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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Season in Hell
This is an account of his time in Auschwitz by a man who in his former life had been a GP and also a specialist in forensic pathology. However, because of this expertise, Miklos Nyiszli, upon arrival at the death camp was chosen to help the infamous Dr Josef Mengele in his misbegotten biological `research'.

Nyiszli's medical background no doubt explains the...
Published 19 months ago by Tony Floyd

versus
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 5* means "I love it" I didn't "love it" I recognised it's importance.
I can't give this book 5* because 5* means 'I love it' and I didn't 'love it' who could? I'd happily give 10* if Amazon had an appropriate rating system for this type of book. Shame on them.

Nyiszli was a forensic physician and, as such, was selected for work instead of immediate death. He worked as a doctor to the SS and had a role as pathologist examining the...
Published 18 months ago by JK


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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Season in Hell, 5 Dec 2012
By 
Tony Floyd "Travis Pickle" (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Auschwitz: A Doctor's Eyewitness Account (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
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This is an account of his time in Auschwitz by a man who in his former life had been a GP and also a specialist in forensic pathology. However, because of this expertise, Miklos Nyiszli, upon arrival at the death camp was chosen to help the infamous Dr Josef Mengele in his misbegotten biological `research'.

Nyiszli's medical background no doubt explains the concise and exact account of his time in the death camp, and his measured and controlled description of extermination. As he says in his opening declaration, "when I lived through these horrors...I was not a writer but a doctor. Today, in telling about them, I write not as a reporter but as doctor." From the selection process, where Mengele indicated whether those arriving at the camp were to be killed immediately or were to be used as slave labour for a few miserable months first, to the dispersal of the ashes, Nyiszli records every stage of the process meticulously and precisely. The book is all the more powerful for this approach, its careful enumeration of horror using the Nazis own predilection for methodical and systematic organisation to reflect their loathsome ideology unmercifully back on to them.

Only on rare occasions is there a breach in this neutral tone, where Nyiszli's contempt and loathing and repugnance are revealed, and the only words he can find are ones like 'evil' and 'diabolic' to describe human monsters like Molle, Mussfeld and most of all Mengele. Mengele he characterises as the `devil doctor' whose barbarity is best illustrated by Nyiszli disdainfully recording the fact that "the one place, the one environment my soft-brained superior really felt at home [was] the blazing glow of the pyres and the spiralling smoke of the crematorium stacks; the air heavy with the odor of burning bodies; the walls resounding with the screams of the damned and the metallic rattle of machine guns fired pointblank; it was to this that the demented doctor came for rest and relaxation after each selection, after each display of `fireworks'. This was where he spent all his free time; here in this man-made hell."

This edition also includes the Foreword by Bruno Bettelheim which accompanied the earlier publication of the book in 1960. This has now been relegated to an Afterword and a newer introduction is provided by historian Richard J Evans. As Evans explains, the original Foreword is now of historical interest in its own right, reflecting as it does Bettelheim's now discredited views, namely that only an inherent racial death wish could account for the compliance by European Jewry in its own destruction and his condemnation of the supposedly indefensible actions of the Sonderkommando, the Jewish prisoners who in exchange for being allowed to live a few months longer, in Bettelheim's view aided and abetted their own murderers. Bettelheim goes on to accuse Nyiszli of being "a participant, an accessory to the crimes of the SS" because he "worked as the assistant of a vicious criminal." Evans calmly rebuts this (wilfully?) bizarre misreading and misrepresentation of the circumstances.

