Miklós Nyiszli

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Miklós Nyiszli
Born(1901-06-17)17 June 1901
Died5 May 1956(1956-05-05) (aged 54)
NationalityAustria-Hungary Austro-Hungarian
Hungary Hungarian
Romania Romanian
Known forincarceration and forced medical work in Auschwitz concentration camp

Miklós Nyiszli (17 June 1901, Szilágysomlyó, Austria-Hungary – 5 May 1956, Oradea, Romania) was a Jewish prisoner at the Auschwitz concentration camp. Nyiszli, his wife, and young daughter, were transported to Auschwitz in June 1944. Upon his arrival, Nyiszli volunteered as a doctor and was sent to work at number 12 barracks where he operated on and tried to help the ill with only the most basic medical supplies and tools. He was under the supervision of Josef Mengele, an SS officer, physician and war criminal.

Mengele decided after observing Nyiszli's skills to move him to a specially built autopsy and operating theatre. The room had been built inside Crematorium II (Crematorium I was in Auschwitz Town camp), and Nyiszli, along with members of the 12th Sonderkommando, was housed there.


During Nyiszli's time in the camp, he witnessed many atrocities to which he refers in his book, Auschwitz: A Doctor’s Eyewitness Account.[1]

Photo from Josef Mengele's Argentine identification document (1956)

Historian Gideon Greif characterized Nyiszli's writings as among the “myths and other wrong and defamatory accounts” of the Sonderkommando that flourished in the absence of first-hand testimony by surviving Sonderkommando members.[2]

Accounts of camp life[edit]

While imprisoned, Nyiszli was forced to carry out medical experiments and perform autopsies on dozens of bodies, particularly on dwarfs and twins. Mengele had researched the causes of dwarfism and twinning, and used Nyiszli to gather more information. Nyiszli autopsied murdered prisoners, specifically those suspected to have died from infectious diseases. Mengele was searching for evidence supporting the "inferiority of the Jewish race". At one point Nyiszli was forced to carry out physical exams on a father-son pair and, after their deaths, to prepare their skeletons for study at the Anthropological Museum in Berlin.[citation needed]

[I] had to examine them with exact clinical methods before they died, and then perform the dissection on their still warm bodies.

— Miklós Nyiszli

One day, following the gassing of a transport load of prisoners, Nyiszli was summoned by Sonderkommando working in the gas chambers who had found a girl alive under a mass of bodies in a chamber. Nyiszli and his fellow prisoners did their best to help and care for the girl, but she was eventually discovered and shot.[3] This incident was dramatized in the film The Grey Zone and Son of Saul.[citation needed]

Nyiszli was appalled by the disregard for human life and lack of empathy for human suffering shown by the guards and officers. However, his actions were dictated by his tormentors, and he was forced to perform what he considered immoral acts. As he said:

An event never before experienced in the history of medicine worldwide is realized here: Twins die at the same time, and there is the possibility of subjecting their corpses to an autopsy. Where in normal life is there the case, bordering on a miracle, that twins die at the same place at the same time? [...] A comparative autopsy is thus absolutely impossible under normal conditions. But in Auschwitz camp there are several hundred pairs of twins, and their deaths, in turn, present several hundred opportunities!"[4]

— Miklós Nyiszli

During his roughly eight months in Auschwitz, Nyiszli observed the murders of tens of thousands of people, including the slaughter of whole sub-camps at once. These sub-camps held different ethnic, religious, national, and gender groups, including a Gypsy camp, several women's camps, and a Czech camp. Each sub-camp housed between 5,000–10,000 prisoners or more. Nyiszli was often told which camps were next to be exterminated, signaling that an increased workload was imminent.[citation needed]

When Nyiszli discovered that the women's camp in which his wife and daughter were kept prisoner, Camp C, was to be liquidated, he bribed an SS officer to transfer them to a women's work camp. Nyiszli remained in Auschwitz until shortly before its liberation by the Soviet army on 27 January 1945. On 18 January, Nyiszli, along with an estimated 66,000 other prisoners, was forced on a death march that took the prisoners into various Nazi territories, including Poland (part of Greater Germany), Czechoslovakia, Germany proper, present-day Austria and further into various smaller concentration camps in Germany.[citation needed]

After Auschwitz[edit]

Nyiszli's first major stop after the forced march out of Auschwitz was the Mauthausen concentration camp in northern Austria, near the city of Linz. After a three-day stay in a quarantine barracks at Mauthausen, he spent two months in the Melk an der Donau concentration camp, about three hours away by train.[citation needed]

After 12 months of imprisonment, Nyiszli and his fellow prisoners were liberated on 5 May 1945, when U.S. troops reached the camp. Nyiszli's wife and daughter also survived Auschwitz and were liberated from Bergen Belsen. He never again worked with a scalpel after the war.[5]

He wrote the book Dr Mengele boncolo orvosa voltam as Auschwitz-i krematoriumban.


Nyiszli died of a heart attack on 5 May 1956 in Oradea, Romania at the age of 54. His widow, Margareta, died on 5 September 1985. Their daughter Susanna died on 8 January 1983.

His granddaughter Monica Reich (born Vizitiu Monica- Sasa) was born in Oradea Romania. She lives in Israel. She has Israeli and Romanian citizenship.


  • Auschwitz Lullaby, a 1998 play by James C. Wall, printed: 2000 ISBN 0-87129-826-0; audiocassette & CD: 2000, ISBN 1-889889-02-4
  • The Grey Zone, a 2001 film by Tim Blake Nelson
  • Son of Saul, a 2015 film by László Nemes

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Nyiszli, Miklos (2011). Auschwitz: A Doctor's Eyewitness Account. New York: Arcade Publishing.
  2. ^ Greif, Gideon and Andreas Kilian, “Significance, responsibility, challenge: Interviewing the Sonderkommando survivors”, Sonderkommando-Studien, 7 April 2004.
  3. ^ "Mengele and Miklos Nyiszli". Mengele.dk. Retrieved 9 January 2015.
  4. ^ Hans-Walter Schmuhl, "The Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Anthropology, Human Heredity, and Eugenics, 1927-1945", Springer, 2003, Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science, vol. 259, pg. 368
  5. ^ Nyiszli, Miklos (1946). Auschwitz: A Doctor's Eyewitness Account (2012 ed.). Penguin UK. p. 162. ISBN 978-0141392219. Retrieved 6 October 2019. “I would begin practicing again, yes… But I swore that as long as I live I would never lift a scalpel again…”


  • Olga Lengyel (2005). Five Chimneys: A Woman's True Story of Auschwitz (original title: I Survived Hitler's Ovens). Academy Chicago Publishers. ISBN 0897333764.
  • Nyiszli, Miklós (2011). Auschwitz: A Doctor's Eyewitness Account. New York: Arcade Publishing.
  • Nyiszli, Miklós (2010). I was doctor Mengele's assistant. Oswiecim.

External links[edit]