the rod of asclepius
Today is a day in August 1943, and Adelaide Hautval just died.
A nurse identifies her number and lets the german authorities know about it. There was no other way, after all that happened, Adelaide angered too many people, too many wished her death. Now they can forget about that woman who refused to do what they accepted without blinking an eye, now they can forget about that thing Adelaide still had, a conscience.
Adelaide Hautval was born in 1906 in Alsace. At the time, it was a german region, then it became french. Most alsacians, like Adelaide, easily juggled between the 2 languages. When France lost the war against Germany, Alsace became german again, Adelaide moved to the french free zone and worked as a psychiatrist in a childrens clinic.
Her mother passed away in april 1942, so Adelaide needed to go through the demarcation line. Adelaide decided it was too urgent to wait for papers, she thought the authorities would understand. They did on her way up, but things got complicated on her way back, she lost her luggage, tried to retrieve it, and had an argument with german soldiers who dared talking down about France. Adelaide was not one to stay quiet.
She would have left jail quickly if it hadn't been for one moment. Adelaide noticed german soldiers mistreating a jewish family for no other reason than cruelty, ignorance and antisemitism. She shouted at the police, she complained, she thought it was unfair. Because the jewish family was wearing a yellow star, Adelaide even made her own star, out of paper, and wore it as protestation. The policemen were surprised and decided that, if Adelaide wanted to wear the yellow star, then she would be treated like them. They made her wear a yellow david's star and a banner with "friends of the jews" written on it. Adelaide didn't bat an eyelash, she simply replied she saw nothing wrong with a banner like this one. Adelaide had a special ability, she made people look at themselves in the mirror and it mostly drove them crazy.
They made her stay, until they sent her to the Pithiviers camp, where she worked as a doctor. Pithiviers, a transit internment camp of jewish people, there Dr Hautval watched the people growing hungry, sick, impatient, before their deportation to Auschwitz. She was then moved to Beaune-la-Rolande, another transit camp, another shameful place. She had to take care of terrified jewish children, separated from their parents, until their deportation. And then again, another prison in Orleans, and Romainville.
She was sent to Birkenau, and quickly joined the Revier as a doctor for the german prisoners. But you can't treat anyone if you don't have any equipment, no soap, no clean sheets, not even that much water. With so many women falling ill and so few medicine, Adelaide constantly had to make difficult decisions. It was a terrifying few months, but it was nothing compared to what happened after.
Doctor Hautval was transferred to the experimental kommando, block 10, in Auschwitz. The nazis were making all kinds of experiments, all more frightening than the others. The doctors there had far too much ambition, far too little regard for human life, and were in need for human cobayes, a place for doctors like Joseph Mengele. They would test on jews horrifying serums, they used them to advance their careers, to go quicker, no matter the pain and suffering it would bring.
Adelaide was asked to take part to those experiences, as a doctor.
As an accomplice.
Doctor Hautval refused. She told the doctor she was working for, a man called Professor Clauberg that she would not help in any way, shape or form. Clauberg told her she would need to help otherwise she would be of no use to him, and he would transfer her someplace else.
Doctor Hautval had to make a new decision. Now that she knew what was happening, the extent of the horror, she couldn't possibly participate. Yet a transfer would mean abandoning the cobayes, she had to help them. So she accepted to stay, as long as she didn't help the experiments, she would only take care of the patients after the experiments, help them heal. She helped whoever she could, tried her best to discourage the doctors to start their experiments, in any possible way, faked some results to f this could delay the experiments. She helped a young Genia Goldgicht, who was using any occasion to discuss with a 45000 in the courtyard through a small opening, Aime Oboeuf
Clauberg accepted her conditions, he was in need of competent doctors. But eventually Doctor Hautval got to work with Eduard Wirths, a doctor working in the area of sterilisation and typhus studies. He was making tests on jewish patients, with the future intent of sterilising the entire jewish population, a terrifying long term objective of nazi Germany.
First Adelaide said no to Dr Samuel, a prisoner doctor who was following Wirths instructions. Why would she refuse something he accepted? Adelaide simply asked to be transferred back to the Revier.
Samuel got annoyed, he told Wirths. Withs couldn't possibly understand that a woman wouldn't help with his experiments, that what he was doing was unethical. He was a doctor too, the idea of another doctor disagreeing so profoundly turned unbearable. Wirths felt he was doing something important, and he truly couldn't see what the problem was with using jewish cobayes. After all, those were jewish people, they were expendable. How could Adelaide disagree? She made him look at himself in the mirror and he hated it. He had her come to her office, he told her that surely she knew that the jews were different than her, Adelaide simply replied that many people are different than her, for example people like him. She didn’t care that she said it in front of him and soldiers, she didn’t care that he could have murdered her right here, and he was so confused he didn’t reply anything. He just let her go back to Birkenau.
Soon, his confusion turned to anger, he wanted her dead, and he had enough authority to have his order carried out. Doctor Hautval had to choose between death or changing her mind and agreeing to come back to block 10.
Once more she refused, she would rather die than break her oath. Adelaide wished to be true to her principles until the end. So death it was.
Orli Wald, a german prisoner and nurse whom Adelaide met in Birkenau, gave a pill to Adelaide, she lost consciousness quickly. Then she registered her death, Withs was happy when he heard the news. The mirror woman was gone.
Back to the present, Adelaide wakes up in a small room, a day later. Orli had swapped her number with another patient who died at the same time. She is now part of the german resistance in the camp, they all agreed that saving Doctor Hautval's life was worth the risk.
Officially, Doctor Hautval is dead, and she is to stay hidden at the Revier for the rest of her imprisonment, helping people as much as she could, staying as far away from block 10. A ghost doctor.