Like John Hersey's Hiroshima, an equally slim volume that also says what it needs to say and no more, and which again contains enough horror to fill a library, Auschwitz; A Doctor's Eyewitness Account is an essential book.
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70 of 78 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Horrific Eye Witness Account That Must Be Read!, 11 Oct 2001
By A Customer
I have always had an interest in the Holocaust, but until I read this book some fourteen years ago, it had always remained at a distance.
A reputable colleague at work handed me a copy of this book and said 'this is worth a read'.
Having begun, I could not put the book down. The book gripped me from start to finish. The story is horrific but, nevertheless, it is a story that we all owe it to ourselves to be familiar with.
The story and the author's experiences were so profound and penetrating that I have spent the last fourteen years studying and reading as much about the Holocaust as I can. I have visited the Concentration Camps at Treblinka, Majdanek, Auschwitz, Birkenau and Plaszov, together with other areas in Poland directly connected with the Jewish Holocaust.
I have seen the buildings full of human hair from the Jewish victims, the gas chambers, crematoria and the other hideous instruments of mass murder referred to in this book.
The book by Dr. Miklos Nyiszli will not take you long to finish. The voices of the victims referred to have long since disappeared. Many people today are not even aware of the Holocaust and others deny it's very existence.
Books like these, written by people who were actually there, are essential if our this and forthcoming generations are to be made aware of "man's inhumanity to man" and to prevent such a horror from occurring again.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Low key but very moving account, 22 Jun 2013
By 
Bacchus (Greater London - Surrey) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Auschwitz: A Doctor's Eyewitness Account (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
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I must confess that I find the details of the Holocaust deeply disconcerting and until recently, I have avoided seeking details.

An industry has grown over the years to try to claim that much of what we know about this terrible episode from history is in fact a myth. In some ways I should be grateful for such scepticism because it has made me face up to and try to understand the events. I know far more than I really want to know about the Holocaust through reading first hand accounts and general history.

This account is very interesting. It was written by a doctor who was part of the transportation of Jews from Hungary which was sent to Auschwitz towards the end of the Second World War. He was fortunate that he was healthy and fit for work so that he was not sent for extermination the moment he arrived there. However, he was too valuable to the Nazis because he was skilled in pathology.of

Nyesli's skill as a pathologist kept him alive when all around him were eventually killed. He became Dr Mengele's assistant whose job it was to dissect the corpses to aid Mengele's research. This aspect of the Nazi regime is one about which I feel particularly squeamish and Nyesli gives a very straightforward account of his observations of Mengele's obsessive pursuit of proving the degeneracy of the Jewish race and the superiority of the Aryan race. He attests to Mengele's sadism and is unequivocal in his view that Mengele was practising a pseudo science. I learned much more about the actions of the Sonderkommando squads, Jewish prisoners who were required to do much of the extermination work before they themselves were rounded up and shot by submachine gun fire.

The descriptions of the various forms of mass killing are quite heart rending and sickening - more so because they are written with a medical objectivity.

This is a very important book which I am glad to have read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Harrowing and truthful, 11 Jan 2013
By 
Sam Halverson (Gateshead, Tyne and Wear, England) - See all my reviews
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Having read eyewitness accounts before, I expected some really horrific content here, and I was right.

A very clinical account, and a necessary read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth Reading, 17 Nov 2012
By 
M. Dowden (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Auschwitz: A Doctor's Eyewitness Account (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
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This memoir by Miklos Nyiszli was first published in English in 1960, but there has been an alteration made to that original text. Bruno Bettelheim's original foreword has now been placed at the back of the book as an afterword, and a new introduction by Richard J Evans takes its place at the front. If you are coming to this book for the first time then I would strongly urge you to read both of these, and even if you have read a previous edition I would recommend Evans' introduction which is excellent. Bettelheim's piece is if you read it quite controversial, but his ideas at the time were held in greater credence than in today's world.

In all, even taking in the introduction and the afterword this book is quite slim and is a relatively quick read. Nyiszli never had any pretensions about being a great writer and this is thus an easy read, he doesn't get fancy in his writing, just gives us what he thought and saw at the time. So who was Miklos Nyiszli? By the time he was interred in Auschwitz he was an established pathologist, and this ultimately led to him surviving to tell his tale. Being of use Josef Mengele took him under his wing and he became part of the Sonderkommando, those Jews who did the dirty work for the Germans, disposing of the bodies after gassing, etc.

I could go on about the harrowing life for Jews and others in the infamous death camp, but I know we already know all that, and I suspect some people get bored of books like this. Why this works is because in some ways it shows a different aspect of the camp and life. People tend to think of all the deaths of Jews, but as shown here with the extermination of the gypsies, others were also included. The place was rife with disease and starvation, and you had Mengele carrying out his infamous experiments, but at the same time it is worth being reminded that such a place was to a certain extent a town, with people working away at jobs, and even a 'black market' in place.

