Eugeniusz Brzezicki, MD, PhD, 1890–1974, psychiatrist and neurologist, Sachsenhausen concentration camp survivor.
Sachsenhausen was a prototype concentration camp whose pattern of organization served as a model for the organization of other camps, such as Auschwitz-Birkenau at the beginning of its existence. Sachsenhausen (Oranienburg) became a place of detention and annihilation of so-called “bandits” (antisocial individuals and political prisoners) before the War, already in 1937. In the fall of 19391 the professors of the Jagiellonian University of Kraków were arrested and deported to Sachsenhausen.
As the Gestapo gained more and more experience and momentum in establishing concentration camps, it came up with the appalling idea to set up a prisoners’ self-governance body within its concentration camps. In principle, such entities were praiseworthy and noble in character, but the Gestapo wanted to use them to harass and exterminate prisoners. This it did by granting the chief offices to thieves, bandits and antisocial prisoners (i.e. those unwilling to work) at a time when an increasing number of inmates were political opponents—Communists, Social Democrats, Bible students,2 and later also citizens of the conquered nations; at the beginning of the War this meant Czechs and Poles.
Practically all the key jobs held by prisoners, obviously under strict SS supervision, were ascribed to individuals who got some sort of pleasure from killing, beating up and torturing others.
Moreover, in a situation where food rations were very small, the kitchen authorities consisted of “antisocial” prisoners who had good opportunities to feed themselves at the expense of others. Thus, the so-called Arbeitsscheue (work-shy) were in the pink, whereas the political prisoners were literally dying of hunger, if their detention in the camp went on for too long. Interestingly enough, the inscription over the camp gate read Arbeit macht frei. Obviously, nobody believed in the “message” carried by this sign, since the camp’s commandant and his colleagues had both the right and duty to torture and annihilate prisoners, but no right to set them free even as a reward for good and efficient work.
A prisoner’s discharge depended solely upon the local Gestapo of the place he came from. The horrendous hypocrisy found at every step was an immensely interesting aspect of the sociopathic features of those responsible for the organization of the concentration camps. In any case, almost all the prisoners had been sent to the camp without a trial or even after serving a sentence for some sort of crime. According to the organizers, the camp was meant to be a place for the “protection of the prisoner from the wrath of society outraged by his misconduct”—at least that was the official story in the initial phase of the establishment of concentration camps, which were a type of Schutzhaft (protective confinement), not a Gefängnis (prison). Later this Schutzhaft was considered a means to protect society from the bad influence of “concentration camp candidates.” Hypocrisy was implemented during the arrest of the professors as well.
The Kraków professors were invited to a lecture by Obersturmbannführer Müller, who had made courteous arrangements with Professor Lehr-Spławiński, Rector of the Jagiellonian University, for a talk which was to be attended by the staff of the University. Müller’s lecture was to present the guidelines of the Generalgouvernement’s policy on Polish scholarship. Naturally, the Jagiellonian University, the oldest Polish university, and one of the oldest of such institutions in Europe, was the best place to deliver this sort of lecture. The interesting thing is that at that time none of us suspected that that polite invitation was a simple and perfidious hoax perpetrated by a senior SS dignitary who, as one might have thought, did not need to condescend to such a deceitful and underhand ploy. All the professors still believed in the Redlichkeit und Treue (honesty and fidelity) of people who had always insisted on their support for such fine social virtues.
This evil-minded way of arresting individuals who were, after all, elderly and serious-minded, many of them eminent scholars, was proof that the arrangers of this masquerade were, in my opinion, antisocial individuals who had anxiety and hyper-compensational aggressiveness, and who believed the maxim of Mitleid ist Schwäche (“compassion is weakness”), which was pumped into their minds ever since they started working in the SS. This streng geheim (top-secret) maxim was confided to me by one of the SS officers who apparently had some streak of weakness or who sort of trusted me and told me a lot about the SS training program. Hitler’s totalitarian regime, in fact, took a pessimistic sociological outlook, with no faith in human beings, yet it operated along the lines of an ostensible optimism based on lies, terror, or at least on coercion, because it did not trust in its own strength and capacity to genuinely convince society of its superiority over other social trends without recourse to mendacious and optimistically tuned propaganda.
