Most helpful critical review
53 of 58 people found the following review helpful
Interesting but sometimes boring
on November 22, 2005
Josef Mengele is a name that even people with a small knowledge about the Second World War knows about, or at least has heard mentioned sometime. He was the Nazi doctor who performed the most gruesome experiments on humans (especially twins) in the name of Nazi science, and after the end of the war he managed to escape the Allied forces and hid in South America, among other places, until his death.
But he was not the only one.
There were more men like him. Many more.
In 1946, a young Vivien Spitz was hired by the American war department to go across the Atlantic and attend the war trials in Nuremberg and report, document, and save to the world what the criminals confessed and didn't confess. She wasn't new to criminal world, having worked on trials in the U.S., and thus she thought she wouldn't have any problems doing what she was supposed to do. But Nuremberg after the end of the war was a bombed-out city, a wasteland with no hot water and filled with German terrorists who gladly attacked any representative of the Allied forces.
And if that wasn't enough, Spitz volunteered to (without really knowing what she was getting herself into, one must guess) to report from the interrogations with those Nazi doctors who had performed macabre experiments on humans (or "materiel" as they themselves referred to the inmates) in the many concentration camps around Europe. She wasn't naïve, she knew very well that horrible stories and descriptions were to be part of her daily routine, but she still wasn't able to remain untouched.
Here are some of the stories she was told in the court room:
People were forced to stand for hours in freezing water, so the doctors could see how long time it took until their death (which was interesting to the Luftwaffe in case their pilots were shot down over open water).
Malaria-experiments where people were infected with the virus (for troops fighting in foreign countries).
Amputations of arms and legs, burning of the skin, and other mutilations of the body (in order to simulate the injuries a soldier could suffer on a battlefield).
Poisoning of food (simply so the doctors could see how long it took for the ones eating it to die).
Different sterilizations (since Jews and Gypsies and other "non desirable materiel" were welcome to work but not reproduce).
People who had to live on nothing but seawater for days in a row, which resulted in both madness and death.
And so on. It's a scary book to read, especially when one reads about how the doctors explain it all away as duty and fighting for their Fatherland. But the book is also, here and there, quite boring with long sections of witnessing that don't really say anything interesting. Furthermore, considering how bizarre the experiments were, it would have been interesting to learn more about WHY the doctors did what they did, that is, how they as doctors could become such devoted Nazis. It's a well-known fact that some of the most brutal Nazis were "just like you and me" in their private life, but Doctors From Hell doesn't touch this aspect. It's an important and informative book but it would have been easy for Spitz to make it ever MORE important and MORE informative.