Each morning, life for the twins began at six o'clock. The twins were required to report for roll call in front of their barracks no matter what the weather. After roll call, they ate a small breakfast. Then each morning, Mengele would appear for an inspection.
Mengele's presence did not necessarily connote fear in the children. He was often known to appear with pockets full of candy and chocolates, to pat them on the head, to talk with them, and sometimes even play. Many of the children, especially the younger ones, called him "Uncle Mengele."3
The twins were given brief instruction in makeshift "classes" and were sometimes even allowed to play soccer.4 The children were not required to do hard work and had jobs like being a messenger. Twins were also spared from punishments as well as from the frequent selections within the camp.
Conditions for the twins were one of the best in Auschwitz, until the trucks came to take them to the experiments.
Generally, every day, every twin had to have blood drawn.
Blood, often in large quantities, was drawn from twins' fingers and arms, and sometimes both their arms simultaneously. The youngest children, whose arms and hands were very small, suffered the most: Blood was drawn from their necks, a painful and frightening procedure.5
It was estimated that approximately ten cubic centimeters of blood was drawn daily.6
Besides having blood drawn, the twins were to undergo various medical experiments. Mengele kept his exact reasoning for his experiments a secret. Many of the twins that he experimented on weren't sure for what purpose the individual experiments were for nor what exactly what was being injected or done to them.
Each morning, the twins would wonder what was in store for them that day. Would their number be called? If yes, then the trucks would pick them up and take them to one of several laboratories.
The twins were forced to undress and lay next to each other. Then every detail of their anatomy was carefully examined, studied, and measured. What was the same was deemed to be hereditary and was different was deemed to be the result of the environment. These tests would last for several hours.
Blood tests included mass transfusions of blood from one twin to another.
In attempts to fabricate blue eyes, drops or injections of chemicals would be put in the eyes. This often caused severe pain, infections, and temporary or permanent blindness.
- Shots and Diseases
Mysterious injections that caused severe pain. Injections into the spine and spinal taps with no anesthesia. Diseases, including typhus and tuberculosis, would be purposely given to one twin and not the other. When one died, the other was often killed to examine and compare the effects of the disease.
Various surgeries without anesthesia including organ removal, castration, and amputations.
One day, my twin brother, Tibi, was taken away for some special experiments. Dr. Mengele had always been more interested in Tibi. I am not sure why - perhaps because he was the older twin.
Mengele made several operations on Tibi. One surgery on his spine left my brother paralyzed. He could not walk anymore. Then they took out his sexual organs. After the fourth operation, I did not see Tibi anymore.
I cannot tell you how I felt. It is impossible to put into words how I felt. They had taken away my father, my mother, my two older brothers - and now, my twin.7
Dr Miklos Nyiszli was Mengele's prisoner pathologist. The autopsies became the final experiment. Dr. Nyiszli performed autopsies on twins whom had died from the experiments or whom had been purposely killed just for after-death measurements and examination. Some of the twins had been stabbed with a needle that pierced their heart and then were injected with chloroform or phenol which caused near immediate blood coagulation and death.
Some of the organs, eyes, blood samples, and tissues would be sent to Verschuer for further study.
1. Eva Mozes as quoted in Lucette Matalon Lagnado and Sheila Cohn Dekel, Children of the Flames: Dr. Josef Mengle and the Untold Story of the Twins of Auschwitz (New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1991) 56.
2. Robert Jay Lifton, The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide (BasicBooks, 1986) 348.
3. Lagnado, Children 68.
4. Lagnado, Children 67.
5. Lagnado, Children 62.
6. Lifton, Nazi 350.
7. Moshe Offer as quoted in Lagnado, Children 71.
Lagnado, Lucette Matalon and Sheila Cohn Dekel. Children of the Flames: Dr. Josef Mengle and the Untold Story of the Twins of Auschwitz. New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1991.
Lifton, Robert Jay. The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide. BasicBooks, 1986.
Nyiszli, Dr. Miklos. Auschwitz: A Doctor's Eyewitness Account. 1960. New York: Arcade Publishing, 1993.