Here I shall recall a Nazi way of “convincing” others, interesting from a sociological aspect. After our arrival in the camp, I was approached by an American of German origin, a professor of neurology in the USA who wanted to make the acquaintance of a neurologist and psychiatrist among the Polish professors. As a son of emigrants naturalized in the States and an enthusiast of the principles of American individualism and democracy, he considered himself an opponent of totalitarianism and had delivered a few anti-Hitler lectures in America. Because of his successes, he was invited to France and Belgium and later to Switzerland to deliver similar speeches. After an address in Brussels, which was considered to have impressed the audience and elicited animosity against Nazi Germany, he was approached by a German consul in a top hat and frock coat, in other words dressed aptly for a conversation with an academic, and on behalf of the German government invited him to Germany, claiming that the professor would certainly change his mind about Hitler’s government when he saw for himself how good things were in Germany under Hitler’s rule. His visit to Germany would be fully financed by the German government, but the consul asked him to keep it a secret. The professor, who had been raised in the American respect for individuality, did not suspect the deception and agreed to make the trip to Germany. As soon as he reached German territory, he was arrested and sent to Sachsenhausen, unable to inform anyone of his plight. Quite naturally, his letters written from the camp to the American embassy never reached their addressee. He was distraught and scared. I helped him by sending his private letters through the services of Arbeitskommando prisoners who worked in a clinker factory beyond the camp. As usually happened in such cases, when the American embassy protested, the Gestapo answered that it knew of no American professor in Schutzhaft at Sachsenhausen.
Finally, only after a certain subterfuge played by the American embassy, the professor was identified and discharged from the camp. Before his discharge I asked him what he would do about his arrest. He answered that he was so scared and afraid of the Gestapo and its “long arms” that he was not going to do anything, but just withdraw from politics as soon as possible. Then I thought to myself that a Pole would react in a completely different way.
I often came to the Revier or camp hospital to visit our professors who were dying there, or to get some medicine. The SS doctor did not look at all into some of the patients’ rooms. Rooms in the infectious diseases ward had three-level bunk beds, like in a sleeping car, and were places where those who no longer resembled humans perished. It was the most horrifying view I have ever seen. Especially the “diarrhea ward” which looked so macabre that it defied adequate description. Live human skeletons wearing the striped concentration camp gear and caps, were so weak that they were lying in their urine and excrement on those shakedowns. Every room was full of moaning and the horrible stink of faeces and pus. The skeletons stretched out their arms, begging for a sip of water they could not get before they died, since all the hospital staff were antisocial prisoners, unwilling to do anything unless they were paid with a bribe, and were scared of catching diarrhea. The antisocial prisoners looked healthy and plump, because they could eat more than their fill of everything the kitchen prepared, and the patients could not eat because they were too weak to eat.
It will be no exaggeration to say that what I saw was real hell. Perhaps only an antisocial “nurse” deprived of conscience and compassion could have withstood those dire conditions. And it was called a hospital, although it would have been easy to organize human and humane conditions in the Revier. But that would have clashed with the plans the camp authorities had, as the objective of their hospital was to annihilate prisoners—to put it bluntly. Such were the conditions in which our professors died. I must admit that there were also rooms which were furnished better, for less drastic cases, e.g. those needing surgery. They were meant to show representatives of the Red Cross that everything in the camp was fine. If the camp’s commandant, all the SS men, the camp’s physicians and its nurses, who were themselves criminals and antisocial individuals, knew the rules and reacted to these horrible conditions by shrugging their shoulders—can we call them normal people? Shouldn’t we put them all in the category of antisocial and asocial psychopaths? What should we call the regime which created those camps, where human dignity was degraded to such an extent?
During our presence in the camp there were European prisoners whom the racists called Indo-Germanisch. Strangely enough, the SS men, who were the best representatives of the Herrenvolk, persecuted their own citizens as well. Hence, although annihilation applied especially to foreign nationals, it also applied to all of the Führer’s enemies from his own country. Lack of compassion, even for their own citizens, was one of the weird privileges of SS men.
