Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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The Nazification of Medicine 
Nazification of the medical profession — a key aspect of the transition from sterilization to direct medical killing — was achieved by a combination of ideological enthusiasm and systematic terror. An influential manual by Rudolf Ramm of the medical faculty of the University of Berlin proposed that each doctor was to be no longer merely a caretaker of the sick but was to become a “cultivator of the genes,” a “physician to the Volk, ” and a “biological soldier.” While Ramm harked back to traditional forms of medical idealism (“inner calling, high ethics, profound knowledge . . . sacrifice and dedication”), he favored abandoning the old “liberal-materialistic spirit” (associated especially with the harmful influence of Jews in the profession) and acquiring instead “the idealistic Weltanschauung of National Socialism.” Thus, the physician could carry out what Gerhard Wagner identified as the task of his Public Health Office: the “promotion and perfection of the health of the German people ... to ensure that the people realize the full potential of their racial and genetic endowment.”24 Ramm went on to speak of “breakthroughs in biological thinking” under National Socialism that enabled medical leaders to take an important part in projects to reverse racial decay such as the Nuremberg Laws and the sterilization program. To carry these programs out properly, the individual physician must become a “genetics doctor” (Erbarzt). He could then become a “caretaker of the race” and a politician of population. By following public care functions of preventing “bastardization through the propagation of unworthy and racially alien elements ... and maintaining and increasing those of sound heredity he could attain the national goal of keeping our blood pure.”25

Ramm also discussed the virtues of sterilization and labeled “erroneous” the widespread belief that a doctor should under no circumstances take a patient’s life, since for the incurably sick and insane, “euthanasia” was the most “merciful treatment” and “an obligation to the Volk.” That obligation was always central. The physician was to be concerned with the health of the Volk even more than with individual disease and was to teach them to overcome the old individualistic principle of the right to one's own body and to embrace instead the duty to be healthy. Thus, Johann S. spoke to me with pride about the principle of being “doctor to the Volkskörper [‘national body’ or ‘people’s body’]” and of “our duty ... to the collectivity.”

Ramm’s manual also specified that a doctor was to be a biological militant, “an alert biological soldier” living under “the great idea of the National Socialist biological state structure” (see also page 130). For it claimed that “National Socialism, unlike any other political philosophy or Party program, is in accord with the natural history and biology of man.” 27  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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