The letter from Viktor Brack was written in a dispassionate and matter-of-fact tone. In it, he described the processes by which Jewish prisoners could be sterilized and castrated. It was addressed to Heinrich Himmler, a top ranking Nazi official and one of the chief masterminds behind the Holocaust. So much of the history of the Nazi Party is unimaginably gruesome. This anecdote is no exception. But they are tales that need to be repeated throughout time lest we forget the potential atrocities of man. Criminal Doctors: Auschwitz recalls one particularly repulsive fragment of this history with blunt and exacting power.
The film presents dramatic readings of additional letters and other communications from the instigators of these atrocities. Blanketed over footage of the actual camp locations, they speak of the subjects who were chosen to undergo these monstrous medical experiments. Drs. Josef Mengele, Horst Schumann and others would perform x-ray examinations of each prisoner's genitalia, which often led to an intense burning of their intestines, severe infections and death. Electrical currents were applied to other subjects. Then there were the surgical procedures aimed at removing the prisoners' sexual organs, which some doctors performed with great glee and enthusiasm. Many of those who didn't die outright from these experiments would eventually perish from their wounds as they returned to work in the camps.
The communications featured in the film effectively conjure the sense of despair and degradation these human beings were forced to endure. They are stories of mutilation, agonizing death and of ghostly spaces marked by deafening symphonies of screams. We hear of the elaborate process by which each prisoner was divided and housed. One communication describes the pleasant courtyard not far removed from the billowing stacks of ash which erupted from one of many crematoriums. Another testifies to the medical dissection of 2-year old twin brothers.
Criminal Doctors: Auschwitz simply portrays an environment of unimaginable carnage. Forgoing the emotional flourish of a musical score or overly dramatic narration, the film presents this history in an honest and straightforward manner. This restraint makes the horrors of its narrative feel even more intimate and powerful.