MEMORIAL AND MUSEUM

AUSCHWITZ-BIRKENAU

FORMER GERMAN NAZI
CONCENTRATION AND EXTERMINATION CAMP

Haeftlings-Krankenbau Auschwitz I - block 28 stube 7 - memories

An inmate-physician was ordered to present to an SS physician up to 10 patients daily, a few of whom the SS physician would send back to the camp. In this way out of a few hundred inmates needing hospital treatment only six, sometimes 10, were accepted. The outpatient physician had very little time for initial diagnosis since the SS physician would turn up as early as around 8 a.m. and often even earlier. When presenting patients to the SS physician I had to indicate the type of condition and nationality, but we were not allowed to recommend hospital treatment, exemption from normal work in the camp, or stay in the residential block. The SS wanted to have full authority in this matter.

Rudolf Diem (no. 10022)

 

Inmates were selected in two ways. In the morning an SS physician would pay an outpatient visit to the room. It was called “Arztvormelder”. The inmates who reported to the room were presented to the SS physician – naked. Depending on what gesture the SS physician made using his finger, we knew what to do. There were only three options: “SB” (Sonderbehandlug), which meant a lethal injection; acceptance to the camp hospital; or outpatient care, which meant that the patient was sent back to the camp and could turn up only to collect their medicines or to have their bandage changed.

Another form of selection involved the SS physician choosing individuals in the camp hospital (Krankenbau) from among bedridden patients. Large groups were transported in trucks to the gas chamber. If there were smaller groups, they were given single lethal injections or in rounds of two or three.   

Tadeusz Paczuła (no. 7725)

 

Sometimes, when the SS physician left, I would personally pull out from the group of patients the ones who seemed to stand a chance of recovery. They were carried to Room 7. You could not go too far with this, but usually you could save a few more people. Nobody was asked for their name, position or nationality. The appearance and chances of survival were most important. The choice was very difficult, even more so the rush. I pulled out as many Muslims (in the camp jargon the “Muslims” were extremely thin inmates) as I could and dragged them to Room 7 where Kuryłowicz knew what to do with them. Sometimes the saved inmates would say frantically: “Why are you dragging me here? The German physician told us to wait.”

Rudolf Diem (no. 10022)

 

The sick inmates accepted to Room 7 in Block 28 were recorded in the Register. The Register was set up and kept by Franciszek Sobkowiak, who was keen on maintaining order in the Room. This is why he set up a notebook where he wrote down names of all the patients staying in the Room and where they were transferred to. He also indicated if the death was natural or whether the patient was killed with phenol. He highlighted it with red or blue, respectively.

Rudolf Diem (no. 10022)

 

I arrived to Room 7 at the time when the hospital received triple bunk beds. The patients lying on straw mattresses on the floor were placed on the beds by me and Antoni Lipowski. It took me a whole day to complete the work. (…) The patients lay on bunk beds, squeezed in twos or threes, without any underwear or only in shirts. Seriously ill patients did not have the strength to climb up the upper bunks, so we were trying to lay them low. Sometimes they fell to the floor and got bad injuries. (…) The patients lay on mattresses stuffed with wood wool, which were often made filthy by patients with diarrhoea or unconscious ones. It took a lot of effort on the part of Lipowski not to make another patient lie in excrement. A mattress would be turned over some 20 times, and the filthy places were covered with pieces of paper fabric. The filthy mattresses were scrubbed with water and whitening and shortly they resembled sieves with large and rotten holes, easily torn in fingers or under the patients. They all stank of urine and excrement. There was also the stench of rotting soup leftovers spilt on blankets or mattresses by the weak patients…

Rudolf Diem (no. 10022)

 

In Room 7 lay mostly extremely exhausted patients, suffering from hunger, diarrhoea, and swellings. Sometimes there were healthy people among them too, who needed shelter from hard penal labour or persecution in the camp.

Władysław Fejkiel (no. 5647)