In comparison to what I’m writing about, an interesting thing is that one of the first decrees Hitler issued was a prohibition on cruelty to animals. So, I’ll write about loving animals as an example of one of my observations from the camp. One of the SS men was an “animal lover” and liked to tame them. He carried tame white mice in his pocket as a proof of this love. When he was in a bad mood, which was called Dicke Luft (a bad atmosphere), during a roll-call he would stand behind one of prisoners and put a mouse on his back. It was a harsh winter. We put newspapers under our prison gear, because paper, which is a poor thermal conductor, keeps you warm. So you wouldn’t have felt a mouse on your back. Only when the mouse climbed up and tickled the prisoner on his bare neck did he instinctively catch it and crush it in his hand, not knowing what it was. Then the SS man went mad. He grabbed a white cane from a blind invalid and began to beat up the poor prisoner. When the man fell on the ground under the blows the SS man started to kick him and jumped on his chest with such force that I thought I could hear his ribs cracking. The unconscious prisoner was taken to the hospital, where he soon died. What sort of opinion can we have of that man, who considered himself an Übermensch? How can you reconcile his love of animals with his bestiality towards another human, who, albeit a political prisoner, was just as German as he? So was this SS man a sociopath or a psychopath? Would a normal human being do what he did? I suspect that this SS man was a sexual sadist, for when he was beating up a prisoner, I was near him and could see an erection under his taut trousers. The SS man did not stop beating the prisoner until he ejaculated and you could see the cloudy look in his eyes. I think my conjecture was right.
I liked to talk to the SS men, although it was a very dangerous undertaking. They interested me from the psychopathological point of view. During various unavoidable exchanges with them, many of our professors got their backs whipped or were punched in the face. Although on many occasions I actually tried to start a conversation with one of them, none of the SS men ever touched me. I don’t know whether it was a psychiatrist’s ability to tame psychopaths with just a look in his eyes and the right kind of discussion, or something else, but I would undertake many risky operations and always managed to get off scot-free.
Freedom. Marian Kołodziej
Most SS men were comely to look at. They were tall and sleek, often with a pleasant expression on their faces, but with very cold and sinister eyes. Mentally, they were schizoids blindly following orders. They were unable to engage in a discussion, even though some of them were university educated. They would use slogans and quote the Führer. Interestingly enough, these “best” representatives of the proverbial nation of poets and philosophers, as the SS men liked to call themselves, believed their leaders so uncritically.
On my return home,3 many senior German officials from the so-called Generalgouvernement sought my medical advice, having no trust in the German neuropsychiatrists working in Kraków at that time. So I could see that even just a few weeks before their compulsory flight from Kraków due to the approach of the Soviet Army, they still really believed that the Führer would transform their obvious defeat into victory. They were pinning their hopes on a hydrogen bomb which was being made in the Narvik area. That lack of objectivity was a truly surprising symptom. It shows that those engaged in the psychiatry and psychology of national societies are still underrating the significance of catathymia (wishful thinking; thoughts and judgments distorted by feelings).
Another interesting issue is the professors’ behavior in the camp. First, I have to say that we should make a distinction between two human features: our external behavior—motoric, expressive, and mimic—and our mental behavior, which is related to the former far more than we might think, and which I would call conduct. In my opinion, we should differentiate between behavior demonstrated by an individual’s idiosyncratic type of movement, reflexes and allied reflexes, individualistic facial expressions and gestures; and what is called ethical and moral conduct, which depends on an individual’s intelligence, ethics and morality, viz. on mental factors. It seems that behavior is determined by genetic factors to a greater extent than conduct, which is more flexible since it is an outcome of mental attitudes and depends more on educational factors, spiritual exercise, and intellect. To my mind, behavior becomes automatic more readily than conduct, of course providing we consider the differentiation I have made is correct, and we agree to distinguish behavior from conduct, both of which blend together to give an integrated whole, which seems somewhat of a contradiction. Quite naturally, every individual who is in good spirits, or at a moment of euphoria triggered artificially or created as a result of natural, external and internal factors, at first sight externally looks happy and completely different from a sad or apathetic person. A cheerful person has sparkling eyes, a slightly flushed face, their facial turgor is good, their back straight, and their movement is deft —of course, all of these features depend on the individual’s personal mental characteristics. A leptosome moves in a different way from a pyknic, an obese person’s movement differs from that of a slim person. A person suffering from depression behaves in yet another way, slowly and heavily, slouching, and their facial muscles are slack, although here we must remember that a sad pyknic will look different from a sad and depressed leptosome.
