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Münch, or the Paradox of the ‘Good’ SS Doctor

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Ie used to believe that everything about the doctors of Auschwitz was known: they were a batch of monsters, maniacs, torturers, cynics, cowards, deceivers, and even some proper people — each occupying a different place in the ‘ledger of horror’. There was room in this scheme for the exceptional case: ‘a human being inside an SS uniform’, Hans Münch. His existence and record formed a necessary component in the elaboration of a theory about the ambiguity of evil in Auschwitz. Dr Münch held out a ‘slender thread’ between the victims and the executioners that permitted us to believe in man. However, an interview published in Der Spiegel in September 1998 destroyed the legend of ‘good’ Dr Münch.1 ‘We scarcely recognized the Hans Münch we all knew,’ said a journalist who had previously arranged contacts between him and some former Auschwitz prisoners.2 What was this legend based on? What has happened to change it? In fact, only a few things. Once some of Münch’s declarations are interpreted slightly differently and another manner of posing the questions is adopted, then Hans Münch reverts to what he has never ceased to be: an SS doctor, marked forever by a perverse ideology. There never was a paradox of the ‘good’ SS doctor, only a legend — and the very person who created the legend in the first place is the one who has just destroyed it.


  • Supreme Court
  • Death Camp
  • Country Doctor
  • Rheumatism Sufferer
  • Polish Supreme

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  1. Arnaud Leparmentier, ‘Les souvenirs sans remords du dernier médecin nazi d’Auschwitz’, Le Monde, 3 October 1998, p.1. Lorraine Millot, Libération, 5 October 1998.

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  2. Robert Jay Lifton, Les Médecins nazis, Laffont, Paris, 1989.

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  3. Dan Bar-On [1], The Legacy of Silence, Encounters with Children of the Third Reich (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1989).

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  5. Regarding the medical experiments on typhus performed at the Institute of Hygiene in Buchenwald, cf. Docteur François Bayle, Croix gammée contre Caducée (Neustadt (Palatinat): Imprimerie Nationale, 1951).

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  9. This list has been reassembled following the book of B. Truck, op. cit., p. 149. But it is also based on other sources, including: the letter from P. Moor, already cited; Marc Klein, ‘Auschwitz 1 Stammlager’, in De l’université au camp de concentration. Témoignages strasbourgeois (Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1954), pp.428–455;

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  10. André Lettich, Trente-quatre mois dans les camps de concentration (Tours, 1946);

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  13. Victor Klemperer, LTI, La langue du IIP Reich (Paris: Albin Michel 1996), p.368. LTI stands for Lingua tertii imperii.

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© 2001 Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited

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Ternon, Y. (2001). Münch, or the Paradox of the ‘Good’ SS Doctor. In: Roth, J.K., Maxwell, E., Levy, M., Whitworth, W. (eds) Remembering for the Future. Palgrave Macmillan, London.

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