“As far as the Jews were concerned, everybody knew about the things Hitler had in mind with them....Nobody can ever claim that they did not know that. But I can remember exactly what I thought about it at that time: ‘You can’t take this sort of thing seriously.’”
Dr. Hans Wilhelm Münch
“Look at me; here I am, a victim. And though my experiences in Auschwitz were anything but good, I can freely talk about my emotions....Why is it that you cannot do that, that you are incapable of that?...You do not let me see your innermost thoughts, then or now. There must be a way to break through your reserve. People can talk about their feelings; I am doing it, and my position is certainly not the easier one.”
In 1988, Dagmar Ostermann, survivor of Auschwitz-Birkenau, and Dr. Hans Wilhelm Münch, SS physician at the same concentration camp, spent three days in an open, self-guided dialogue. Their discussion was recorded on video by documentary filmmaker Bernhard Frankfurter. The Meeting: An Auschwitz Survivor Confronts an SS Physician is the transcript of this conversation, including individual follow-up interviews with Ostermann and Münch some years later.
By leading the conversation, Ostermann accepts the challenge to represent the victims’ viewpoint to the former SS man, who portrays himself both as a victim of the Nazi system and a protector of the prisoners he used for medical experiments. Without hostility, but through effective questioning and her first-hand knowledge and description of events, she challenges Münch’s carefully crafted arguments and rationalizations. When Münch plays down facts (such as when he refers to his membership in the SS and his assignment at Auschwitz as mere “coincidences”), Ostermann powerfully counters with her own experience. Besides historical events, the discussion includes ethical and ideological issues such as the perpetrators’ motivations, the acceptance of responsibility, and the question of guilt.
In separate follow-up interviews in 1994, Münch and Ostermann have a chance to elaborate independently on some of the questions they raised earlier: Münch vehemently rejects Holocaust revisionism and denial; analyzes his own antisemitic leanings (during the interview, he still distinguishes between “good” native German Jews and Jewish emigrants from the East); and discusses the daily operations of the SS “hygiene institute” and its camp commando of 100 or so inmates. Ostermann describes her early youth in Vienna where she still lives, and some new aspects of daily life, death and suffering as she experienced them in the camp.
The book includes biographical data on Ostermann and Münch, photographs, a glossary of Auschwitz terms, maps of the concentration camp and its rail lines, a chart comparing ranks within the Waffen-SS and German Army, a register of personal names, and an essay on victims and perpetrators.
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|TABLE OF CONTENTS|
|Wiping the Slate Clean?
INTERVIEW WITH DR. HANS WILHELM MUNCH
|We Are Still Here
INTERVIEW WITH DAGMAR OSTERMANN
|Thoughts on the Totality of National Socialism and the Extermination Policies|
A. Biographical Data
B. Excerpt from the Acquittal of Dr. Munch
C. Maps of Auschwitz and Its Rail Lines
D. Rank Comparisons of the Waffen-SS and German Army
E. Register of Names