Here I’m thinking of typological features, which are largely genetically conditioned. In addition there is an acquired feature—upbringing and education. That’s why a city dweller moves in a different way than a peasant, and a blue-collar worker with a heavy job moves differently both from the city man and the country fellow. Furthermore, a person brought up in good conditions, surrounded by care, comfort, and well-educated people, behaves in a different way from an individual from a background of poor and uneducated people. Hence no biologist or neuropsychiatrist will deny the significance of typological features, or the character and intellectual differences between individuals. It seems that the mental features of a human individual are more flexible than his or her external behavior. Here I’m referring to the article by Prof. Skowron in this issue of Przegląd Lekarski.4 I can remember the period from before the First World War, and I’ve noticed, for example, how today’s girls, when they put on a long ball gown, have no idea how to move gracefully. Similarly, today’s actors when performing in an 18th- or even a 19th-century play, somehow do not know how to move on the stage, although they were taught that at drama school and during rehearsals. Though it seems to me that their teachers themselves do not really know how people moved and behaved in the past. We know that an 18th-century marchioness moved gracefully and with an elegance it would probably be impossible for anyone to reproduce nowadays. A person raised in the conventions of the 19th century, on the rules and savoir-vivre of that period, and obviously coming from a certain social sphere, moved in a way different from the way we move nowadays: probably more elegantly than is done nowadays. I observed the behavior of the professors before and in the camp from this point of view as well. Obviously, a scholar becomes a professor because of his intellectual qualities, not because of his motoric features.
The background of the arrested professors was not at all homogenous, but honores mutant mores (honors change manners), therefore all the professors moved with a certain dignity and solemnity corresponding to their university status. Moreover, some of them moved with an elegance that was inborn or cultivated since childhood, so they looked substantially different from the rest of the prisoners.
I believe that a neuropsychiatrist with a contemporary social approach must see much more than did his predecessors, who dealt only with mental disorders and were not interested in external behavior. A contemporary neuropsychiatrist must know how to distinguish and assess not only a person’s intellectual and characterological features, but also the way he moves, his type of associated movements, reflexivity and deftness. Only when he has learned how to look at all these differences and make a mental note of them can he be called a modern, sociologically educated neuropsychiatrist.
I watched the professors in the camp; they were distraught by the trauma of arrest and constantly hungry, but I must admit that even a month after their arrest you could clearly tell the difference between a Jagiellonian University professor and other prisoners. Especially when you watched the closed ranks of professors marching to roll-call, you could easily see that these people were different from the majority of the prisoners in the camp. After a month the “varnish” was gradually wearing off each of us. Of course, old-time refinement of longer standing was more resistant than the more contemporary varnish. Hence many of the professors looked like other prisoners already after a month, moved like them and sat at the table in the same manner as they. Hunger and mental exhaustion did their job. Yet the good manners of some professors with a long tradition behind them remained sturdy until the very end.
As I watched the progressing atrophy of refinement, I acquired an impression that everyday human movements, especially the expressive ones, like facial expressions, depend more on genetic factors. It follows that a person’s style of moving and the gentility of his movements, as well as the pace at which they move, is more strongly related to genetic than to individually acquired features. On the other hand, the suppression of reflexes and allied reflexes as in military discipline, for instance, in other words the entirety of a person’s movement related to his upbringing and the features of his character, belong to the category of short-term, superficial manners or refinement. Obviously, a leptosome will demonstrate greater restraint in his movement than a pyknic or a dysplastic, but this restraint does not depend upon his acquired mental inhibitions. Human character largely results from upbringing. Nonetheless, decency, honesty, and a sense of honor depend to a large extent on current conditions, so judging a person’s moral conduct in the concentration camp was not easy. Likewise, it will not be easy to judge a person’s conduct at times of panic or in especially dangerous situations. That is why I want to touch upon another sociologically significant aspect of concentration camp life, the moral attitudes of prisoners regarding hunger and sexual deprivation.
