In the Face of Death: I Killed All the Children

Scenario 1: The Warsaw Ghetto Doctor

In the late summer of 1942, 22 year old Adina Blady Szwajger was working as a doctor at Warsaw's Children's Hospital. It was no ordinary summer, though. Some 18 mnonths earlier, the Nazi occupiers of Poland had shut the gates on Warsaw's Jewish population creating what is now known as the Warsaw ghetto. As a result, Szwajger had for at least a year worked in conditions of almost unimaginable suffering as the hospital filled with children dying of starvation and tuberculosis. In her memoir, she talks of "famished skeletons" lapping up the slops of a spilled soup pot from the floor; and of the attempt to live a "principled life" in circumstances of the utmost moral depravity.

But in August 1942, it became impossible to go on. The Germans had begun to round up the Jewish population, loading them into cattle trucks and shipping them off to the death camps, where their fate was to meet a grisly end. By this point, the hospital was no longer functioning as a hospital - there were "no children's wards, just the sick, the wounded and the dying everywhere."

The moment which came to define Szwajger's life arrived when the Nazis turned up at the hospital, and began the brutal process of shutting it down. A nurse begged Szwajger to end her elderly mother's life: "Doctor...I can't do it. I beg you, please. I don't want them to shoot her in bed, and she can't walk." Dr. Szwajger administered morphine, first attending to "families of staff." Then she went to the ward which housed the smallest infants, and one by one gave each child a lethal dose. "Just as, during those two years of real work in the hospital, I had bent down over the little beds, so now I poured this last medicine into those tiny mouths...And downstairs, there was screaming because the...Germans were already there, taking the sick from the wards to the cattle trucks." She told the older children "that this medicine was going to make their pain disappear...So they lay down and after a few minutes - I don't know how many - but the next time I went into that room, they were asleep."

Adina Szwajger took the lives of her young patients as the final act of what she saw as her duty of care, in order to spare them ignominious and certain death at the hands of the Nazis. But, of course, the infants and children did not and could not have consented. The issue, then, is whether she did the right thing. Was she morally justified in taking the lives of her patients in order to save them from their fate at the hands of the Nazis?


  

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Really Deep Thought

The sole criteria of frigidity is the absence of the vaginal orgasm.
   --Sigmund Freud.


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