This isn't just about the Holocaust, but about how people manage to survive in such dreadful conditions, and how the pursuit of science can blur ethics and morals for some people. I always think it is ironic that Mengele had to go on the run and under cover to escape a War Crimes tribunal, but his Japanese counterpart, Shiro Ishii, who conducted awful experiments on people in Harbin on the Chinese mainland was given immunity from being tried for War Crimes by the US Government, due to his research being given to them and its implications with regard to biological warfare. Obviously it matters on what studies you do when you commit attrocities on how you will be treated at a later date.

After the war Miklos Nyiszli went from being a pathologist for Mengele to giving evidence at Nuremberg, after all he was a good witness after seeing what he had.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A short, horrific read, 24 May 2013
By 
Andrew Langdon (Wales, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Auschwitz: A Doctor's Eyewitness Account (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
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'Auschwitz' is an eyewitness account of a Hungarian Jew, Miklós Nyiszli, who was sent to Auschwitz along with his wife and daughter. Upon his arrival Nyiszli is separated into the 'able' where his training as a pathologist meant he became Dr. Mengele's assistant pathologist performing autopsies aiding Mengele's twisted research into twins, dwarfs and other subspecies that risked polluting the Aryan race.

What follows is a dispassionate and heartbreaking retelling of his experiences and the impossible positions the SS savagery put him. Does he confirm the diagnosis of typhus and condemn the death of thousands in a camp, or contradict the doctors, sparing the the ill for a little longer but condemning the doctors to death?

A difficult and horrific, but important read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Extreme Human Nature?, 1 Feb 2013
By 
J. M. Green "john94682" (Sutton Coldfield) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Auschwitz: A Doctor's Eyewitness Account (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
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This is not the "best" book (if "best" can indeed be the word to use) nor is it the "worst" (again, if that is the word to use) that I have read on the subject of the Nazi Final Solution. However, it is brief and very much to the point and brings into very sharp focus what man will do to man and man will do for man in the most extreme of circumstances.
Documenting the events from the moment Dr Nyszli disembarked from his cattlewagon on the Jewish ramp at the Auschwitz terminal, you find that through a sequence of "good" fortune (if good is the correct word) that this man manages to survive the death camp and indeed, goes on to survive the holocaust itself, although the road itself, from start to end, is full of dangers - the wrong word, the wrong nuance, even the wrong demeanour could have resulted in a bullet to the back of the head or the long walk down the ramp to the gas chambers and crematorium. Given the same circumstances what would YOU do is always coming into your mind whilst reading the detail within these 200 or so pages. Indeed, given similar circumstances, could the same thing happen all over? We think we are today, more civilised and that nothing like this could ever happen again, but the reality is that it could happen again unless we maintain our guard against racism. That said, our current world is no different in our prejudices than they were in my father's day and although in the army during the holocaust times, he did not see these horrors at first hand (but saw plenty of others) and he narrated to me on many occasions exactly how prejudicial society really was back then!
The Afterword is very much thought provoking too asking why millions would walk to their deaths without attempting to escape or indeed resist. Unlike Sonderkommando 12 who all died (and they would have in any case) but they did resist and apart from causing damage to the Auschwitz machinery, they took many of their tormentors with them!
Certainly this book is not for the faint of heart or indeed a pleasure to read but SHOULD be read as a warning from history of exactly what can happen when society breaks down.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 'I have supp'd full with horrors .....', 10 Jan 2013
By 
S. J. Williams "stevejw2" (Leeds, West Yorkshire United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Auschwitz: A Doctor's Eyewitness Account (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
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Miklos Nyiszli, a Hungarian Jew sent to the extermination camp in 1944 was 'fortunate' enough to be selected for work rather than the gas chamber. As a well qualified and experienced forensic physician, he was chosen to work within the Sonderkommando who kept the 'processing' of the extermination process working. His role was to act as doctor to the kommando and the SS and act as pathologist on those killed in whom Mengele had a 'scientific' interest, due to their potential as evidence in proving the degeneracy of non-Aryan races. The Sonderkommando teams were comparatively well looked after, but knew that after 4 months they would meet the same fate as their fellow prisoners and be replaced with fresh workers. This book is Nyszli's account of his experiences.

