(1911 - 2001)
Dr. Hans Münch was
written about in The
Nazi Doctors by Robert Jay
Lifton and described as "a human being in an SS uniform" (Lifton
303). It was not until 1995 that my acquaintance with Dr. Münch
Dr. Münch had been
interviewed by Eva Mozes Kor in 1993. She had found a statement in a
Justice Department Report on Josef
Mengele that referred to a visit made to Münch by Mengele's son
and the family attorney. At that visit, supposedly, Münch was asked
whether or not he thought Mengele would have to stand trial and would
he be found guilty if he did stand trial. Mrs. Kor felt this was very
strange. Mengele's body had been reported as having been found in
South America in 1979. Autopsies by leading pathologists had
confirmed his death. If Mengele was dead, why was his family asking
what would happen if he were to stand trial? Mrs. Kor contacted ZDF
in Germany and arranged an interview and meeting with Dr. Münch.
When she visited Dr.
Münch, she was quite impressed with the kindness of the man. He
talked about his experiences at Auschwitz and verified he did know
Mengele. He told Mrs. Kor at that visit that he thought Mengele was
probably still alive or the inquiry would never have been made.
At that meeting, Mrs.
Kor described Münch as "very kind, very considerate".
After he answered Kor's questions regarding Dr. Mengele, she wanted
to know what he knew about Auschwitz,
if he, by any chance, knew something about the operation of the gas
chambers, and she asked him and he said, "This is the
nightmare I live with." He said, "I had to watch the
operation of the gas chambers and then, when the bodies were dead, I
had to sign the death certificates."
When she began
preparations for her return to Auschwitz for the 50th observation of
the liberation, she called Münch and asked him to come with her. She
also asked him to sign a document about the existence of the gas
chambers. As an SS doctor at Auschwitz, she believed this would
definitely establish the reality of the gas chambers and the deaths
there. He agreed to do so.
His history is
relevant here to help readers understand why he would sign such a
document. Münch had become associated with the party in his student
days because it was not possible to hold on to a job without party
membership. As he completed his medical studies, he began to believe
that it was necessary to participate in an officially sponsored
organization (Lifton 314). He became active in a scientific society
and was drawn into a competition for finding an "indigenous
German product that could be used for a culture medium in
bacteriological work." which he won. With the success of that
effort, Münch received praise from the party and took a leadership
role in advising scientific teams on what could be grown in certain
Bavarian forests and what must be cut down to promote such growth (Lifton
314). He received a prize from the Nazi party. As a result, he did
join the Party, was awarded an assistantship and a hospital position
at the university and allowed to retain his position in the
bacteriological department. When the war broke out he began
practicing general medicine in his village and the surrounding area.
He was declared "essential" and was not to be drafted.
However, swept up by the patriotic fervor of the Germans, he began to
Münch described his
efforts to join the army in an interview for CANDLES in 1995: "
When I was at home, I didn't have to go to war. I volunteered because
I believed in the propaganda. First of all because I thought if all
others risked their lives for Germany, then it wasn't right for a
young person like me to live like I did with a family, in a nice part
of the country, with a good profession and everything you could hope
when times were bad. I volunteered and that's how I ended up in the
SS, you know?
"I often drove
to Munich in an attempt to join the military. And the last time I ran
into an old friend whom I had not seen for 15 years since we attended
school together. We talked. "How are you, what you doing these
days?" He answered, "I'm well off, I have a job with the
government." And I told him then that I wanted to join the armed
forces but found it impossible to succeed. He answered, "Oh, I
can arrange that. You should join the SS, that will work well."
When I joined I was told that everything had been arranged, you'll
have to go near Krakow. Nobody said anything about a concentration
While Münch admits
that he had heard of Dachau and maybe one or two camps in northern Germany, he claimed he was
totally unprepared for what he found at Auschwitz. According to
Lifton, when he arrived at the camp with his wife (who had been
visiting him at his previous assignment) and drove through the camp,
they were shocked by what they saw (Lifton 304). Münch's wife was to
leave the camp and return to the home in Germany.
