AUSCHWITZ by Lucie Adelsberger

AUSCHWITZ

A Doctor's Story

KIRKUS REVIEW

 A taut, terse Holocaust narrative that is all the more powerful for its ironic reserve. Adelsberger (18951971), a noted German-Jewish immunologist, spent her internment in Auschwitz as a physician in the Gypsy camp (until its liquidation in July 1944) and later in the women's camp. In efficiently yet movingly rendered episodes, she conveys all the horrors of concentration camp life, and in particular the squalor of the so-called infirmary where she worked, where typhus victims lay in feces-covered blankets and kindness was all the medical aid Adelsberger could offer. She gives visceral descriptions of terror (``Fear clings to the walls in your bedroom, crawls along the floor, and drips down from the ceiling'') and physical suffering; and paints vivid portraits of moral degradation and of defiance on the part of those who have nothing left to lose (a young woman about to be executed slashes her wrists and smears her blood on the face of the camp commandant). Adelsberger's rage smolders under the cool, hard surface of her irony. How else to describe the camp dentist, ``a good-natured man'' who ``saved some from starvation, including a whole group of beautiful Gypsy women, one after the other of whom found their way into his chamber''? Adelsberger refuses even to name Josef Mengele, referring to him only as ``the camp physician,'' as though to depersonalize him the way internees were depersonalized when they were given numbers in place of their names. How else can one deal with a doctor who sends hundreds to their deaths every day, then visits the infirmary and hands out candies to the sick, starved children? Adelsberger was liberated after being evacuated to RavensbrÅck, and her memoir was published in German in 1956. It is a notable addition to the list of testimonies available in English about that darkest period of human history. (illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: Oct. 30th, 1995
ISBN: 1-55553-233-0
Page count: 163pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1995




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