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Münch, or the Paradox of the ‘Good’ SS Doctor

  • Yves Ternon
Chapter

Abstract

Ie used to believe that everything about the doctors of Auschwitz was known: they were a batch of monsters, maniacs, torturers, cynics, cowards, deceivers, and even some proper people — each occupying a different place in the ‘ledger of horror’. There was room in this scheme for the exceptional case: ‘a human being inside an SS uniform’, Hans Münch. His existence and record formed a necessary component in the elaboration of a theory about the ambiguity of evil in Auschwitz. Dr Münch held out a ‘slender thread’ between the victims and the executioners that permitted us to believe in man. However, an interview published in Der Spiegel in September 1998 destroyed the legend of ‘good’ Dr Münch.1 ‘We scarcely recognized the Hans Münch we all knew,’ said a journalist who had previously arranged contacts between him and some former Auschwitz prisoners.2 What was this legend based on? What has happened to change it? In fact, only a few things. Once some of Münch’s declarations are interpreted slightly differently and another manner of posing the questions is adopted, then Hans Münch reverts to what he has never ceased to be: an SS doctor, marked forever by a perverse ideology. There never was a paradox of the ‘good’ SS doctor, only a legend — and the very person who created the legend in the first place is the one who has just destroyed it.

Keywords

Supreme Court Death Camp Country Doctor Rheumatism Sufferer Polish Supreme 
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Notes

  1. 5.
    Arnaud Leparmentier, ‘Les souvenirs sans remords du dernier médecin nazi d’Auschwitz’, Le Monde, 3 October 1998, p.1. Lorraine Millot, Libération, 5 October 1998.Google Scholar
  2. 7.
    Robert Jay Lifton, Les Médecins nazis, Laffont, Paris, 1989.Google Scholar
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  5. 12.
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  9. 14.
    This list has been reassembled following the book of B. Truck, op. cit., p. 149. But it is also based on other sources, including: the letter from P. Moor, already cited; Marc Klein, ‘Auschwitz 1 Stammlager’, in De l’université au camp de concentration. Témoignages strasbourgeois (Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1954), pp.428–455;Google Scholar
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  12. 25.
    Hermann Langbein, Hommes et femmes à Auschwitz (Paris: Fayard, 1975), p.344Google Scholar
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2001

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  • Yves Ternon

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