This is, I think, a remarkable book, the almost understated spareness of the account making the terrible experiences of the author all the more shocking because there is so little sense that he is trying to manipulate one's emotions. The events speak for themselves, without the (entirely excusable) hand-wringing and wailing that other writers might employ in creating a 'literary' work. Moments of unspeakable awfulness linger in the memory because so straightforwardly recounted: the hand-picked father and son, hunchback and 'cripple', respectively, who are selected by Mengele to serve as research into proving the 'degeneracy' of the Jewish race - Nyiszli is required to calibrate their living anatomies (they and Nyiszli are unaware of their immediate fate)and literally hours later, perform autopsies on their corpses and arrange for the reduction of their bodies to skeletons for despatch to a respected Berlin university as research items; the young girl who inexplicably survives the gas-chamber, is revived by Nyiszli who pleads strenuously that she be diverted to another part of the camp so that she might live, but who is shot by the SS in the back of the head because she is too immature to maintain her silence about the reality of the extermination programme; the barely mentioned but truly awful-to-contemplate dual autopsies performed on tiny twin babies to further entirely spurious 'research'.

Of course some readers will despair at Nyiszli 'co-operating' with the system and using his refined medical skills to carry out autopsies, though never to injure the living. However, I would suggest that one of the vilest aspects of the Nazi regime was the way quite grotesque moral dilemmas were forced on perfectly decent people who had the starkest of choices: co-operate to extend one's survival or die. Each of us can only wonder what, god-forbid, we might have to do in such circumstances. It is a bold human being who can claim moral superiority over this Hungarian Jew, shipped to Auschwitz as part of the 'Final Solution'.

Other reviewers have described the foreword as dull and boring: I disagree. It is a fairly academic piece, of course, but is valuable in giving some background about the key protagonists (Nyiszli confines his account to the Auschwitz experience and ultimate escape). It also illuminates the outlines of a very interesting debate that has taken place over the decades regarding the nature of the Jewish responses to the persecution and the reasons for the responses. I found it fascinating. The afterword by Betelheim embodies a particular range of attitudes to the topic: though in many ways a disagreeable response, it is worth reading for the questions it raises about the ways humanity deals with monstrosity.

I don't think I will ever want to read this again, but I am very glad to have done so.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars We owe it to those who were sacrificed to read this, 2 Jan 2013
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Harrowing, unimaginable and hard to understand. Small words for such a world changing atrocity. This should never be forgotten, in the past, present and future.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truthful harrowing story, 28 Nov 2012
By 
BusyReader "mrs28" (Midlands UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Auschwitz: A Doctor's Eyewitness Account (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
I ordered this despite its description , and thinking it might be something that I'd rather not read, as I wanted to read further about the medical experimentation within the concentration camps, having had some idea of Dr Mengele's ' experiments' on twins and experiments about how the human body coped with hypothermia.
In actuality the book doesn't give much in depth information of what the experimentation entailed but gives more about how the prisoners were selected , and how they were exterminated . It also describes the Sonderkommando (SK) who were prisoners whose job it was to clear out the " shower rooms" and move the corpses of their countrymen , women and children into the incinerators. The SK were dispensable too and were exterminated after they had carried out their grisly job a certain number of times.
The author a Hungarian doctor who was a Pathologist before the war was given the job as Camp Pathologist and instructed by Dr Mengele to carry out autopsies , making methodical notes, and to give medical care to camp staff and SK. In return for this his relative 'safety' was assured along with perks of more food and some slight protection for his family who were interred in another part of the camp.
I have nothing but admiration for the author and his bravery and tenacity to survive such a place and such an experience . Once the camps were liberated a long match followed which he survived and which then meant that he lived to tell the tale , This is why this account gets a 5 star , not because I Love the book , because it is hard to read , but because these tales MUST be told and MUST be read , and this atrocity must never happen again.
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Auschwitz: A Doctor's Eyewitness Account (Penguin Modern Classics)
Auschwitz: A Doctor's Eyewitness Account (Penguin Modern Classics) by Miklos Nyiszli (Paperback - 25 Oct 2012)
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