| This World Is Not This World
|to be. My friend replied, But it is demonic
that they were not demonic. He could then raise his second
question, really the one he had in mind in the first place: How did they
become killers? That question can be addressed, and this book is in the
way of an answer.
What my survivor friend was struggling with
what I have struggled with throughout this study is the disturbing
psychological truth that participation in mass murder need not require emotions
as extreme or demonic as would seem appropriate for such a malignant project.
Or to put the matter, another way, ordinary people can commit demonic acts.
But that did not mean that Nazi doctors were faceless bureaucratic cogs
or automatons. As human beings, they were actors and participants who
manifested certain kinds of behavior for which they were responsible, and which
we can begin to identify.
There are several dimensions, then, to the
work. At its heart is the transformation of the physician of the medical
enterprise itself from healer to killer. That transformation requires us
to examine the interaction of Nazi political ideology and biomedical ideology
in their effects on individual and collective behavior. That in turn takes us
to the significance of medicalized killing for Nazi mass murder in general
and for large-scale killing and genocide on the part of others. Finally,
the work has relevance for broad questions of human control over life and death
for physicians everywhere, for science and scientists and other
professionals in general, for institutions of various kinds and also for
concepts of human nature and ultimate human values. I can no more than touch on
most of these general issues, having made a decision to focus on Nazi doctors
and medicalized killing, and then on issues of mass murder. But my hope is that
others will find here experience that might help them explore any of the
searing moral issues implicit in this study.
That hope raises the
important question of specificity and generality. I believe that one must
stress the specificity of the Nazi killing project, especially concerning Jews:
its unique characteristics, and the particular forces that shaped it. But
having done that, one must also search for larger principles suggested
by that unique project. No other event or institution can or should be equated
with Auschwitz; but nor should we deny ourselves the opportunity to explore its
general relevance for genocide and for situations of a very different order in
which psychological and moral questions may be considerably more ambiguous.
The sequence of this book will be as follows. In the remainder of this
introductory section, I say something about my overall psychological approach,
interviews, and accompanying moral questions; and then I introduce the general
Nazi theory and practice of medicalized killing. Part I examines the sequence
from forcible sterilization to direct medical killing or
euthanasia, as it was falsely named made possible by the
Nazification of the German medical profession, and culminating in an extension
of euthanasia to the concentration camps. Part II, the
longest segment of the book, concerns Auschwitz: its evolution as an institu-