Dr. Miklos Nyiszli - An eyewitness from Auschwitz

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giles120
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Dr. Miklos Nyiszli - An eyewitness from Auschwitz

Post by giles120 » 08 Apr 2004 10:59

A very sad recollection.....

"In number one's crematorium's gas chamber 3,000 dead bodies were piled up. The Sonderkommando had already begun to untangle the lattice of flesh. The noise of the elevators and the sound of their clanging doors reached my room. The work moved ahead double-time. The gas chambers had to be cleared, for the arrival of a new convoy had been announced.

The chief of the gas chamber kommando almost tore the hinges off the door to my room as he arrived out of breath, his eyes wide with fear or suprise.

"Doctor," he said, "come quickly. We just found a girl alive at the bottom of a pile of corpses."

I grabbed my intrument case, which was always ready, and dashed to the gas chamber. Against the wall, near the entrance to the immense room, half covered with other bodies, I saw a girl in the throes of a death rattle, her body seized with convulsions. The gas kommando men around me were in a state of panic. Nothing like this had ever happened in the course of their horrible career.

We moved the still-living body from the corpses pressing against it. I gathered the tiny adolescent body into my arms and carried it back to the room adjoining the gas chamber, where normally the gas kommando men change clothes for work. I laid the body on a bench. A frail young girl, almost a child, she could have been no more than fifteen. I took out my syringe and, taking her arm - she had not yet recovered consciousness and was breathing with difficulty - I administered three intravenous injections.

My companions covered her body which was as cold as ice with a heavy overcoat. One ran to the kitchen to fetch some tea and warm broth. Everybody wanted to help as if she were his own child. The reaction was swift. The child was seized by a fit of coughing which brought up a thick globule of phlegm from her lungs. She opened her eyes and looked fixedly at the ceiling. I kept a close watch for every sign of life. Her breathing became deeper and more and more regular. Her lungs, tortured by the gas, inhaled the fresh air avidly. Her pulse became perceptible, the result of the injections.

I waited impatiently. I saw that within a few minutes she was going to regain consciousness: her circulation began to bring color back into her cheeks, and her delicate face became human again .. I made a sign for my companions to withdraw. I was going to attempt something I knew without saying was doomed to failure. Three months in the same camp and in the same milieu had created, in spite of everything, a certain intimacy between us, Besides, the Germans generally appreciate capable people, and, as long they need them, respect them to a certain extent, even in the KZ. Such was the case for cobblers, tailors, joiners, and locksmiths.

From our numerous contacts, I had been able to ascertain that Mussfeld had a high esteem for the medical expert's professional qualities. He knew that my superior was Dr. Mengele, the KZ's most dreaded figure, who, goaded by racial pride, took himself to be one of the most important representatives of German medical science. He considered the dispatch of hundreds of thousands of Jews to the gas chambers as a patriotic duty. The work carried out in the dissecting room was for the futherance of German medical science.

As Dr, Mengele's pathological expert, I also had a hand in this progress, and therein lay the explination for a certain form of respect that Mussfeld paid me. He often came to see me in the dissecting room, and we conversed on politics, the military situation and various other subjects. It appeared that his respect also arose from the fact that he considered the dissection of bodies and his bloody job of killing to be allied activities. He was the commandant and ace shot of number one crematorium. Three other SS acted as his lieutenants. Together they carried out the "liquidation" by a bullet in the back of the neck ..

And this was the man I had to deal with, the man I had to talk into allowing a single life to be spared. I calmly related the terrible case we found ourselves confronted with. I described for his benifit what pains the child must have suffered in the undressing room, and the horrible scenes that preceded death in the gas chamber. When the room had been plunged into darkness, she had breathed in a few lungfuls of cyclon gas. Only a few, though, for her fragile body had given way under the pushing and shoving of the mass as they fought against death. By chance she had fallen with her face against the wet concrete floor. That bit of humidity had kept her from being asphyxiated, for cyclon gas does not react under humid conditions.

These were my arguments, and I asked him to do something for the child. He listened to me attentively then asked me exactly what I proposed doing. I saw by his expression that I had put him face to face with a practically impossible problem.

