Oral History

Irene Hizme and Rene Slotkin describe medical experiments

Irene Hizme and Rene Slotkin, Jewish twins born in 1937 in Czechoslovakia, were deported with their mother to Theresienstadt, then Auschwitz. They describe the medical experiments to which they were subjected. Benno Müller-Hill, professor of genetics, University of Cologne, comments on Nazi medical experiments. Simon Rosenkier, a Polish Jew who was deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau, describes medical experiments at Auschwitz.

[Photo credits: Getty Images, New York City; Yad Vashem, Jerusalem; Max-Planck-Institut für Psychiatrie (Deutsche Forschungsanstalt für Psychiatrie), Historisches Archiv, Bildersammlung GDA, Munich; Bundesarchiv Koblenz, Germany; Dokumentationsarchiv des österreichischen Widerstandes, Vienna; Kriemhild Synder: Die Landesheilanstalt Uchtspringe und ihre Verstrickung in nationalsozialistische Verbrechen; HHStAW Abt. 461, Nr. 32442/12; Privat Collection L. Orth, APG Bonn.]

Transcript

Irene:
We marched together with our mother and many other people. We were marched to a cattle car train.
René: When the doors were opened, I can almost feel the, the cool, the cold air coming in and the German officers shouting, “Raus, raus! Schnell, schnell!”

Irene:
We were together for about four months, I believe. At which time there was an action called, and a few twins and perhaps some doctors and nurses were separated. And René and I were at that time separated from our mother. I can only recall a soul-piercing cry from our mother and I know we didn’t want to let go, but we were forcibly taken from her. And then we were also separated from each other. It was only later on that we learned that that entire lager, about 3,700 people, were all killed that night. Our mother among them.

René:
When I got to the infirmary what I remember is, I always had to get undressed, and being put between two cold plates which I know were called Roentgen machines, I think that’s x-ray. And measured and weighed and poked and pushed.

Irene:
I remember going to Mengele specifically. I, actually the very first time that we went to the doctor was when our mother was still with us. So we were still in the Czech Familienlager. And I remember it especially because I was only concerned that René would cry, and something terrible would happen to him. And I have recollections of blood being taken from my neck and my arms. I hate doctors. The blood from the neck was extremely painful, extremely painful. But I knew I couldn’t cry and I didn't. I never cried.

The twins survived the systematic murder of six million Jews. Soviet troops liberated Auschwitz in January 1945.

René:
I also was motivated to keep myself going by the fact that I knew that she was somewhere out there. I even saw her once. I think we saw each other once through a fence, or two fences. Nothing was said, we just saw each other, and we knew we were alive and always had that feeling that she was alive, always. Never left. And everything that happened afterwards was just done basically so I could meet up with Irene.

PROFESSOR BENNO MÜLLER-HILL
If these guys think the death of these persons has been anyhow already determined, so then under these conditions, you can do an experiment with the person, you know. Unfortunately, if you lost all humanity, then you argued this way.

SIMON ROSENKIER
They shipped me to Birkenau. There was a lot of other kids, a lot of kids over there, and they took me out and Schumann says that I'm a German Jew, blond with blue eyes, take care of him to Mengele. There were twins there, and then finally Mengele comes in. They grabbed my testicles and they gave me shots. One guy, kids go like this, what is it, white stuff come out from their mouth, sometimes they want them to die, he gives them a syringe in the heart, you know, right next to me, the kid falls and the commander takes him out. When they grab you in the testicles and give you a shot, you must not scream, you scream you’re dead. You just must bite, you know, like you don’t feel nothing. You understand what I'm talking about. Just don’t make any move or aggravate them, otherwise you’re gone. I was thinking about myself and about my family, if I’m ever going see them. I says, you know, "I hope you're alive and I'm coming to see you." To my mother I was talking. "I don't know what's going to happen to me, I don't know if I'm ever going to see you again, because all my friends are not coming back. Tears, you just cry and cry and cry. Family was dear to me, I don’t know if I ever ever going to see them. And I didn’t, none of them.

I must have come at the end of the year to Buchenwald. I was liberated in April, in 1945. I went to the gate and guess who came in? Americans.

When I married Joan, my wife, I said, I want to have a big family, definitely. And then she could not conceive, you understand, so I went to a lot of doctors. Then after a while I was reading in the papers how people were sterilized, how people were sterilized by the Germans, and they showed pictures and this and that and I said to my wife, you know something, I think they did it to me and I didn’t realize it. And when I went to the doctors, and I told him told then, sterilized, you know, Auschwitz, Birkenau, he said, forget it, you’d better adopt a child, and they gave us letters, permission to adopt. Which we did. Allison.


  • US Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection
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