Runtime: 72 Minutes
Directors: Sylvia Nagel, Sonya Winterberg
**Trigger warning: Some readers may find the contents of this review distressing**
By Bee Garner
It has been 75 years since Auschwitz was liberated by allied forces, but the horrors of what took place there still haunt the lives of so many survivors. While there has been many documentaries and literature exploring the monstrous Josef Mengele (the angel of death) and his deadly experiments on prisoners, there has been very little on another monster who operated in the camp, the gynecologist Carl Clauberg.
“Made in Auschwitz” is a documentary from filmmakers Sonya Winterberg and Sylvia Nagel, and focuses on a very little-known aspect of the Nazis’ ghastly experiments, and details the efforts of Clauberg to find an efficient means of sterilizing women. It was a cold, inhumane move by the Nazis, who were trying to end the Jewish race completely. Perhaps, most disturbing is the fact that Clauberg’s “research” in birth control and fertility continues to be a part of the medical canon to this day.
Clauberg is often referred to as “The father of the birth control pill” thanks to his hormonal research which was conducted in the 1920s and 30s. However, many medical journals seem to omit his years at Auschwitz. Another chilling fact that we also learn from the documentary is that major firms as Siemens and the pharmaceutical company Schering (later purchased by Bayer) both participated in and profited from his work.
The documentary uses intimate survivor testimonies, as well as archival footage and legal records to tell the stories of the over 400 young women who underwent medical experimentation at the hands Clauberg. One of the survivors states that Clauberg “didn’t look frightening”, and we see a photo of the short, round man holding a birthday cake and another photo of him with his children, a chilling reminder that those who made up the Nazi party were human beings. Narration from Clauberg’s own journals tells of how he even took his three-year-old daughter to visit Block 10 and the women he was experimenting on. Clauberg would even pay Nazi officers not to gas his guinea pigs, not out of compassion or empathy, but simply because he wanted to continue to experiment on them.
Many historians and psychologists try to analyze Clauberg, in an attempt to understand how one man could carry out such awful experiments. Even before arriving at Auschwitz, Clauberg was showing signs of megalomania, marrying his first wife after operating on her, “he married his own creation”. When the Nazis came to power, Clauberg volunteered his services to Heinrich Himmler of the SS. In an interview Winterberg believes Clauberg had “Napoleon syndrome. He was a little guy who really wanted to be big and to be important.”
The documentary is a hard watch but it is a completely necessary one; the survivors’ stories are distressing to hear and many are still so traumatised by what took place to them. However, their strength and determination is something to be admired. We are told that some of the women did go on to have children despite Clauberg’s experiments, and it is at this moment that I couldn’t stop crying. It’s a beautiful and tender moment.
The documentary has a rather short runtime of just 72 minutes, and there are some aspects that I wished had been covered in further detail such as Clauberg’s return from a Soviet Labour camp in 1958 and his family life. However, ultimately this is a documentary about the strength of the human spirit and the courage of these women who have finally had the opportunity to tell their stories. To ensure the horrors of the past aren’t repeated we have to try and understand these monsters, and I believe this documentary is a necessary one especially in our current political climate.
Signature Entertainment presents Made in Auschwitz which is now out on on DVD and Digital HD