What I mean here are two crucial, basic and innate unconditional reflexes, not the entirety of moral conduct in the camp. Appetite and the sexual drive are the most important instincts, and it might seem that all people behave in the same way in this respect. However, that is not the case. I observed this in the concentration camp and later reached a conclusion that even the most restrained individuals were oftentimes forced to act reflexively or without moral constraint when confronted with and challenged by these two instincts. I also know of others who, at first sight, would have appeared very composed in this respect, yet on closer scrutiny it turned out that their restraint was not moral in origin at all, but that their craving for food and their sexual drive were characterized by an inherent weakness. So the two types should not be treated on a par when making an assessment of moral responsibility. A person with weak instincts finds it fairly easy to control them, whereas someone with strong instincts will not find it easy to suppress them. So an individual belonging to the first type would not be a hero just because he did not steal bread in the camp; while someone in the latter category would be a true hero if he did not steal food.
Concentration camp prisoners punished their fellows very severely for the theft of bread. Such theft happened mainly among the political prisoners, because usually the antisocial prisoners did not go hungry thanks to their jobs and status. And that is why we should not throw the first stone at those concentration camp inmates who could not resist stealing bread. Their hunger was unbearable, and their urge to eat huge amounts of food was very strong. That is why stealing bread will never be the same as stealing money or anything else. Personally, I have never felt hunger in my life. I can go for one or two days without eating. I was hungry in the camp, but I could easily manage that feeling, and so I do not consider myself a hero just because I did not steal bread.
My remarks should serve forensic scientists and lawyers as a memento for situations when they have to assess similar cases. On the other hand, the other important instinct, the sexual drive, was fairly easy to cope with in the camp.
Some young prisoners masturbated, although by the end of their imprisonment they did not do it so often due to their general exhaustion. For older prisoners, sex did not constitute a major problem. I know that things were different in Auschwitz, but getting in touch with women was easier there. We did not see a woman at all for the whole of our time in the camp.
Considering what I have said, I think that what we find amoral a priori need not be so amoral, since our judgment of people’s behavior should take into account conditions and motives.
Nevertheless, that does not change the fact that the theft of bread was sometimes committed in the camp by the antisocial prisoners, who thereby deprived other prisoners of the chance to survive. And that is why, as a rule, the theft of bread had to be punished severely. I believe that this important point has to be said, since every survivor is acquainted with this problem, but may not realize that there are two sides to this coin, like the two faces of the Roman god Janus.
The intellectual attributes of our professors, the Sonderaktion Krakau group, did not diminish in the camp, although they were often overshadowed by thoughts about food. Our conversations revolved mainly around food: what we were going to eat for dinner, whether there would be a “second helping” and who was going to get it. Such were our thoughts, and such was the main subject of our conversations. Nevertheless, we organized interesting scientific meetings and recaps of lectures, and presented new developments in scholarship. Prof. Gwiazdomorski has given the best and most gripping description of these events in his monograph about his time in Sachsenhausen. Not only were these lectures adequately prepared and on a very good academic level, but they were also delivered in a colorful and interesting way. Especially the lectures on literature, world history and art history were met with widespread enthusiasm and interest. Of course, the more specialized lectures on biology and the theoretical medical sciences did not receive such a big audience, but they were thoroughly prepared. Yet these events were more of an episode in our camp lives, since our main thoughts revolved around eating. The survival instinct was so strong that it overshadowed other instincts, including the sexual drive.
One of the important issues from the sociological point of view was the attitude of German prisoners to the group of Polish professors. Usually it was favorable. We did not feel that they hated us or were hostile. Quite the contrary – strong bonds of friendship developed between many members of the two national groups.
This can be evidenced even nowadays by our mutual visits and continuing cordial relations. Of course, here I mean friendships between the political prisoners of both nationalities. Certainly, a common factor helping us understand each other was our negative attitude to Hitler’s regime.
Obviously, I’m not thinking about the antisocial prisoners, who were exclusively German at that time, since none of the professors established relations with them, with the exception of the Stubenälteste, our supervisors. They had to be bribed so we could be left in peace.
