12 July 2015

The Death Camp Pharmacist from... (Sighișoara - 5700 km)

(Sighișoara, 09.07.2015 - 11.07.2015) In my view, with its magnificent well-preserved medieval architecture and fortifications, Sighișoara is one of the most beautiful medieval towns in Europe and part of the UNESCO Heritage of Romania. I'm a constant visitor and like many other tourists I started taking photos of some sights.

But it was another house at the foot of the castle hill, which this time attracted my attention and so I asked my close friends from Sighișoara about the property situation. I've been told that this house is owned by the Capesius family, among them Victor Capesius, better known as "The Druggist of Auschwitz" by the documentary novel of Dieter Schlesak, which has been translated into ten languages.

From the article "Who was the pharmacist of Auschwitz?" by The Pharmaceutical Journal, December 2004, we learn as follows: "[...] Victor (several sources wrongly spell his first name Viktor) Capesius was born as the son of a doctor of German descent in 1907, in a part of Romania which then belonged to the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He studied in Romania and Vienna where, in 1933, he completed his doctorate in pharmacy. In 1943, Capesius was drafted into the German Wehrmacht where he initially served as an 'SS pharmacist' in Warsaw. Later, he was transferred to Dachau and on 12 February 1944 he arrived in Auschwitz concentration camp, first as a locum but soon taking the position of camp pharmacist. [...] Around 7,000 members of the SS were based in Auschwitz’s main camp and its 40 or so subsidiary installations, one of which (Birkenau) was entirely dedicated to killing the (mostly Jewish) inmates. Several hundred thousand individuals were murdered there. One of the camp doctors was the notorious Josef Mengele who conducted unspeakably cruel experiments on twins. Mengele and Capesius knew each other well - documents repeatedly mention that they had an association. After the war when Auschwitz was evacuated in 1945, Capesius managed to escape. He was caught by the British but released in June 1946. He lived, under his real name, in Stuttgart, only to be again imprisoned in 1946, having been recognised by an ex-inmate of Auschwitz. But, once more, he avoided prosecution. He was freed in 1947 and took employment as a pharmacist in Stuttgart. On 5 October 1950, Capesius opened his own pharmacy in Göppingen. His business (to which he also added a beauty salon) thrived, producing an average yearly turnover of DM 400,000. 

On 4 December 1959, Capesius was re-imprisoned and charged as one of the 22 defendants in the now famous Auschwitz trials. These trials are, today, regarded as a watershed in German legal history. It was the first serious attempt by Germans to bring to justice those who violated human rights during the Nazi era. The trials lasted from 20 December 1963 until 19 August 1965 and 211 Auschwitz prisoners were called as witnesses. Several individuals remembered Capesius well and some even knew him personally from Romania. The sentences turned out to be less severe than many observers had expected. Six defendants received life sentences and 11 were sentenced to imprisonment between three and a half and 14 years. Capesius received a sentence of nine years’ imprisonment. During his imprisonment, the business was run by his wife who, according to Capesius, was half Jewish. When he was released in 1968 (10 and a half months prematurely), he stated that he intended to stay with his wife in Göppingen. [...]" Capesius died from natural causes in Göppingen on March 20, 1985. My uncle Maximilian Hauster, born on 26.11.1909 in Czernowitz, has been deported from the SS Mechelen Transit Camp in Belgium to Auschwitz-Birkenau with Transport 19 on 14.01.1943 and perished presumably immediately upon arrival.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


This does look like a beautiful town. A dark side, however, with the story you related about the Auschwitz pharmacist. That's how life goes, then and now . . . Thank you for sharing your personal connection, too.