Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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“This World is Not This World” 
[surpris…] ing candor and self-revelation. I had to combine all of this information in making interpretive judgments; but in the end, I felt I had learned much about the Nazi doctors I interviewed, and about Nazi doctors in general.

I spent four or more hours with the majority of Nazi doctors, usually during two or more interviews. But arrangements varied greatly according to their availability and their importance to the work. I saw some only once, and one terminated the interview after just half an hour. But I saw others for much longer periods, several for a total of twenty to thirty hours in a series of day-long meetings. The great majority of interviews had to be interpreted. As in past work, I was able to train a few regular assistants to interpret in a fashion that permitted quick and relatively direct exchange. Whatever its limitations, the presence of an interpreter in several cases provided a certain advantage: a buffer that enabled Nazi doctors, when uncomfortable and conflicted, to deal more freely with highly charged matters than they might have been able to do in direct, and therefore more threatening, exchange. The intensity that developed in these interviews was no less than that in those relatively few interviews I was able to conduct in English (because of the fluency of the interviewee). In both of those situations, with no exception, these German doctors agreed to my tape-recording the interviews, so that I had a precise record of what was said and was able to work later from the original German.

An ironic element in the approach was the requirement (made by the Yale University Committee on Research with Human Subjects, and generally followed in American research) that I obtain “informed consent” from the Nazi doctors. The requirement itself stemmed from the Nuremberg Medical Trial, and was therefore a consequence of the misbehavior of the very doctors I was interviewing or their associates. That touch of humanity seemed exactly right. Therefore, in correspondence with these doctors before our meeting, I reaffirmed the principles of confidentiality and of their right to raise any issues or questions they wished as well as to cease to participate in a particular interview or the research in general at any time. These principles were stated in written forms I asked each doctor to sign, sometimes at the beginning or the end of the first interview and at other times during the second meeting or through the mail (depending upon my estimate of whether introducing the form at a particular time would intensify an already stressful situation and thereby, interfere with the work).

Among the doctors I interviewed, two were in the midst of trials stemming from their Nazi activities. Another had served a long jail sentence. And many of them had been held for periods of up to several years after the war without formal trial. On the whole, however, they were not the most identifiable criminal group of the doctors: members of that group had either been put to death at Nuremberg and subsequent trials or else  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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