Wirths, Eduard, born in Geroldshausen near Würzburg, Bavaria, to Albert Wirths (1881–1981) and his wife Christine Anna Maria Kunkel Wirths (1888–1971), into a Catholic family with democratic Socialist leanings. He had one sister and two brothers, Ilse Wirths (1911–1924), Helmut Wirths (1912–2006) and Hans Wilhelm Wirths (1925–1941). He in 1936 married Gertrud Maria Petavy Wirths (1912–2012) and they had two sons, Rainer Wirths (1942–2006) and Dieter Wirths (1944–2021) His father served as a medical corpsman in the First World War and according to Dr. Robert Jay Lifton had emerged from the war “…in a depressed state with pacifist leanings, which were undoubtedly expressed in his (as one son put it) ‘making doctors of us all…'” Robert Jay Lifton (16-5-1926) is an American psychiatrist and author. Lifton is convinced that everyone has the potential to be fanatical. Lifton has been researching people’s behavior under extreme conditions for more than forty years. He focuses not only on victims, but also on perpetrators. For example, he interviewed Hiroshima victims, but also Nazi doctors.
Wirth’s younger brother, Helmut, became a notable gynecologist (who later went to Auschwitz to visit his brother to participate in cancer experiments but said that he left after only a few days on his brother Eduard’s advice, due to a disagreement and because of his revulsion of the place. According to Lifton “…Among the boys it was Eduard who came most under the father’s influence in becoming meticulous, obedient, and unusually conscientious and reliable — traits that continued into his adult life. He never smoked or drank and was described as compassionate and “soft” in his responses to others…” The Wirths family was not known to be anti-semitic or sympathetic to radical nationalist politics.
Eduard Wirths, however, became an ardent Nazi while studying medicine at the University of Würzburg (1930–35). He joined the Nazi Party and the SA in June 1933 and applied for admission into the SS in 1934. He entered the Waffen SS in 1939, saw action in Norway and the Russian Front and was classified as medically unfit for combat duty in the spring of 1942 after a heart-attack. Wirths then chose to undertake special training for Department leaders in Dachau Concentration Camp and served as chief SS psychiatrist in Neuengamme concentration camp during July 1942. Coincidentally, in 1942 Josef Mengele was also wounded at the Russian Front, pronounced medically unfit for combat, promoted to the rank of SS-Hauptsturmführer before being assigned to Auschwitz.
Wirths was promoted to SS-Hauptsturmführer (captain) and appointed as chief camp physician at Auschwitz in September, 1942. He was appointed on the basis of his reputation as a competent doctor and committed Nazi who would be capable of stopping the typhus epidemics that had increasingly affected SS personnel at Auschwitz.
At Auschwitz, Wirths was known to be protective of prisoner doctors and other prisoners doing medical work, to have improved conditions on the medical blocks and was remembered favourably by most prisoner doctors and other inmates who had contact with him. At the same time, Wirths in recommending Dr. Josef Mengele for promotion in August 1944, was able to speak of Mengele’s “open, honest, firm … [and] absolutely dependable” character and “magnificent” intellectual and physical talents; of the “discretion, perseverance, and energy with which he has fulfilled every task … and … shown himself equal to every situation”; of his “valuable contribution to anthropological science by making use of the scientific materials available to him”; of his “absolute ideological firmness” and “faultless conduct [as] an SS officer”; and personal qualities as “free, unrestrained, persuasive, and lively” discourse that rendered him “especially dear to his comrades”.
Rudolf Höss, the commandant of Auschwitz between 1940 and December 1943, is said to have held Wirths in particularly high regard. He is said to have remarked of Wirths that “During my 10 years of service in concentration-camp affairs, I have never encountered a better one.”
In 1943 the impact on inmates of Wirths’ actions at Auschwitz resulted in his receiving a Christmas card from Langbein, a political prisoner who worked with him, which contained the message “In the past year you have saved here the lives of 93,000 people. We do not have the right to tell you our wishes. But we wish for ourselves that you stay here in the coming year.” It was signed: “One speaking for the prisoners of Auschwitz.” The figure of 93,000 was the difference in mortality rate among prisoners from typhus in the year prior to Wirths’ arrival.
Wirths here with SS-Standartenführer and Nazi doctoer, Enno Lolling was involved in ordering medical experimentation, particularly in gynecological and typhus-related experimental tests. Enno Lolling (19-07-1888 – 27-05-1945) was a Nazi doctor. As a member of the SS, he served as a Lagerarzt (camp doctor) at Dachau concentration camp. He later headed up the medical division for all the SS concentration camps. Lolling committed suicide in Flensburg as the war was ending, age 56. Wirths’s primary research concerned pre-cancerous growths of the cervix. Wirths was also interested in the sterilization of women, by removing their ovaries through surgery or radiation. It is generally acknowledged that he himself never directly participated in such experiments but delegated their conduct to subordinates. The victims of these experiments were Jewish women who had been imprisoned in Block 10 of the main camp in Auschwitz. Dr. E.W.J. Pearce, an Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Truman Medical Center has made the following observation regarding Wirths’ medical experiments: “. . . Wirths, without consent, photographed the cervices of women prisoners, then amputated the pictured cervices, and sent both photographs and specimens for study to Dr. Hans Hinselmann of Berlin”. Hinselmann was the physician who developed colposcopy.
Pictured left to right are Dr. Eduard Wirths, Dr. Enno Lolling, Commandant Richard Baer, Adjutant Karl Hoecker and former Commandant Rudolf Hoess.
Importantly, Wirths also asserted medical control of prisoner selections at the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp, which, prior to spring 1943, had been conducted by the camp commander and his subordinates. Wirths insisted upon taking his own personal turn in performing selections, which he could have deferred to physician subordinates. Witness testimony given at the Trial of Adolf Eichmann provided a useful insight into how the SS approached the issue of how to record the deaths of Auschwitz prisoners (this did not include those who had been immediately selected for gassing – their admission was simply not recorded in the death registers). Those who died while imprisoned at Auschwitz were always recorded as having died from natural causes and never from being executed or murdered.
Wirths was promoted to SS-Sturmbannführer (major) in September 1944. Following the evacuation of Auschwitz in January 1945 he was transferred, along with many other former Auschwitz personnel, to the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp in Thuringia. Wirths would again hold the post of chief camp physician until Mittelbau-Dora’s evacuation in April 1945.
Death and burial ground of Wirths, Eduard.
Wirths was captured by the Allies at the end of the war and held in custody by British forces. Later, on 20-09-1945, knowing that he would face trial for war crimes, Wirths committed suicide by hanging, age 36 Eduard Wirths id buried at the Friedhof Geroldshausen, Geroldshausen, Landkreis Würzburg, Bavaria (Bayern), Germany.