A “euthanasia” doctor

One of the “euthanasia” doctors travelling from camp to camp in 1941–2 was the asylum director Friedrich Mennecke. His frequent letters to his wife show that he remained untroubled by his murderous deeds. When he came to Buchenwald in November 1941, the prisoner killings were being extended. In addition to inmates singled out as unproductive (because of illness or disability), the doctors now also selected many Jewish prisoners who could still work. At a time when the Nazis were moving towards the mass extermination of European Jewry, Jews inside concentration camps were in grave danger.

070 – Letter by the “euthanasia” doctor Dr Friedrich Mennecke to his wife, 26 November 1941

Home again, my little mouse! The first day’s work at Buchenwald is over. We were outside at 8.30 this morning. I began by introducing myself to the senior leaders […]. To begin with there were still around 40 forms to fill in from an initial lot of Aryans, which the two other colleagues had already worked on yesterday. Of these 40 I dealt with around 15 […]. After that came the “examination” of the patients, i.e. a presentation of the individuals and a comparison with the entries in the forms […].

At 12.00 we had a break for lunch and ate in the leaders’ mess (First-rate soup, boiled beef, red cabbage, potatoes, stewed apple – for RM [Reichsmark] 1.50!) […].

At 13.30 we began our examinations again, but soon after came [Foreign Secretary] Ribbentrop’s speech on the radio, which we listened to. He said a lot of nice things. Did you listen to the speech? Then we continued examining until around 16.00. I did 105 patients, Müller 78 patients, so that we ended up with a first batch of 183 forms. Then as a second lot there was a total of 1200 Jews, none of whom were “examined”; we needed only to note the reasons for their arrest in the documents (often very extensive!) and transfer them to the forms. Thus it’s purely theoretical work and will definitely take us until Monday, perhaps even longer. Of this second batch (Jews) today I did 17, Müller 15.

The first day’s work at Buchenwald is over

At 17.00 “we called it a day” and went to dinner: cold meats (9 big slices), butter, bread, coffee! It cost RM 0.80 without coupons!! At 17.30 we got a lift back to Weimar from a Kriminalassistent, SS-Hauptscharführer (Leclair), who lives in Weimar, but drives his car every day […]. Then we spent an hour in the café of the “Weimarer Halle”. Müller is going to see the comedy “Wednesday Evening Music” there this evening […].

The days to come will follow the same pattern as I have described today with exactly the same programme and the same work. After the Jews there will be around 300 Aryans to be “examined” as a third lot. So we shall be tied up here until roughly the end of next week […].

So my dearest mummy, now I’m going to give you soooo many kisses. I’m so looking forward to your coming and have a really big hug, you little mouse, from your faithful Pa.

Source: P. Chroust (ed.), Friedrich Mennecke (Hamburg, 1987), pp. 243–5

Translation: Lesley Sharpe and Jeremy Noakes