The complicated relations between German SS doctors and prisoners working in the camp hospitals, as well as moral and ethical issues arising from the crimes of the Nazis doctors, are some of the topics for medical students and doctors from Germany during the seminar "National Socialism and Medicine in the Third Reich." The seminar war organized by the Digital Repository of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum and the University of Witten/Herdecke.
The main theme of the meeting, which took place this year on 26-29 March, were doctors in the Auschwitz camp, both those in SS uniforms as well as prisoners in striped uniforms.
The program included, among others, lectures by, e.g., prof. of anthropology Peter Selga, who discussed the problems of the history of medicine and medical anthropology in the early twentieth century and also described the tragic outcomes of Nazi medicine in the Auschwitz camp. “The professor tried to answer questions about medical ethics after Auschwitz. The relationship of the SS doctors, Josef Mengele and Eduard Wirths, with the prisoners Mikloš Nyszli and Hermann Langbein, for example, presented a very interesting analysis of the complex relationship between Nazi doctors and prisoners,” said Dr. Christopher Antończyk, head of the Digital Repository of the Museum.
The participants met also a former prisoner prof. Wacław Długoborski, who told of his experiences of being a resident in the BIIf hospital section in Auschwitz II-Birkenau, where he was employed as a male nurse.
During the classes, participants learned about the mechanisms of functioning of the camp hospitals. Halina Jastrzębska and Małgorzata Halat provided a detailed history of hospital block 28 in the main camp of Auschwitz I. While the workshop, which took place at the premises of the original building, the profiles of prison medical staff and their efforts to protect the lives of patients were discussed during the classes.
“In the seminar, participants were also able to hold discussions on the contemporary attitudes of medical personnel and which are still valid ethical questions concerning patient-doctor relationships. For me, their words are important; that these three days spent in the former camp are an invaluable lesson and experience for them, which will influence their manner of thinking about people and the value of life,” added Antończyk.