Münch was assigned
to the Hygiene Institute of the Waffen SS which was about 3-4 km.
outside the Auschwitz camp. There he was to work under Dr. Bruno
Weber, the friend who had secured his assignment there. Münch was
assigned to bacteriological research, an area where he had
After assignment to
the Auschwitz camp, Münch soon learned about the camp and what went
on there. "You had to sign a lot: that was top secret. That was
just a formality. And then my boss arrived. And as I said before I
had known him earlier, we had worked together in the same laboratory,
and he told me everything, what it is all about in Auschwitz, and I
could not understand how he could stay, how he could endure all of
Münch proved to be
an unusual Nazi in his work at the Hygiene Institute of the Waffen SS
at Raisko. One prisoner who worked with him on a daily basis
described him thus: "He was friendly, showed personal interest
in people, never humiliated anyone. He seemed oddly out of
place." (Micheels, 101)
At the Institute,
Münch was involved in experiments with typhus. He was also responsible for "keeping the barracks
more healthy". In that role he did visit the camp, on occasion.
His primary work, however, was done at the Institute. At the
institute, he quickly established himself as "unusual".
"It was a
special company - scientific - all professors and doctors and all
specialists. And they had better food and they got better food from
the chief of staff who brought me there."
"On Monday, in
the morning, as the working day started, a company of 100 inmates
marched in with lots of commands, standing in a single file. I went
downstairs, shook their hands and spoke with them and so
forth...someone nudged me, that my behavior was unacceptable...that's
where I saw for the first time what the situation was..."
Münch began his work
at the Institute but was soon called upon to expand his duties.
"The doctor at
headquarters, that is the chief of the medical staff at Auschwitz,
told me that I had to cooperate, three times a week or whatever, had
to spend one night making selections...I went to Berlin immediately
to the head of the hygiene institute and told him "I cannot do
it. I will not do it, regardless of the consequences." And, he
said, "Yes, he can understand, and he'll talk with the camp
commander and the chief of staff at Auschwitz."
With this move,
Münch removed himself from making selections. And, more importantly,
it proves that one could defy the Nazi authority without suffering
Münch continued his
work and soon realized that the women prisoners involved in the
experiments were expendable. He soon learned that being a guinea pig
meant death, the Nazis wanted no eyewitness left alive, including the
women being used as guinea pigs.
were special women. The people in charge of the camp wanted them out
and said, "Enough is enough. You can't use them any more."
But Münch - who was
to be known as the humane Nazi - could not accept that.
about it for a while and adopted a method, found a way that was sure
to be harmless, was significant, what was sure to be approved by Himmler.
He would approve almost anything."
As a result, Münch
began to expand the experiments and prolong them to keep the women
"And so the
inmates in the camp they all believed that the experiments were
conducted "as usual". . . exactly as they had always been
done. And we made sure that they believed it was so."
What Münch did was
verified by these prisoners when he was tried for War Crimes in
Krakow, Poland, in 1946.
Münch also made
efforts to make prisoners' lives more bearable. One prisoner, Dr.
