Australian doctor sorry for saying Nazi victims were relieved at lack of escape
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Australian doctor sorry for saying Nazi victims were relieved at lack of escape

Paul Bauert claims Nauru asylum seekers worse off than those who died in gas chambers in Holocaust; Jewish leader says remark expresses ‘disregard’ for history

SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) — A regional president of the Australia Medical Association said Monday that victims of the Holocaust heading to the gas chambers found a “sense of relief” in knowing there was no escape.

Dr. Paul Bauert later apologized for his comments to Sky News. His interview dealt with asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru and a bill proposing new procedures governing medical transfers from the offshore detention.

Bauert said the mental health of the detainees had deteriorated because there was no certainty about their future.

“The longer these people are there, the worse they are getting. We know that the main reason for the impairment of mental health — as Viktor Frankl, the psychiatrist from Auschwitz, described very well in his book, ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ — the main problem these people have is the lack of meaning, the lack of any end to what is going on. A lack of certainty,” he told Sky News.

“And this, more than anything, causes severe mental health damage. Even those that finally knew they were about to be condemned to the gas chamber at least found some sense of relief in knowing what was happening.”

Ruins of gas chamber-crematoria complex at Auschwitz-Birkenau, the former Nazi death camp in Poland, October 2017. (Matt Lebovic/The Times of Israel)

The co-CEO of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, Peter Wertheim, told JTA that “to compare victims of genocide to asylum seekers is a gross exaggeration, and displays a callous disregard of both the facts of history and the still-raw memories and feelings of Holocaust survivors.”

Wertheim said that most going to the gas chambers only knew what they had been told — that they were going for showers or delousing.

“They were kept in a carefully planned state of illusion, uncertainty, disorientation and terror right up to the time the sealed doors closed them in to the gas chamber and the hydrogen cyanide Zyklon B pellets were poured through the vents,” he said.

In his apology, Bauert wrote: “My comments this morning were intended to reflect the writings of an eminent Jewish psychiatrist who survived Auschwitz. The words I used did not convey the complexity of what he wrote. My deep apologies for causing offence. Auschwitz was a humanitarian disgrace.

“I stand by my view that our current offshore detention policies are inhumane and needlessly cruel.”

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