Saturday, June 30, 2018

Saving Lives in Auschwitz: The Prisoners’ Hospital in Buna-Monowitz Hardcover – January 27, 2018 by Ewa Bacon (Purdue University Press)

The perception of Auschwitz as primarily an extermination camp disregards the enormity and complexity of this slave labor compound, and its integral significance in Germany’s military-industrial complex. The giant industries that depended on slave labor supplied by Auschwitz prisoners grew increasingly frustrated with the enormous cost of constantly replacing workers who died, and insisted the camp provide health care to prisoners. Stefan Budziaszek, a Polish political prisoner and highly skilled physician, became the director of the Auschwitz prisoners’ hospital. Bacon used the meticulous notes and records kept by Dr. Budziaszek, corroborated by numerous other primary-source accounts of Auschwitz, to examine the operation of the camp, its relationships with the surrounding communities, and the daily challenges prisoners faced for survival. Significantly, Bacon also addressed the ethical dilemma of providing medical care to prisoners to ensure they would be fit to continue to provide slave labor to the industries that fed the war. Saving Lives in Auschwitz illuminates a part of WWII history that has heretofore been unacknowledged. Although this is a well-documented scholarly work, it is fascinating and reads easily. The work offers a much more insightful and thorough examination of the purpose and operation of Auschwitz than is commonly presented. It is a moving testament to the power of an individual to rise above the ubiquitous evil of the concentration camp to preserve hope and life.

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