Withs may have forgotten her, convinced she had died. But Joseph Mengele now notices her. She meets with Mengele, who calmly gives her an order to now help him on his own experiments in Birkenau. She refuses, he stares at her.
He lets her go. Maybe he is too weak, maybe she is too strong. Maybe he knows she is a far better doctor than him, a far better doctor than all of them, he doesn't want anyone to notice.
Maybe he doesn’t want to look at the mirror woman for too long, he may be too horrified to see himself.
Thank you for listening to this episode of 31000/45000, the story of 2 trains of french members of the resistance. My name is Matthieu Landour Engel.
This episode was about Adelaide Hautval. Adelaide is one of my favourite person, ever, she to me represents what is good about humanity, she stood constantly for her principles, and she was right. She literally died for her principles.
Adelaide had principles, she still had to make difficult choices. As a nurse, she had to decide who to treat first, who to give medicine to, as basic medicine was sparse, she couldn't give it to everyone. She did treat the prisoners before and after the experiments, but she drew a line at helping with the experiments itself, and she never hesitated to let the doctors know why she wouldn't help. It doesn't sound like that much of a difference, it is gigantic, it is the difference between performing medical duties and performing torture, and Adelaide refused to help with torture.
She held, no matter what, and she helped a large number of people, both in Birkenau and later on in Ravensbruck.
I may be assuming a few things regarding Adelaide, yet I tried to stay hopefully true to her spirit.
Adelaide Hautval wrote a book, “medicine, and crimes against humanity”. Adelaide became a righteous among the nations in 1965.
Adelaide met with 3 so called doctors who performed experiments.
Carl Clauberg was entrusted with the task of finding a sterilisation method, on his own demand, meaning he wasn't ordered to do this task, he gave the idea and asked to be transferred in Auschwitz. He injected cheap chemical product inside women's sexual organs and, to very painful results. Thz goal was to sterilise the entire european jewish population. He may have sterilised around 700 people. He was arrested after the war, yet released from jail in 1955. Horribly, he was reinstated as a doctor for a brief period of 2 years, before he was heard boasting about his achievements and was put to trial again. He died in 1957, before his trial started.
Horst Schumann too performed sterilisation experiments yet using x rays. He would put prisoners between 2 x ray machines and the rays would aim their sexual organs. Men's testicles were removed after the experiment, as for women, an ovary was removed before the experiment. He would also perform typhus experiments, by injecting typhus and then attempting to cure it. Only a few prisoners survived to Mr Schumann's' terrifying experiments. After the war, he was able to work as a sports doctor in Germany, then fled and worked as a doctor in Japan, Egypt and Sudan. Once again, he was identified, this time by a Auschwitz prisoner, in 1962, he then went to Ghana. He was finally extradited from Ghana to Germany for a trial in 1972, yet the trail never happened, as he was too sick for a trial. His heart condition was apparently a problem for 11 years, because he lived 11 more years in Germany without being tried for his horrific crimes.
Eduard Wirths was the one Adelaide told off in front of guards. He is a more controversial character, some have the memory of a protective doctor, calm and not violent, others, like Adelaide have a memory of an antisemitic so called doctor who didn’t conduct experiments himself, yet made the others doctor prisoners conduct the experiments for him. Captured by the Allies, he committed suicide before his trial.
The last one, she met only briefly, was the most notorious of them all, Joseph Mengele. Mengele performed experiments on twins, twins were the heart of his study. He would select twins right as the train arrived and would perform tests on one of the twins. Then both twins were to be killed at the same time, so they could examined, and the differences between the test twin and the untested twin could be noted. He performed many other horrifying experiments on dwarfs and eyes.
Mengele also carried out selections as the train arrived, choosing those who could be used for the experiments, and choosing his own test subjects. Mengele managed to hide in Germany and fled to Argentina in 1949. He worked several jobs, used several identities, including his own, fled again to Paraguay after practising as a doctor illegally and Hermann Langbein and Simon Wiesenthal tracked him. Despite the efforts of many, Joseph Mengele died in 1979, lying on a beach, never tried. He was nicknamed the angel of death, and symbolises the nazi horrors, as well as the impunity of their crimes.
Other so called doctors who operated in Auschwitz were Johann Paul Kremer, Emil Kaschub, August Hirt, Fritz Klein, Werner Rhode, Friedrich Entress, Helmut Vetter, Hans Konig, Victor Capesius, Bruno Weber, and I may be forgetting more.
I mentioned Orli Wald in this episode, she was known as the angel of Auschwitz, for the exact opposite reason than Mengele. She was a german member of the resistance, arrested for high treason. She worked as a nurse and assisted the experiments, she notably assisted Joseph Mengele. Her position allowed her to save many people, including Adelaide Hautval yet she also witnessed many experiment horrors. Those traumatic events followed her for the rest of her life, for example she could no longer hear music, as it reminded her of the Auschwitz orchestra and brought her to her terrifying memories. She died young, in a psychiatric clinic, unable to cope with her memories.
I briefly mentioned Genia Goldgicht, whom I will talk about further in another episode.
My sources for this story mostly come from the book Medicine and crimes against humanity by Doctor Adelaide Hautval, Red triangles in Auschwitz, by Claudine Cardon Hamet, le convoi du 24 janvier by Charlotte Delbo, a train in winter by Carolien Moorehead, the website deportes-politiques-auschwitz.fr, memoire vive, the foundation for the memory of deportation website , the Maitron website, and the fantastic website auschwitz.org .
Thank you very much for listening, the next episode will be about Germaine Pican and the quarantine.
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