Vivien Spitz

As a court reporter in 1946, Vivien Spitz was recruited to go to Nuremberg, Germany, to report verbatim proceedings at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials. She was assigned to the first Subsequent Proceedings trial, the medical case of 20 Nazi doctors and three medical assistants. Spitz applied for the job in Nuremberg after World War II because she was half German and a Catholic and could not comprehend the horrors that were beginning to appear in the press and newsreels.

In 1948, Spitz returned to the United States and realized she had been deeply affected by the testimonies of the witnesses and victims of the Holocaust. She was besieged with nightmares, what today is called post-traumatic stress disorder. The nightmares were always the same: she was trying to escape through a tunnel with four or five children, while trying to keep everyone quiet because a Nazi guard might discover their escape. She never completed the dream, waking before she learned her fate.

Spitz served as an official shorthand reporter in the Denver District Court, then was asked to substitute as an Official Reporter of Debates in the United States Senate, the first woman to do so. Before a job opened in the Senate, Spitz was hired as an Official Reporter of Debates in the U.S. House of Representatives, a job she held for ten years under four presidents.

Since retiring, Spitz has spoken throughout the country about her experiences in Nuremberg and the Nazi crimes against humanity, reaching more than 47,000 students and adults interested in medical ethics and human rights. She has received several humanitarian awards for her work. In 2005, she published a summary of her experiences in what she considers the highlight work of her life: Doctors from Hell, The Horrific Account of Nazi Experiments on Humans. In a review in the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Paul S. Applebaum of the University of Massachusetts Medical School wrote, “There is no shortage of accounts of the perverse acts committed by the Nazi doctors. But no academic summary that I have read transmits the horror of their actions so powerfully as this book does.” Spitz urges constantly that the lessons of the past not be forgotten.

Doctors From HellPublications

A chilling story of human depravity and ultimate justice, told for the first time by an eyewitness court reporter for the Nuremberg war crimes trial of Nazi doctors. This is the account of 23 men torturing and killing by experiment in the name of scientific research and patriotism. Doctors from Hell includes trial transcripts that have not been easily available to the general public and previously unpublished photographs used as evidence in the trial.

Available from Amazon.com

Obituaries

Obituaries

Vivien Ruth Spitz (nee Putty), aged 89, was taken home to Heaven mercifully during the night of 1st April 2014 . Beloved mother of John and Peter (wife Mandy). Grandmother to Kathryn and Madelyn. Aunt to Teresa Carroll, Vincent Carroll, and Scott Putty. She was a devout Catholic, and was deeply loved and will be dearly missed by all who knew her. Vivien was a Fellow of the Academy of Professional Reporters of the National Court Reporters Association, and was the Chief Reporter of Debates in the United States House of Representatives from 1972 to 1982. Mrs. Spitz reported the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials in Germany from 1946 to 1948, including the Nazi Doctors Case. From this experience she made presentations and published a book ‘Doctors from Hell’ . She spoke world-wide on this subject. She was honored by Steven Spielberg’s SHOAH Foundation and at Tony Randall’s production of Judgment at Nuremberg on Broadway. She received the 1994 Human Relations Award and the America-Israel Friendship League Humanitarian Award. Vivien was a member of the University of Denver Holocaust Awareness Institute’s Speakers Bureau and a founding member of the University of Colorado Holocaust Contemporary Bioethics Program. She is honored in the Marquis’ Who’s Who of American Women. She was a woman of conviction, ethics and religion and she now will watch over us for all eternity. Friends and family can celebrate her life and offer prayers on April 7 from 11AM to 2PM in a service at the Eagles Trace Retirement Home, 14703 Eagle Vista Dr, Houston, TX 77077, where she resided for the last ten years of her life. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the National Holocaust Museum, or to a charity of your choice.
Imagine yourself a 22-year-old woman on a military transport plane en route to Nuremberg in 1946. A whiz at manual and machine shorthand, you’ve been selected by the War Department to assist in creating what some will call the “record that will never forget,” of the trials of Nazi war criminals. The experience would likely change your life. It did with my Aunt Vivien. The harrowing testimony on behalf of victims of Nazi medical experiments and the chilling attitude of the doctors in the dock would especially sear her soul. “I would spend the rest of my life trying to recover from what I had heard and written,” she wrote decades later in her book, “Doctors from Hell.” “From that point on, I would no longer tolerate any bigotry.” Vivien Spitz died this week in Houston after a long life of accomplishment, including a lengthy stint in the Denver district courts and another as “chief reporter” in the U.S. House of Representatives — the first woman in that position — leading a group that compiles the Congressional Record. But it was her memories of the doctors’ trial that in a sense came to define her — and to prod her, unexpectedly, when she was already in her 60s, into a personal quest as a witness to history. “The cocoon burst wide open in 1987,” she wrote, “when I read in The Denver Post that a German language arts teacher at a high school in my Denver suburb of Aurora referred to the Holocaust as the ‘Holohoax’ to her students.” “Some say Holocaust,” the teacher reportedly declared. “Some say Holohoax.” Vivien was so livid that she “hauled out my transcripts, material, and original press photographs that I had brought from Nuremberg and stored away in boxes all these years.” She put together a presentation that she would take on the road to groups across the country — and even abroad — that reached and moved tens of thousands of people. Vivien never had an agent and never advertised, but one person would tell another who would tell another, and before long the list of venues she’d appeared at — schools, churches, hospitals, civic organizations, veterans groups, bar associations — itself could fill a book. Eventually she would find herself being interviewed by Steven Spielberg’s Shoah Foundation. She would tell those gathered — or remind them if they were camp survivors — of the macabre depravity into which men of science were capable of descending. These were doctors who infected prisoners with typhus and other diseases, lathered captives’ arms with a phosphorus mixture and ignited it, immersed them in ice water to see how long they survived, forced them to drink sea water for days on end, doused them with mustard gas, or tortured them with low-oxygen, high-altitude simulations. “One of the most savage, sadistic and inhumane experiments,” Vivien recalled, involved “bone, muscle and nerve regeneration and” — incredibly — “bone transplantation.” And let us not forget the doctors’ assistance in compiling what one described in a 1942 letter to a colleague as a “complete collection of skulls of all races and peoples at our disposal,” along with careful instructions on how to transport the heads of “Jewish-Boshevik Commissars,” whose skeletons he particularly prized despite his belief that they were a “repulsive, but characteristic subhuman” group. It is fitting that Vivien died so close to the Days of Remembrance that begin later this month. She had been delighted, she said, at “Colorado’s first civic ceremony of the Days of Remembrance” under Gov. Richard Lamm, in 1982. Shortly before the war in Europe officially ended, Dwight Eisenhower toured a German internment camp and described the evidence of “starvation, cruelty and bestiality” as “so overpowering as to leave me a bit sick.” “In one room,” he added, “where there were piled up twenty or thirty naked men, killed by starvation, George Patton would not even enter. He said he would get sick if he did so. I made the visit deliberately, in order to be in position to give first-hand evidence of these things if ever, in the future, there develops a tendency to charge these allegations merely to ‘propaganda.’ ” That was Vivien’s mission, too.

In Her Words

Vivien talks about her book Doctors from Hell



×



×