In our relationships with the Germans who were political prisoners there was a clear difference between Germans from the south and those from the northeast. The ones most favorably disposed to us were the Austrians thanks to their character traits and the traditional Austrian Gemütlichkeit.5 They looked back to the Habsburg monarchy, calling it the good old days, in which Poles played a considerable part.6 The ones who treated us the worst were the Germanized Silesians—most of them could speak and understand Polish, but they didn’t admit it, so as not to be accused of being Polish.
Another peculiar thing was the attitude of the German prisoners to Goebbels’ propaganda. Those who were less educated really believed every word the papers printed. For them it was all true. I think this blind faith stemmed from the fact that Goebbels shared the view of Napoleon’s minister Joseph Fouché, who claimed that to convince people you have to keep lying all the time. Eventually your big lie will achieve its purpose. However, at the beginning of the War the Germans were not so well acquainted with Goebbels’ propaganda tricks, so they often asked us about the “Polish attack” on the German radio station in Gliwice (nowadays known as the Gleiwitz incident),7 which had been plotted by Goebbels and staged by the Gestapo and about the alleged Polish repressions8 against Germans in Bydgoszcz.
In this connection I made the following interesting observation. I met an SS man in the camp who was serving a sentence for some sort of transgression but had earlier participated in the attack on the Gleiwitz radio station dressed up in a Polish uniform. This man was absolutely convinced the Poles had attacked the Gliwice radio station as well, even though he had actually taken part himself in the perfidious hoax meant to serve as a final excuse to start the War. At first I thought that he was trying to fool me, but later I became convinced that his way of thinking was related to his trust and blind faith in his superiors in the SS. He was just an ordinary SS man, a private, and had only finished elementary school, but he was not, as I had thought initially, on the brink of mental retardation. He was only a rank-and-file member of the Nazi Party, full of deep, catathymic faith.
To sum up, I want to explain why I chose the subject in the title, i.e. sociopathy and psychopathy in Sachsenhausen. I believe that my personal experiences in the camp were extremely interesting, but would have been too personal. However, sociopathy, a phenomenon which is relatively new and has only recently started to be advanced in social psychiatry, seemed a more worthwhile subject. Obviously, I do not consider this article a scientific paper in the strict sense of the term, because it is full of remarks which are more like personal impressions rather than rigorous scientific research. There are not many people who can pride themselves on precise observations and scientific discourse produced in a concentration camp, as you could not take notes with you, so you would have had to rely on your memory, which, as we all know, is fallible, imprecise and deceptive, and gets feebler and feebler with time. Nevertheless, during my period in Sachsenhausen I was 50, with 20 years of scientific experience behind me and, as far as I know, I was the only Polish psychiatrist to survive a concentration camp,9 so my observations, despite being superficial, can be treated as true and not devoid of psychiatric and sociological value, and thus useful to others for further considerations.
My observations show the following:
1. The Nazi Germans established their concentration camps to annihilate “the enemies of the Third Reich.”
2. Since the Polish intelligentsia, especially the professors of the higher education institutions of Kraków, were considered enemies, they were to be eliminated. Since Poles were meant to be used only as workers for the glory of Nazi Germany, the Polish intelligentsia had to be wiped out. These were extremely asocial and genocidal principles, so it must be concluded that the makers of the Nazi German concentration camps were asocial psychopaths.
3. The way the concentration camps were organized, with the appointment of asocial individuals to senior jobs which let them beat and torture political prisoners, was such a perfidious and anti-human undertaking that we must conclude that those who created the concentration camps demonstrated their asocial souls by the mere fact of designing the system.
4. The majority of the SS men in the camp were sociopaths or psychopaths. This is a direct outcome of what I have just said. Decent individuals could not bear to watch what was going on there and instead volunteered to fight on the front line, as one of my interlocutors did.