Louis Micheels, wrote of becoming very ill in the summer of 1944 when
his appendix burst. He wrote of visits from Münch and interpreting
those visits as indication that he was to survive and return to the
lab at Raisko. After five weeks he did return to the hospital but
found himself weakened by his condition and a lack of food. On his
first day back, Münch approached him and announced, "You must
stop now, eat some of this." He pulled a sausage out of his
pocket and ordered Micheels to go outside and rest. Micheels fell
asleep in the warm sun. Awakened by a guard, Micheels told him that
Münch had ordered himself outside to rest. The guard left,
grumbling. Later, Münch appeared and asked Micheels to rest in an
out-of-the-way spot. Micheels words were "The whole business was
strange, an S.S. officer protecting me from his underlings." (Micheels
When the Nazis fled
Auschwitz, Micheels with others was force marched from the camp. They
arrived at Gross Rosen. After two days there they were put on a train
and taken to Dachau. To Micheels' surprise, Weber and Münch appeared
one afternoon towards the end of their first week there and compiled
a list of former workers at the Raisko Institute. Two days later they
were moved to a less crowded barrack. They soon resumed duties in the
laboratory. As Allied troops approached Auschwitz, Münch met with
Micheels and two Dutch friends. (Micheels book, page 144)
"Just as the war
was obviously moving into its final phase, we at the lab, all Jews,
were given the unwelcome news that we were scheduled for
transportation to an unknown destination....We decided to talk to
Münch. He shared our reluctance to go on another transport to
nowhere and offered some possible or impossible plans for escape. One
was that he would take us through the gate and then provide us with
SS uniforms. We decided that we would probably stand a much better
chance if we went with the transport and later escaped in the
mountains, closer to Switzerland. To prove his good will, he gave us
a revolver and ammunition, in case we had to shoot our way out. He
shook hands with each of us and wished us early freedom. That was the
last I saw of him.." (Micheels, 145).
Dr. Münch went home
to his village and surrendered to the authorities in 1946. He was
tried and acquitted of any war
crimes in 1947, after spending nearly a year in prison.. Letters
from surviving Jews confirmed that Münch did not make selections and
set up bogus experiments and prolonged them in order to save
prisoners' lives. Dr. Louis Micheels, the prisoner who had worked
with Münch at both Auschwitz and Dachau, was among those who wrote
to the former Chief Administrator of the Hygiene Institute - Paul
Reichel - attesting to Münch's behavior at Auschwitz as being
"very different from usually hateful SS officers." It was
Micheel's letter and others collected by Reichel that ultimately led
to Münch's acquittal by the War Crimes Tribunal in Krakow after the
Statements by former
prisoner Dr. Louis Micheels helped vindicate Munch: "Münch, an
SS doctor in Auschwitz, the only one who had been consistently
helpful to prisoners...was arrested and was the only one of forty SS
arraigned before a Polish tribunal who was acquitted, thanks to the
testimony of former prisoners whom he had befriended."
For many years
neither Münch nor his wife said much to his children about his
Auschwitz experiences. They only knew he had stood trial and had been
Of those times, his
son said, "Mother was a person who didn't want to talk about
that; she wants to keep it away from the children, and I think my
father was somewhat paralyzed. He could not talk very much to his
children about what he saw and felt. But, imagine if my father would
not have done these things, he would have been condemned and he would
have been hanged like the other 40 doctors from Auschwitz."
Of those times,
Münch himself has said, " I was there...and all that had seen
me no one said: "You've done terrible things" But I have a
bad conscience when I think, one could have done more. But afterwards
it's tough to talk about it. You can hardly do anything about it.
It's not a good feeling. As a German you are in a bad situation. When
you see other people not always behave like that, then you feel
better and say to yourself, That's my fate, you can't escape it. But
I did what I could."
Ruli, confirms these feelings of her father's, " I was very
fortunate belonging to that small group which didn't have to feel
guilty. I felt guilty at the beginning for my people, but in a way
for myself, I didn't feel guilty because I know my father, as much as
he could, had helped people."
By 1995, Eva Mozes
Kor, CANDLES founder, was trying to figure out some way to deal with
her past. Through the years, Kor had suffered because of her early
experiences. Her daughter noted, "It bothered my mother. When
our house would get corned at Halloween, it was awful. Halloween was
just hell to her. She tried to explain it to the neighbors. She
couldn't explain how it took her back to the time when she was a
child and "Nazi hooligans" surrounded her home in Hungary
and harassed the family for hours."
