By JIM WILSON
October 19, 2017
“I don’t think he was perfect – he was in the SS… He was a Nazi… His hat has a skull and crossbones on it (n.b. later found out about it’s Germanic history. Still though). This man may have committed some humanitarian faux pas. But, he’s still my hero.”
, an SS officer and doctor at Auschwitz, did something so shocking, and so unbelievable, that I’m sure no school would ever dare teach it. Auschwitz was probably one of the very worst places in history, and the ~10,000 SS personnel who carried out the atrocities there were horrific monsters… Auschwitz itself is an “unbelievable” story (“I can’t believe people could be so horrible”, not Holocaust-denial).
But what Muench did… It’s unbelievably shocking, even for Auschwitz… Actually, particularly for Auschwitz or any of the death camps.
Dr Muench was a fairly “normal” guy if you believe his story, which I do. He joined up because everyone was doing it… Because he needed to in order to carry on his microbiology research. In order to “get ahead” at the time, one had to join the Nazis… A series of decisions/events led to him finding himself in the SS, and being sent to Krakow.
The Nazis sent Muench to be one of the murderers at Auschwitz. They sent him to hell, and gave him everything he could possibly need in order to be a demon. A total monster. A murderer. Yet Dr Muench was no ordinary Auschwitz SS doctor.
When he arrived, he saw what Auschwitz was.
His commanders said
“Hey new guy. Your job is, three times a week and one night a week, go down to the platform, choose who we murder straight away and who we experiment on then murder, and who we work to death”
(Sidenote: I might have invented the quotes bit to give you an idea of what happened… I have no idea what was actually said)
Dr Muench said
“F*** you. I’m not doing that you sh**heads”.
Of ~10,000 SS personnel at Auschwitz, all of whom saw what horrific things were being done, at the most horrifying and intimidating place on earth, Dr Muench is the one who refused to join the group and participate in the atrocities.
So they sent him to Berlin… to SS HQ… Which is a terrible place to be sent because you’ve been a bad Nazi. (Edit – it seems as though he may have gone by choice, in order to tell them he wouldn’t do it… Sources vary. Whichever is the case/maybe it’s a combination, still pretty incredible)
“Hey, go and murder those people. Stop causing problems”
“No. Shove your holocaust up your Nazi arsehole, I’m not murdering people”,
By some miracle, they didn’t execute him – he must have known that that could occur at any time. They sent him back to Auschwitz, only he was excused from participating in the selections. I’m not sure how this happened – I think it’s probably a combination of they thought his research was important, and “keep your enemies close”.
Refusing to participate in murders wasn’t all though.
Muench treated the victims with respect, gave them medicine when they were sick, let them rest, appealed for them to be given food, gave them food… When the SS abandonned Auschwitz, he discussed options with his friends among the victims – endeavoring to come up with ways for them to escape/survive. One source said he offered to steal SS uniforms for them, so they could just walk out… Eventually, what he did was give one of the victims a gun and ammunition so that they could protect themselves.
After the war, Dr Muench turned himself in and was put on trial with other Auschwitz personnel. At that particular trial, out of ~40 to 50 defendants, they hanged most and imprisoned all the rest.
Dr Muench was exonerated and walked free.
At trial, it was found that in about two years as a concentration camp doctor-murderer, Dr Muench had committed no crimes.
He was acquitted as he refused to participate in the selections, because he treated the victims with humanity, he didn’t test horrible concoctions on them, he befriended them, protected them from the guards, and single handedly kept many alive.
Auschwitz survivors who he had helped/saved testified in his favor.
Auschwitz survivors testified in support of a Nazi SS doctor from Auschwitz.
I believe it was them who named him “The good man of Auschwitz”.
Later in life, he wasn’t proud. He was modest. When he met holocaust survivors he asked for forgiveness, acknowledged what had occurred, and apologised for having been any part of it. I understand why he would want to apologise, and also why the victims would appreciate such an apology… But I hope that at some point somebody told him “Sir, there’s nothing to forgive. You didn’t do anything wrong”.
For the benefit of not re-revisioning history, as an elderly man with Alzheimers he made some statements which were antisemitic/pro-Nazi. Courts decided he was not of sound mind. He was exposed to an enormous amount of Nazi propaganda as a young man, and some of it came out when he was an old man with a terrible terminal brain disease.
Everybody on earth should know about his courage. He was exposed to a sort of extreme peer pressure… He wouldn’t join the group. Most people will say “No way would I ever participate in a Holocaust”. Most people are liars; it’s been proven over and over again that, if told to by an authority figure, or even if just everybody is doing it, most people will do appalling things.
Almost nobody will refuse to do horrible things. Almost nobody can be presented with only horrific options, and pick out the least-worst, then maintain it for as long as it takes.
So… My hero of heroes… One of the few people I want to one day be judged by in the hereafter… Was a Nazi, in the SS, and he was a doctor at Auschwitz. As far as I know, they don’t teach Hans Muench in schools, and that’s a terrible shame.
History lessons told me that all Nazis were complete scum, and that all of the SS were even worse scum. No teacher or textbook ever told me about Dr Muench, and that’s shocking.
Addendum: Thank you for reading this.
At this time, this answer has received about 50,000 more views and about 5,222 more upvotes than I anticipated.
(….And now 175K more views, and 10.3K more upvotes and I anticipated.)
I put this at the bottom, because I think people who read it may enjoy the dogleg twist of an SS doctor being a kind man or even a hero. I also haven’t altered it since it started becoming so, uh, well received – seemed like the ‘wrong’ thing to do.
In hindsight, I regret inventing the quotes. I wasn’t really thinking “oh, a couple of hundred thousand people may read this” at the time. So if these have caused any upset, I am sorry and I regret that. However I also decided to leave them as is, because people seem to enjoy it… And because of the above rationalisation.
As a result of the attention, I have been prompted to reconsider some views/misconceptions that I had previously – it seems that it could have been much more possible for SS personnel to leave the death camps if they didn’t want to participate. As one person suggested, in some ways that just makes the ones who stayed and did do it worse.
I also think that in some ways, it makes Dr Muench even more remarkable because he didn’t just refuse and find a way to leave. He refused to participate in the crimes, then went back to a place that horrified him and aided some of the victims at great risk to himself.
Reading about John Didcott (a South African judge during Apartheid who was anti-apartheid and never issued a death sentence), I discovered that he said that some people had told him “Any moral judge would have resigned”. His response to that was to say that resigning would make for a fine protest; But if all the moral judges resign, there would be no moral judges.
If Dr Muench wasn’t at Auschwitz, he could not have been “the good man of Auschwitz”.
I don’t think he was perfect – he was in the SS… He was a Nazi… His hat has a skull and crossbones on it (n.b. later found out about it’s Germanic history. Still though). This man may have committed some humanitarian faux pas. But, he’s still my hero.