"Let me see your hands." I stretched out my hands, palms up. "My God, how can you be a dentist with these lacerated hands? Look, Grimm" Let him stay in camp until his hands heal."
Auschwitz gates courtesy wordpress.com.
Benjamin Jacobs was interned in Auschwitz along with his father and brother. Just as some inmates were spared due to their musical talents, Benjamin was spared due to his dental skills. As he explained, "Working is the best recipe for not dying."
After suffering near starvation at Auschwitz, Benjamin was thrilled to receive extra food rations once he became the camp dentist, sharing his rations with his father and brother. He was fitted with a camp suit, a sweater and real leather shoes. Dr. Jacobs was given up to date dental equipment, textbooks, manuals, Novacaine, and a complete dental laboratory. His main job was to remove rotting teeth from the inmates.
Another perk of the job was that he was given a bunk inside his dental station. No longer did he have to report for roll call. No longer did he fear the camp "kapos".
Over time, Dr. Jacobs started treating the S.S. guards as well. Some came to him to have teeth removed, others had cavities filled. One guard found that Benjamin's father and brother were also camp inmates. He arranged to have the fromer moved from a construction job to the barracks orderly. The latter was transferred from the coal mine to the KB.
One particular guard was merciless when it came to Dr. Jacob's. Every morning he would appear at the dental station, demand that the dentist do strenuous exercises, and insult him as he did them. Another guard ordered that the dentist start extracting gold teeth from dead inmates, a practice that revolted Dr. Jacobs.
In February of 1945, Dr. Jacobs remembers the first Allied bombers flying over Auschwitz. Sadly, though, it would take until April before the camp was liberated. In the meantime, the dentist's father was abused by a camp guard and died from his wounds.
The dentist of Auschwitz survived. So, too, did his brother. After being liberated, he chose not to return to Poland but travelled to Germany. Four years later, Benjamin immigrated to America.
Benjamin Jacobs, second from left, with his family courtesy www.nizkor.org.