Her son noted,
"My mother even chased them away from the house. They didn't
Kor suffered through
her bad times. In 1977 when the television mini series, Holocaust,
was produced, she was asked to appear on local television and tell
her story. She found that at that time people began to understand
what she had endured and experienced and she then began to talk. She
wanted people to know what hatred and prejudice had done. In 1984 she
began to look for the other twins used in the experiments at
Auschwitz, hoping to find out what had been done to the Mengele
twins. As she spoke and pursued her past, she began to work out the
complex myriad of feelings that had been hidden inside all those
When she met Münch,
she was surprised at that visit in August of 1993, she thought about
the significance of Münch's statement "This is the nightmare I
live with" and then said, "Dr. Münch, I really need a
favor from you. The 1995 fifty years to the liberation of the camp is
coming up and it would be wonderful if you could go with me and sign
a document just exactly about what you told me about the existence of
the gas chambers. I said that it would be you as an SS doctor at
Auschwitz who could help us accomplish this."
Münch agreed and
plans were made for a reunion of the Mengele twin and Nazi doctor at
Auschwitz in 1995. By 1995, Eva's years of speaking out and soul
searching had finally given her an inner peace ...a desire to put the
experiences behind her...
"When I met Dr.
Münch and he was willing to go to Auschwitz, I thought it would be
nice just for my own sanity to sign an amnesty - if I somehow would
be that lucky that that information would go to the people who need
to hear about it, then we might remove the political strain and maybe
some other Nazi criminal will come forward to testify." Kor also
found that by forgiving those who had taken away her family and her
childhood, she was taking charge of her own feelings for the first
time in years. She found she was in control. She was not being driven
by hatred or by any other emotion. She believed she was finally free.
Dr. Hans Münch she found a person who also wanted to find peace. And
so, at the remains of one of a gas chambers...a place where so many
had died...on January 27, 1995, the fiftieth observance of the
liberation of Auschwitz, Eva Mozes Kor and Dr. Hans Münch signed
documents...hers a document which forgave the Nazis, his a document
which verified that the gas chambers had existed...Eva read both
documents...as media personnel and other survivors gathered at the
Those documents, in
part, read as follows:
Münch hereby attest that as an SS physician on duty in Auschwitz
in 1944, I witnessed the selection process of those who were to
live and those who were to die. Other SS physicians on duty in the
camps made selections at the barracks. I was exempt from performing
selections because I had refused to do so.
I further attest
that I saw thousands of people gassed here at Auschwitz. Children,
old people, the sick and those unable to work were sent to the gas
chambers. These were innocent human beings: Jews, Gypsies,
Homosexuals, Hitler's political opponents...anyone who did not fit
Hitler's idea of a pure Aryan race.
I am signing this
paper of my own free will to help document the cruel intolerance of
my fellow SS.
I, a former SS
Physician, witnessed the dropping of Zyklon B into simulated
exhaust vents from outside the gas chambers. Zyklon B began to work
as soon as it was released from the canisters. The effects of the
gas were observed through a peephole by an assigned doctor of the
SS officer on duty. After three to five minutes, death could be
certified, and the doors were opened as a sign that the corpses
were cleared to be burned.
This is the
nightmare I continue to live with fifty years later.
I am so sorry that
in some way I was part of it. Under the prevailing circumstances I
did the best I could to save as many lives as possible. Joining the
SS was a mistake. I was young. I was an opportunist. And once I
joined, there was no way out."
Kor, in my name only and as a twin who survived Josef Mengele's
experiments at Auschwitz fifty years ago, hereby give amnesty to
all Nazi's who participated directly or indirectly in the murder of
my family and millions of others. I extend this amnesty to all
governments who protected Nazi criminals for fifty years, then
covered up their acts, and covered up their cover up. Fifty years
after liberation from Auschwitz, I Eva Mozes Kor, in my name only,
give this amnesty because it is time to go on; it is time to heal
our souls; it is time to forgive, but never forget; it is time to
open up all the classified and personal files not only for the sake
of history but to alleviate human suffering. I as a Citizen of the
Free World declare here in Auschwitz that I have the human right to
locate my Auschwitz files so I know what germs and chemicals were
injected into my body fifty years ago. I expect the leaders of the
world to put politics aside and, for the sake of all humanity,
assist us in getting our files. Help us make it possible for every
Mengele Guinea Pig, for every survivor to find their files, their
stories, their pasts. I, the only living member of a very large
family, in their name and mine appeal to the U.S. Congress, to the
Israel Knesset, the German legislators, and others who have the
power to pass laws dismantling all Nazi-related investigative
units, such as the URLs, Justice Department Office of Special
Investigations, and open up all Nazi files to survivors and the
public. Look up to the skies here in Auschwitz. The souls of
millions of victims are with us and I am saying, with them as
witness: Enough is Enough. Fifty years is more than enough. I am
healed inside, therefore it gives me no joy to see any Nazi
criminal in jail, nor do I want to see any harm come to Josef
Mengele, the Mengele Family or their business corporations. I urge
all former Nazis to come forward and testify to the crimes they
have committed without any fear of further persecution. Her in
Auschwitz, I hope in some small way to send the world a message of
forgiveness, a message of peace, a message of hope, a message of
healing. No more wars...no more experiments without informed
consent...no more gas chambers...no more bombs...no more
hatred...no more killing...no more Auschwitzes."
