Culled from: The Nazi Doctors

Sonderkommando:  groups of prisoners forced to perform a variety of duties in the gas chambers and crematoria of the Nazi camp system.

And they extracted the teeth for the gold fillings, in case you were wondering.


Post-Mortem Portrait Du Jour!

Engraved in Plate: A. Le Blondel Lille
Daguerreotype 1/4 plate, tinted, circa 1850

This daguerreotype is generally considered the most artistic of all postmortem images. At the time of its purchase, mid-1980s, it was one of the world’s most expensive daguerreian images. It is a master photograph by any standard. The lighting resembles that of an old master painting: the subtle tinting of the child’s face and the blanket and the shadowed position of the father have the attributes of fine art. The dark room further shrouds the father, helping create an atmosphere of mourning. The tented sheets above the bed makes this a forerunner of the “Sleeping Beauty” type of postmortem imagery that had become popular by the turn of the century. We can easily feel how precious this lost child was to her father. Through the photographer’s eyes, a powerful mourning and bereavement memorial was created.

Culled from: Sleeping Beauty II


Andersonville Prisoner Diary Entry Du Jour!

This is the continuation of the 1864 diary of Andersonville prisoner Private George A. Hitchcock (see the archived version for all entries up until now).

Here’s today’s entry:

November 30th. Had the chills last night and lost my sleep. Jim Miller was admitted to the hospital. Bathed in the creek. Rations of a pint and a half of meal, with beans and salt.

Culled from: Andersonville: Giving Up the Ghost

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