Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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ultimate dimension addresses larger human involvements, the sense of being connected to those who have gone before and to those who will follow our own limited life span. We thus seek a sense of immortality, of living on in our children, works, human influences; religious principles, or in what we look upon as eternal nature. This sense can also be achieved by the experience of transcendence: of a special psychic state so intense that within it time and death disappear — the classic experience of mystics.

One must address this ultimate dimension — what Otto Rank called “immortality systems”;4 — if one is to begin to grasp the force of the Nazi projection of the “Thousand Year Reich.” The same is true of the Nazi concept of the Volk — a term not only denoting “people” but conveying for many German thinkers “the union of a group of people with a transcendental ‘essence’. . . [which] might be called ‘nature’ or ‘cosmos’ or ‘mythos,’ but in each instance ... was fused to man's innermost nature, and represented the source of his creativity, his depth of feeling, his individuality, and his unity with other members of the Volk.” 5 Here we may say that Volk came to embody an immortalizing connection with eternal racial and cultural substance. And that connection begins to put us in touch with the Nazi version of "revolutionary immortality."6

The paradigm also delimits the researcher's combined attitude of advocacy and detachment: articulating one's inevitable moral advocacies, rather than bootlegging them in via a claim to absolute moral neutrality; and, at the same time, maintaining sufficient detachment to apply the technical and scientific principles of one's discipline. My own advocacies include those related to my being an American, a physician, a psychiatrist, a Jew, and a human being concerned with forces of destruction in our world — and to my generally critical stance on ethical, social, and political questions.

The balance sought in dealing with these staggering experiences, however difficult to maintain, is what Martin Buber described as one of “distance and relation.” 
Medicalized Killing 
In Nazi mass murder, we can say that a barrier was removed, a boundary crossed: that boundary between violent imagery and periodic killing of victims (as of Jews in pogroms) on the one hand, and systematic genocide in Auschwitz and elsewhere on the other. My argument in this study is that the medicalization of killing — the imagery of killing in the name of healing — was crucial to that terrible step. At the heart of the Nazi enterprise, then, is the destruction of the boundary between healing and killing.

Early descriptions of Auschwitz and other death camps focused on the sadism and viciousness of Nazi guards, officers, and physicians. But sub- […seqent]
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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