Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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[dis…] tributing the Zyklon-B gas used at Auschwitz. Mrugowsky was put to death at Nuremberg in 1948 for his extensive involvement in fatal medical experiments. The book he introduced had been written a hundred years earlier by Christoph Wilhelm Hufeland, one of Germany’s great modern physician-humanists. In his introduction, Mrugowsky focused upon the doctor’s function as “the priest of the holy flame of life” (in Hufeland’s words), and on the “art of healing” as the doctor’s “divine mission.” Partially anticipating his own future, he spoke of the National Socialist breakdown of the distinction between research and healing, since the results of the work of the researcher are for the benefit of the Volk.29

Inevitably, the Nazi medical ideal went back to Hippocrates and related itself to the Hippocratic oath. The claim was that medicine had been “despiritualized” mainly by what Gerhard Wagner identified as the “mechanically oriented spirit” of Jewish teachers. There was thus a need to “return to the ethics and high moral status of an earlier generation ... which stood on [the] solid philosophical ground” of the Hippocratic oath.30 Finally, the Reichsführer of the SS and overall head of the Nazi police system, Heinrich Himmler himself embraced Hippocrates as a model for SS physicians. In a brief introduction to a series of short books for SS doctors under the overall title “Eternal Doctors,” Himmler spoke of “the great Greek doctor Hippocrates,” of the “unity of character and accomplishment” of his life, which “proclaims a morality, the strengths of which are still undiminished today and shall continue to determine medical action and thought in the future.” The series was edited by Grawitz and possessed the ultimate imprimatur in being “authorized” by none other than Hitler himself.31   In testimony at the Nuremberg Medical Trial, a witness referred to the Nazi embrace of Hippocratic principles as “an ironical joke of world history.”32 But this ultimate absurdity had an internal logic: the sense of recasting the medical profession — and the entire German nation — in the service of larger healing.

There was one area in which the Nazis did insist upon a clear break with medical tradition: They mounted a consistent attack upon what they viewed as exaggerated Christian compassion for the weak individual instead of tending to the health of the group, of the Volk. This partly Nietzschean position, as articulated by Ramm, included a rejection of the Christian principle of caritas or charity, and of the Church’s “commandment to attend to the incurably ill person and render him medical aid unto his death.”33 The same position was expressed in the Nazi Party medical outlet Ziel und Weg (Aim and Road) from the time of its founding in 1931. The matter was put strongly by Dr. Arthur Guett, a high-ranking health official, who declared that “the ill-conceived ‘love of thy neighbor’ has to disappear .... It is the supreme duty of the ... state to grant life and livelihood only to the healthy and hereditarily sound portion of the population in order to secure ... a hereditarily sound and racially pure folk [Volk] for all eternity.” He added the visionary-idealistic principle  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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