This short, classic, harrowing book documents Nyiszli Miklos’s experience as a Jewish GP recruited under the threat of certain death to assit Dr Mengele in his “medical research” at Auschwitz. It describes the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, from the transport to Auschwitz and the so-called “selection” process on arrival, to the disposal of their ashes.
Miklos adopts a largely neutral, clinical tone in his description of the events. Somehow, this dispassionate tone makes the descriptions all the more powerful. Occasionally, Miklos’s neutrality slips, and his obvious abhorrence becomes clear. Sometimes, he lays bare his struggle with the diabolical ethical dilemmas he faced, challenging the reader to consider whether they would have reacted in the same way.
This is a simple, short book, yet the descriptions of some of the most appalling acts in the history of humanity make it challenging to read. The matter-of-fact tone merely underlines the seemingly unthinkable horror of the events which occurred at Auschwitz. The book’s brevity also contributes to its power: it says no more than it needs to.
This is clearly not the sort of book for which it would be appropriate to assign a star rating. I include it here only because I was unaware of this historically valuable volume until very recently, which probably reveals a degree of historical and litererary ignorance on my part. I guess that others might, however, be similarly unaware of it, and I hope that this will inspire them to read it. We must learn about and from history’s greatest mistakes if we are to avoid repeating them.