5. Human behavior should be divided into two sets of features. The first group is motor behavior – movement, reflex, motoric deftness, motoric style, all of which are to be attributed to an individual’s innate features and genetic properties rather than to his upbringing, environment, and education. These are all highly dependent upon the structure, connections and quality of the synapses and neurohormones secreted between the formatio reticularis and the subsequent psychomotor routes. The second group is mental behavior, i.e. a person’s conduct, which is dependent to a large extent on the person’s intelligence and ethical and moral character and is much more flexible than his motor behavior. It is also influenced by the development of the individual’s restraint, that is his will. But it also depends on hereditary factors, since heritability makes a significant contribution to memory, responsiveness, and temper-related mental features, which can of course be slightly modified by training. However, the features of a person’s character are dependent almost entirely on upbringing. An old Polish proverb says that the tavern will not spoil a good man, nor will the church mend a bad man. Since proverbs are a nation’s wisdom and all of them contain a grain of truth, we should not ignore heritability, either. Take diligence for example. It is usually believed to be an acquired trait, although it is obvious from a genetic point of view that a viscous epileptoid will be more diligent than a skirtothymic, since he has always been pedantic and precise. A skirtothymic is more superficial and characterized, since childhood, by short-lived enthusiasm. So it is not easy to distinguish hereditary features from ones which have been acquired through training and upbringing.
6. A separate part of this article addressed an issue important from the sociological point of view, i.e. the attitude of the German prisoners to the group of Polish professors. Most of the political prisoners had a favorable attitude to us and many of us developed such cordial and friendly relations with them that we are still visiting our German colleagues from the camp and they still visit us in Poland. The Austrians were the most cordial to us, and Germanized Silesians were the least friendly. Many of them spoke fluent Polish but pretended not to know our language. From the point of view of sociological psychiatry, this should be seen as a deep feeling of guilt compensated by aggressiveness.
7. I discussed theft of the most expensive item in the camp, bread, and tried to prove that only a hungry human being steals bread, but you can be hungry in two ways:
First, if you are driven by a strong, compulsive instinct, its intensity makes refraining from stealing difficult. People experiencing this kind of hunger had a big appetite all their lives and cared more about the quantity rather than the quality of their food. Yet I did not observe any signs of an accelerated metabolic rate in them, which can usually be observed in thyrotoxic individuals. They were usually robust and stout persons. If such a person steals bread, in my opinion he is not as guilty as the other type, whose appetite is not so dominant. Furthermore, the latter type often has signs of weakness in all his instincts. Such individuals tend to be psychasthenic, with their “sthenic spike” pointing in a fixed direction, as I have described them in my earlier papers. I can give myself as an example. Before [the concentration camp] I never paid any attention to the amount of food I got. It is true that I was actually hungry in the camp, but never to an extent where my whole mind would be preoccupied with the thought of food. Therefore, I do not consider myself a hero at all just because I did not steal bread. On the other hand, we all knew very noble and admirable people whose appetite was so strong that they could not refrain from stealing bread. Thus, the theft of bread in a situation of great hunger cannot be compared to any other theft. Nonetheless, I know of a concentration camp prisoner who suffered extremely from hunger. He never talked or thought about anything else but eating, and he lost a terrible amount of weight in the camp. And yet he never stole any bread, he had been very well trained as a child to restrain himself. I consider him a hero.
Translated from original article: Eugeniusz Brzezicki, “Socjopsychopatia a Kazet Lager Sachsenhausen.” Przegląd Lekarski &ndash Oświęcim, 1963.Notes
1. November 9, 1939.b
2. I.e. Jehovah’s Witnesses.a
3. After his release from the concentration camp.b
4. Skowron, S. “Z pobytu w obozach koncentracyjnych. Refleksje biologa.” [A biologist’s reflections after internment in concentration camps]. Przegląd Lekarski – Oświęcim. 1963: 84–88.c
5. Gemütlichkeit—typically Austrian German expression denoting cosiness, cosy, comfortable, and kind ambience of a place or comfortable conviviality of a person.c
6. Before the restoration of Polish independence in 1918, part of the partitioned country was under Austrian rule.a
7. To obtain an excuse for invading Poland, the Germans orchestrated a false flag incident by sending a squad of Germans in Polish uniforms to raid the Gleiwitz radio station in the early hours of 1 September 1939.a
8. Another piece of Goebbels’ anti-Polish propaganda.a
9. Antoni Kępiński was another. He survived imprisonment in Miranda de Ebro concentration camp.a
a—Head of the Medical Review Auschwitz translating team’s notes; b—notes courtesy of prof. Susan Miller; c—Website Editor’s notes.