It was obvious that the child could not remain in the crematorium. One solution would have been to put her in front of the crematorium gate. A kommando of women always worked there. She could have slipped back to the camp barracks after they had finished work. She would never relate what had happened to her. The presence of one new face among so many thousands would never be detected, for no one in the camp knew all the other inmates. If she had been three or four years older that might have worked. A girl of twenty would have been able to understand clearly the miraculous circumstances of her survival, and have enough foresight not to tell anyone about them. She would wait for better times, like so many other thousands were waiting, to recount what she had lived through.

But Mussfeld thought that a young girl of sixteen would in all nai 'vete' tell the first person she had met where she had just come from, what she had seen and what she had lived through. The news would spread like wildfire, and we would all be forced to pay for it with our lives. "There's no way of getting round it," he said, "the child will have to die." Half an hour later the young girl was led, or rather carried, into the furnace room hallway, and there Mussfeld sent another in his place to do the job. A bullet in the back of the neck."

Are there other recorded incidents from any camp equipped with gas chambers of victims surviving carbon monoxide/zyklon b poisoning?

Thanks.

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Post by Orok » 08 Apr 2004 14:55

A side note:

Dr, Nyiszli was a Hungarian Jewish physician who survived the war and Auschwitz. His Auschwitz: A Doctor's Eyewitness Account is among the first publications on the holocaust, and is still in print today.

Best Regards!

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Post by Dan » 08 Apr 2004 15:16

So where was the elevator in Krema 1 located?

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Post by xcalibur » 08 Apr 2004 15:31

Dan wrote:So where was the elevator in Krema 1 located?
Interesting. It is indeed a one story structure (That is if he's referring to krema 1 in the Auschwitz camp).

Which means that the crematoria in Birkenau which we commonly refer to as #s 2-5 were called "1-4" at some point? Does this mean the location of this incident was in reality krema 2 in Birkenau?

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Post by Dan » 08 Apr 2004 15:39

Nyiszli's accuracy isn't always vigorously defended by Holocaust scholars.

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Post by giles120 » 08 Apr 2004 15:54

As regards location of crematorium, I have no idea.

I posted this because I had never heard of anyone surviving the gassing process. I have read that it was technically possible(remote chance) if you had your face on the cold floor of the chamber, as zyklon b works more efficiently(may only work) in warmer conditions, and the temperature of the human body was ideal for the crystals to turn to gas. The closer you are to the cold, the less toxic the fumes(so if you were at the bottom of a pile of bodies I think this is feasible).

I assume that there was no possibility in the camps using carbon monoxide.

The fact that consideration was given to saving the girl(putting her with the worker Jews in front of the crematorium), but this could not be done because of her age is particularly moving. I wonder whether Mussfeld would have agreed to the idea if the girl was older?

Mussfeld was worried that the girl would talk. Did he honestly believe that the Jews working outside the crematorium were not aware of what was going on? Was he worried that his superiors may find out what he had done? If the SS had to contain their secret, they must have known that they had a secret to keep in the first place, and that the Jews were aware of the gassing as well!!!

Orok, thanks for your information on the book.

Thanks.

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Post by xcalibur » 08 Apr 2004 16:10

Which raises another point: What was Mussfeld's ultimate fate? Was he tried? If so, did he give any testimony relevant to this incident?

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Post by David Thompson » 08 Apr 2004 18:53

Dan asked:
So where was the elevator in Krema 1 located?
On this question, xcalibur observed:
Interesting. It is indeed a one story structure (That is if he's referring to krema 1 in the Auschwitz camp). Which means that the crematoria in Birkenau which we commonly refer to as #s 2-5 were called "1-4" at some point? Does this mean the location of this incident was in reality krema 2 in Birkenau?
Almost certainly. Here's why:

(1) There were a number of Crematoria built at Auschwitz and Birkenau. The Nazis had their own numbering system, while historians number the crematoria in the order that the Nazis built them. The first crematorium built at Auschwitz was a one-story building, which historians call Krematorium (Krema) I. Later in the war the crematorium facility in that building was dismantled. To replace the crematorium was being dismantled, the Nazis built a new crematorium at Birkenau, which the camp administration called Krema I. Historians call it Krema II because it was the second crematorium built at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Pressac, Jean-Claude, Auschwitz: Technique and operation of the gas chambers, The Beate Klarsfeld Foundation, New York: 1989, pp. 177.

(2) The first part of the passage written by Dr. Nyiszli and posted by giles120 reads: "In number one's crematorium's gas chamber 3,000 dead bodies were piled up. The Sonderkommando had already begun to untangle the lattice of flesh. The noise of the elevators and the sound of their clanging doors reached my room.

