Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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Sterilization and the Nazi Biomedical Vision 
Much of the spirit of Nazi medicine emerged from the politicized doctors of the Party's original Physicians’ League, whose leading figure was Dr. Gerhard Wagner. As chief physician of the Reich, Wagner headed both the Reich Physicians’ Chamber and the Party medical structures and favored a visionary ideological medicine that was highly racist, socially and clinically oriented (the Nazi version of a “people's medicine”), and distrustful of academic medicine and pure science. Wagner was active in formulating and explaining the sterilization program, and it was to him that Hitler first (in 1935) told his plans for extensive “euthanasia” killings; indeed, Wagner was considered by some Germans to have been the “godfather of the euthanasia programme.”43 When he died in 1939, he was replaced by Leonardo Conti, a more bureaucratic figure who held a health post in the Interior Ministry, though also possessing the credentials of an “old medical fighter.” Eventually, Karl Brandt, who like Conti was an ardent second-generation Nazi, emerged from more distinguished university connections to become the dominant medical figure.
The Jews Are Our Misfortune

Systematic persecution of Jewish doctors was bound up with the Nazi biomedical vision. Through victimization of their Jewish colleagues, German doctors could combine their own “scientific racism” and anti-Semitism with their professional and economic incentive of ridding themselves of formidable rivals. In their part in this solution to what was called the “Jewish problem,” those German doctors were the heirs to a long-standing intellectual-professional anti-Semitism having to do with extraordinary German anxiety over the perceived threat of Jewish otherness to German society and to the German race and state.

A key image here is that of the leading late-nineteenth-century historian Heinrich von Treitschke: “The Jews are our misfortune.” Expressed in 1879, that image reverberated over generations; a few decades later, a leading anti-Semite could write that it “became a part of my body and soul when I was twenty years old.”44* Indeed, several of the doctors I interviewed referred uneasily, and usually somewhat noncommittally, to Treitschke’s famous phrase. For that image of Jewish-caused German “misfortune” encouraged every level of anti-Semitism from the medieval-mystical kind to modern “scientific racism” to the seemingly milder, even “reflective” approach favored by educated Germans: namely, that. there was indeed a serious “Jewish problem” which Germans had to engage.
* Although Treitschke was originally a liberal sympathetic to John Stuart Mill and the American Declaration of Independence, his fierce nationalism went even beyond that customary for the “National Liberals” among whom he initially belonged. Treitschke gave intellectual legitimation to the anti-Semitic movement of his time, and insisted (probably correctly) that his belief in the Jews as Germany’s misfortune would be shared by “men who would scornfully reject every notion of clerical intolerance or national arrogance.” 45   
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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