Today the two
families are in agreement about the strength of the experiences that
they all had at Auschwitz and the message of the Mengele twin and the
Alex, Eva's son:
"At some point in your life, you have to let bygones be bygones.
I don't feel anger toward my parents, toward Germans."
granddaughter, "His main purpose is for people to hear about
what happened at Auschwitz, he wants everyone to hear about it...his
experiences, the Jews' experiences, we can't forget it...it's already
happening in lots of different places in the world.
daughter, "He has always wanted to say to the Germans, to the
world, Please don't do that again. He wants to make it clear that
this has happened and should never happen again.
Rina, Eva's daughter,
"For those who say it's not useful, it isn't good, there's so
much to be learned It is always good to be reminded of how easily
people can be led to do anything which is the scariest thing. It's
human history and the biggest lesson, of course, is that it can very,
very easily happen in another time, in another country to a different
group. It has happened, and, unfortunately, will happen again.
Gigo, Münch's son,
"I feel he carries guilt. I feel he must speak about these
things, and that is very important for him now. I feel it is very
usual for him to do this. I think it is very normal. I don't think we
need heroes, I think we need normal people who are not opportune.
Maybe everyone can't be a hero; sometimes there will be heroes, okay,
but should such a problem like the Holocaust come again, we need
people who are not opportune, people who don't work against the
Meeting Dr. Hans
Münch was a Holocaust experience
for me. I believed there were no "good Nazis" until I met
him. I can not deny that he was a Nazi. But, I can accept that he
tried to do what he could, that others who were there testified that
they would not be alive were it not for him, and I can believe,
having met him, that he made the best choice he could make at the
time. Swept up by the fervor of the Hitler years and patriotic
enthusiasm, he did join the Nazi party. However, when placed in a
dishonorable position, he did the best he could to remain honorable.
Before I could make
such a statement, I have done extensive research on this Nazi, Dr.
Hans Münch. I have read the testimony of the Krakow trials and the
verdict of that court. I have found references to him in several
biographies, all of which refer to him as kind. I have talked to Dr.
Micheels. I believe he was a good man, and he tried to do something.
THE ONLY THING
NECESSARY FOR EVIL TO TRIUMPH IS FOR GOOD PEOPLE TO DO NOTHING.
- Mary Wright, Education Director
Bibliography: Kor, Eva Mozes.
Personal Interviews. Auschwitz tour, Krakow, Poland. 1995.
Kor Children. Personal Interviews.
Auschwitz tour, Krakow, Poland. 1995
Lifton, Robert Jay. The
Nazi Doctors. United States of
America: Basic Books. 1986.
Micheels, Louis J., M.D. Doctor
#117641. New Haven: Yale University Press. 1989.
Munch, Hans, M. D. Personal
Interviews. Auschwitz tour, Krakow, Poland. 1995.
Munch Children. Personal Interviews.
Auschwitz tour, Krakow, Poland. 1995.
Click on the link below to read the translation of
the charges against Munch and his acquittal at the Krakow War Crimes
Trial in 1947.
Please send any additional information or material to
Shlomo Rotter at email@example.com