Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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"This World Is Not This World" 
I interviewed three groups of people. The central group consisted of twenty-nine men who had been significantly involved at high levels with Nazi medicine, twenty-eight of them physicians and one a pharmacist. Of that group of twenty-eight doctors, five had worked in concentration camps (three in Auschwitz) either as SS physicians assigned there or in connection with medical experiments; six had some association with the “euthanasia” (direct medical killing) program; eight were engaged in medical policy making and in developing and implementing Nazi medical-ideological theory; six held other important medical positions which involved them in tainted behavior and ideological conflict; and three were engaged mainly in military medicine which brought them in contact with (or led them to seek distance from) massive Nazi killing of Jews behind the lines in Eastern Europe.

I interviewed a second group of twelve former Nazi nonmedical professionals of some prominence: as lawyers, judges, economists, teachers, architects, administrators, and Party officials. My purpose here was to probe the experiences of professionals in general under the Nazis and their relationship to ideology as well as to obtain background information about medical and related policies.

Very different was the third group I interviewed: eighty former Auschwitz prisoners who had worked on medical blocks, more than half of them doctors. The majority were Jewish (interviewed in the United States, Israel, Western Europe, and Australia); but they included two non-Jewish groups, Poles (interviewed in Krakow, Warsaw, and London) and former political prisoners (interviewed mostly in various parts of Western Europe, notably Vienna). I focused on their encounters with and observations of Nazi doctors and Auschwitz medical policies in general.

Concerning the two groups of former Nazis, especially the doctors, arrangements were never simple. It seemed clear from the beginning that I could best approach them through introductions from Germans of some standing in their society who were sympathetic to my research. The process was enhanced by a formal appointment I was given as a fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Research in Psychopathology and Psychotherapy, directed by Dr. Paul Matussek. My first task was to locate former Nazi doctors of standing in the regime — which I did with the help of assistants, through books, knowledgeable scholars, hearsay, and intensive address searches. When a name and address had been uncovered, Professor Matussek would send a form letter, which he and I had carefully constructed, to that person. The letter described me as a prominent American psychiatric researcher who was conducting a study of the “stresses and conflicts” of German physicians under National Socialism; mentioned my earlier work on Hiroshima and Vietnam; emphasized my commitment to confidentiality; and urged the person in question to cooperate fully with me. In the case of positive replies, I wrote a brief letter mentioning my desire to, understand events of that time as accurately as possible.  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

Robert J. Lifton
ISBN 0-465-09094
© 1986
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