EDUARD WIRTHS (4 September 1909 – 20 September 1945) was the Chief
SS doctor (SS-Standortarzt) at the
Auschwitz concentration camp
* 1 Early life * 2 Nazi party membership
* 3 Auschwitz (1942-45)
* 3.1 Prisoner experimentation * 3.2 Selection of prisoners
* 4 Capture and suicide * 5 Summary of criminal career * 6 See also * 7 References
NAZI PARTY MEMBERSHIP
Eduard Wirths, however, became an ardent Nazi while studying medicine
at the University of
Würzburg (1930–35). He joined the Nazi Party
and the SA in June 1933 and applied for admission into the SS in 1934.
He entered the
Waffen SS in 1939, saw action in Norway and the Russian
Front and was classified as medically unfit for combat duty in the
spring of 1942 after a heart-attack. Wirths then chose to undertake
special training for Department leaders in Dachau Concentration Camp
and served as chief SS psychiatrist in Neuengamme concentration camp
during July 1942. Coincidentally, in 1942
Dr. Wirths was promoted to SS-
At Auschwitz, Wirths was known to be protective of prisoner doctors
and other prisoners doing medical work, to have improved conditions on
the medical blocks and was remembered favourably by most prisoner
doctors and other inmates who had contact with him. At the same time,
Wirths in recommending Dr.
Rudolf Höss , the commandant of Auschwitz between 1940 and December 1943 is said to have held Wirths in particularly high regard. He is said to have remarked of Wirths that "During my 10 years of service in concentration-camp affairs, I have never encountered a better one."
In 1943 Wirths' benevolent and kind concern for the well-being of Auschwitz inmates resulted in him receiving a Christmas card from Langbein, a political prisoner who worked with him, which contained the message “In the past year you have saved here the lives of 93,000 people. We do not have the right to tell you our wishes. But we wish for ourselves that you stay here in the coming year.” It was signed: “One speaking for the prisoners of Auschwitz.” The figure of 93,000 was the difference in mortality rate among prisoners from typhus in the year prior to Wirths' arrival.
Wirths was involved in ordering medical experimentation, particularly in gynecological and typhus-related experimental tests. Wirths's primary research concerned pre-cancerous growths of the cervix . Dr. Wirths was also interested in the sterilization of women, by removing their ovaries through surgery or radiation. It is generally acknowledged that he himself never directly participated in such experiments but delegated their conduct to subordinates. The victims of these experiments were Jewish women who had been imprisoned in Block 10 of the main camp in Auschwitz. Dr. E.W.J. Pearce, an Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Truman Medical Center has made the following observation regarding Wirths' medical experiments: ". . . Wirths, without consent, photographed the cervices of women prisoners, then amputated the pictured cervices, and sent both photographs and specimens for study to Dr. Hinselmann of Berlin. Hinselmann was the physician who developed colposcopy .
SELECTION OF PRISONERS
Importantly, Wirths also asserted medical control of prisoner
selections at the
Wirths was promoted to SS-
Sturmbannführer (major) in September 1944.
Following the evacuation of Auschwitz in January 1945 he was
transferred, along with many other former Auschwitz personnel, to the
Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp in
CAPTURE AND SUICIDE
Wirths was captured by the Allies at the end of the war and held in custody by British forces. Later, on 20 September 1945, knowing that he would surely face trial for numerous war crimes , Wirths committed suicide by hanging .
SUMMARY OF CRIMINAL CAREER
Robert Jay Lifton has noted that
. . . Wirths was significantly immersed in Nazi ideology in three crucial spheres: the claim of revitalizing the German race and Volk; the biomedical path to that revitalization via purification of genes and race; and the focus on the Jews as a threat to this renewal, to the immediate and long-term "health" of the Germanic race. While Wirths did not absolutize these convictions in the manner of Mengele — they were in him combined with a strong current of medical humanism — his commitment to the Nazi cause was probably no less strong . . .
Perhaps illustrative of Wirths' commitment to medical 'leadership'
was his tendency while at Auschwitz to drive about in a car flying a
. . . first seized on a career as a military doctor and officer in the German elite troops of the SS, because he desperately wanted to become a member of the upper class; eventually to provide his future wife with a "decent marriage." To reach that goal he had to become a 'tough man'. . .
* ^ Lifton: p. 385
* ^ Lifton: p. 400
* ^ Lifton, p. 385
* ^ Naomi Baumslag, Murderous Medicine: Nazi Doctors, Human
Experimentation, And Typhus, p.73, Greenwood Publishing Group.
* ^ from "Beurteilung des SS Hauptsturmführers (R) Dr. Josef
Mengele," 19 August 1949 (
* Hermann Langbein, (2004) People in Auschwitz. North Carolina: The
University of North Carolina Press Chapel Hill & London in association
with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
* Dr. Robert J. Lifton, (1986) THE NAZI DOCTORS: Medical Killing and
the Psychology of Genocide. New York: Basic Books.
* University of Linz: SS-DOCTOR DR. EDUARD WIRTHS
* Dr. E.W.J. Pearce, (1996) "Antigone: An Exercise in Medical
Ethics" in History and Philosophy of Medicine Newsletter published by
the University of Kansas Medical Centre.
* Transcript (in German) of the documentary Film (1975) "Dr. Eduard
Wirths – Standortarzt von Auschwitz" by Dutch film makers Roland
Orthel and others.
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