Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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“This World Is Not This World” 
a certain uneasiness about what the young might be up to. Every once in a while there would be a flash of nostalgia for the Nazi times, for an era when life had intensity and meaning, whatever the conflicts engendered.

I never quite got over the sense of strangeness I experienced at sitting face to face with men I considered to be on the opposite side of the victimizing barricade, so to speak. Nor did I cease to feel a certain embarrassment and shame over my efforts to enter their psychological world. These feelings could be compounded when, as in a few cases, I found things to like about a man, and felt myself engaging his humanity. My central conflict, then, had to do with my usual sense of the psychological interview as an essentially friendly procedure, and my considerably less than friendly feelings toward these interviewees. I worked always within that conflict. I frequently had the impulse to divest myself of the conflict by means of aggressive moral confrontation. For the most part, I resisted that impulse - though my psychological probing could resemble such confrontation and certainly left little doubt concerning my perspective. But it was necessary to maintain that distinction; and the psychological probing, rather than moral confrontation, was required for eliciting the kind of behavioral and motivational information I sought. That distinction was also necessary, I later realized, for maintaining something important to me, my own professional identity in doing the work. So much so that it would probably be accurate to say that for me psychological probing was a form of moral confrontation. Yet I must add that there were moments when I wanted not only to confront but to accuse — indeed in some way attack — the man sitting opposite me. With it all, I experienced, and still experience, an obligation to be  fair to these former Nazi doctors — that is, to make as accurate and profound an overall assessment as I am able.

With Auschwitz survivors the atmosphere of the interviews was entirely different. Just about all of them (with the exception of one who felt too upset by these matters to talk to me) involved themselves immediately in a common effort toward understanding Nazi doctors and what they did in the camp and elsewhere. The former inmates proved to be invaluable observers on both counts. Not surprisingly, my closest personal identification was with Jewish survivor physicians. In many cases they had come from families and social and ethnic backgrounds not too different from my own, and from areas close to my grandparents’ original homes. I could not help contrasting their ordeal with my own privileged existence, and would come from these interviews literally reeling, sometimes close to tears. But I also had moving interviews with non-Jewish doctors from Poland and various other parts of Europe, many of whom had been sent to Auschwitz because of having tried to help Jews. An exception to this fundamental sympathy was one painful but revealing interview with an anti-Semitic Polish doctor who had worked closely with the Nazis and whom I shall discuss later in the book.

The interviews I conducted were unlike any I had previously at- […tempted]  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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