Pressac, Jean-Claude, Auschwitz: Technique and operation of the gas chambers, The Beate Klarsfeld Foundation, New York: 1989, fn 1 at p. 474, Dr. Nyiszli's room was on the ground floor of what the Nazis termed Krema I and historians call Krema II.

(3) As I recall, the first crematorium at Auschwitz had been dismantled by the time Dr. Nyiszli arrived. If I can find more on this I'll post it here.

For interested readers -- here is a considerable amount of information about the gas chamber of Krema II on this thread: http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?t=42759

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Post by Apocalypse_Now » 08 Apr 2004 19:15

In regards to the Elevator in Krema I (II) question brought forth by Dan.

The following document of January 29, 1943 describes a problem with the equipment in Krema (I) II.

Karl Bischoff, architect of Krema II, was trying to complete the structure by the end of the month. The forced-air drafts had just been installed, the compressed-air blowers for the cremation ovens were still being installed, the elevator would not arrive until early February, and the ventilation systems for the gas chamber would not arrive for another two weeks. Krema II (I) was put into action, after tests, on March 13.

In the Blueprint diagram, the arrow indicates the location of the elevator system.
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Last edited by Apocalypse_Now on 08 Apr 2004 19:28, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by xcalibur » 08 Apr 2004 19:27

David Thompson wrote:Dan asked:
So where was the elevator in Krema 1 located?
On this question, xcalibur observed:
Interesting. It is indeed a one story structure (That is if he's referring to krema 1 in the Auschwitz camp). Which means that the crematoria in Birkenau which we commonly refer to as #s 2-5 were called "1-4" at some point? Does this mean the location of this incident was in reality krema 2 in Birkenau?
Almost certainly. Here's why:

(1) There were a number of Crematoria built at Auschwitz and Birkenau. The Nazis had their own numbering system, while historians number the crematoria in the order that the Nazis built them. The first crematorium built at Auschwitz was a one-story building, which historians call Krematorium (Krema) I. Later in the war the crematorium facility in that building was dismantled. To replace the crematorium was being dismantled, the Nazis built a new crematorium at Birkenau, which the camp administration called Krema I. Historians call it Krema II because it was the second crematorium built at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Pressac, Jean-Claude, Auschwitz: Technique and operation of the gas chambers, The Beate Klarsfeld Foundation, New York: 1989, pp. 177.

(2) The first part of the passage written by Dr. Nyiszli and posted by giles120 reads: "In number one's crematorium's gas chamber 3,000 dead bodies were piled up. The Sonderkommando had already begun to untangle the lattice of flesh. The noise of the elevators and the sound of their clanging doors reached my room.

Pressac, Jean-Claude, Auschwitz: Technique and operation of the gas chambers, The Beate Klarsfeld Foundation, New York: 1989, fn 1 at p. 474, Dr. Nyiszli's room was on the ground floor of what the Nazis termed Krema I and historians call Krema II.

(3) As I recall, the first crematorium at Auschwitz had been dismantled by the time Dr. Nyiszli arrived. If I can find more on this I'll post it here.

For interested readers -- here is a considerable amount of information about the gas chamber of Krema II on this thread: http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?t=42759
Thanks DT. I found further confirmation that this was in fact the location on a Revisionist site which names a "Lt. Kurt Mussfeld" as being in charge of Crematorium 2 (at Birkenau).

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Post by David Thompson » 08 Apr 2004 19:29

giles120 -- I do not have a copy of Dr. Nyiszli's book. Does he say when he first arrived at Auschwitz? The original Krema I was not used as a gas chamber after 1942, and was abandoned in 1943, according to Pressac, Jean-Claude, Auschwitz: Technique and operation of the gas chambers, The Beate Klarsfeld Foundation, New York: 1989, p. 132.

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Post by David Thompson » 08 Apr 2004 19:39

excalibur -- You asked:
Which raises another point: What was Mussfeld's ultimate fate? Was he tried? If so, did he give any testimony relevant to this incident?
I don't have a trial listed for him in my notes. As for his ultimate fate, according to a post by David EM on this thread:

http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic. ... 59&start=0
...That was on 3 November 1943, and SS Lieutenant Georg Kurt Mussfeld, who was in charge of the day's work, boasted to the SS Judge Konrad Morgen that on that day '' the ashes of the Jews I roasted floted like dust over all of Lublin' On the strenght of that days notable achievment. Mussfeld was sent - coals to newcastle- to be an efficiency expert at Auschwitz. He regretted it all later, or so he said in 1958 when Benno Feld and Hannah Baum found him - fat and prosperous- and hanged him in the kitchen of the pilgrims' inn Mussfeld kept in obergammerau, where every ten years the devout Germans re-enact the Passion of Christ.

