Number of Pages: 193
Publication Date: 1946
Rating: out of 5
In the time of World War II, many of us know that several groups of people were unjustifiably persecuted and murdered. Here, in this translated book, the author wrote about his accounts while being assistant to Dr. Mengele, the experimental doctor of Auschwitz Concentration Camp in Germany during WWII.
The author himself was considered a prisoner, however, since he had medical experience Dr. Mengele accepted him as assistant to focus work on autopsies from certain members of the camp. Nyiszli wrote these accounts after the war when he was freed.
Ever since Number the Stars by Lois Lowry (in elementary school), this time period has fascinated me. Fascinating as in wanting to learn more of what happened and why.
This particular book, split into chapters, Nyiszli wrote about some of his experiences as being an assistant doctor to Dr. Mengele. This ruthless doctor was extremely interested in twins. As some of you may know, at that time, Hitler wanted to create the ideal population and he wanted to rid the world of those who he didn’t see as the ideal human being. Now, having twins would increase the number of the ideal population by double. By trying to understand how twins worked, it was believed doctors could replicate the gene, or whatever they would find, for German women to have twins instead one baby at time.
What horrified me even more was the process of “studying” Jewish and gypsy twins, mainly children. This is where I had a tough time continuing the read. It just became so sad and disturbing. I could barely read one short chapter at a time. Almost immediately, I had to jump to something more pleasant to ease the sadness.
At a certain point, when the children weren’t the focus, the read became a bit better and quicker to read. But, I definitely had doubts in my ability to finish this book. It did get a bit uplifting when the writer started to describe some people who were revolting against the SS soldiers, and then finally liberation.
There were a fair number of errors scattered throughout the read and I didn’t really feel much emotion from the author. The errors could have easily been because of this book is translated from its original language. I’m not sure if the translation aspect is to be blamed for the lack of emotion, as well, or if perhaps the author attempted to distance himself from the situation while writing.
At the end of the book, there were a series of black-and-white pictures, which were interesting to view. One in particular that struck me was an older gentleman returning to the concentration camp he was in when he was younger. I can’t even imagine what that must have been like to re-visit such a harrowing and distressing part of your life.
Overall, this was one of hardest books that I have read so far because of its true content.