Forged in Fury - Michael Elkins. (emphasis mine)

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Post by michael mills » 09 Apr 2004 05:45

The Elkins tale is nonsense.

Mussfeldt was extradited to Poland, where he was tried along with Liebehenschel and other former members of the staff of Lublin Concentration Camp. The main charge against them was the massacre of 17,000 Jewish inmates on 3 November 1943, in which Mussfeldt played a major role.

Most of the defendants, including Mussfeldt, were condemned to death and executed.

As for Nyiszli's story, I doubt it. The total amount of Zyklon-B introduced into the gas-chamber during a typical homicidal gassing was several times the amount needed to produce the air concentration of HCN at the threshold of fatality to humans (300 ppm). In fact, the threshold of 100% lethality was greatly exceeded, in order to ensure the rapid death of the victims.

By the time all the HCN contained in the Zyklon-B pellets had evaporated (ie after about 30 minutes at a temperature equivalent to the boiling point of HCN), the concentration of HCN in the air within the chamber would have been so high everywhere that no person could possibly have survived, even with a face pressed to the floor.

Furthermore, the claim that Mussfeldt was afraid that the survivor would talk is scarcely credible. Knowledge of the gassings was widespread among the camp population.

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Post by David Thompson » 09 Apr 2004 06:13

Michael -- If you have a source on Mussfeld's extradition, trial and execution by the Poles I'd appreciate it. I went through the 10 pages of the ABR - SS & Police thread "SS Men Extradited to Poland" at:

http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic. ... sc&start=0

without finding anything on the fellow.

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Post by xcalibur » 09 Apr 2004 17:29

michael mills wrote:The Elkins tale is nonsense.

Mussfeldt was extradited to Poland, where he was tried along with Liebehenschel and other former members of the staff of Lublin Concentration Camp. The main charge against them was the massacre of 17,000 Jewish inmates on 3 November 1943, in which Mussfeldt played a major role.

Most of the defendants, including Mussfeldt, were condemned to death and executed.

As for Nyiszli's story, I doubt it. The total amount of Zyklon-B introduced into the gas-chamber during a typical homicidal gassing was several times the amount needed to produce the air concentration of HCN at the threshold of fatality to humans (300 ppm). In fact, the threshold of 100% lethality was greatly exceeded, in order to ensure the rapid death of the victims.

By the time all the HCN contained in the Zyklon-B pellets had evaporated (ie after about 30 minutes at a temperature equivalent to the boiling point of HCN), the concentration of HCN in the air within the chamber would have been so high everywhere that no person could possibly have survived, even with a face pressed to the floor.

Furthermore, the claim that Mussfeldt was afraid that the survivor would talk is scarcely credible. Knowledge of the gassings was widespread among the camp population.

Mussfeld, Mussfeldt, or Muhsfeldt?

In the Nyiszli quotation above this individual is referred to with the first spelling. In poking around on this subject I came across another version of this quotation in which the individual in question is referred to as "Oberscharfuhrer Mussfeld".

Above you refer to a "Mussfeldt" tried and executed for crimes at Lublin.

Elkins' quote above refers to a "Lt. Georg Kurt Mussfeld", also associated with Lublin.

At AxisHistory.com on the personnel roster for Majdanek there is listed one "SS Oberscharfuhrer Erich Muhsfeldt", with the notation hat he was executed by the Poles.

Are we talking about two distinct individuals, or the same one?

***************

Regarding the Nyiszli quotation: It does seem a bit far fetched. Exposure to HCN gas usually will result in respiratory arrest or coma (though not necessarily cardiac arrest) depending on the exposure. Given this, it would seem unlikely that those clearing the gas chamber would have been able to distinguish this individual from the other dead unless they were somehow able to detect a heartbeat. Assuming the heart was still beating, the immediate administration of pure oxygen is called for, as well as the administration of an antidote such as amyl nitrite.

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