Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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“Euthanasia”: Direct Medical Killing 
[intro…] duced by Gerhard Wagner at a Berlin film showcase and was shown widely throughout Germany's 5,300 cinema houses.

The third film, “I Accuse” (Ich klage an, 1941), was unique in that it dealt specifically with medical killing and, in fact, emerged from a suggestion by Karl Brandt, the early medical leader of that project, that a film be made to persuade the German public to accept the idea of “euthanasia.” A related purpose was to test public opinion about whether there was sufficient support to legalize the program and bring it out into the open. The film was based on the novel Mission and Conscience by a physician-writer, Helmut Unger, a Berlin ophthalmologist who also served as a consultant of the child “euthanasia” program and as Dr. Wagner’s press representative. “I Accuse” was clearly a falsification of the actual Nazi policy: the Nazis murdered mental patients against their will; the film depicts a physician giving a lethal injection to his incurably ill wife in response to her desperate plea that he do so to relieve her of her terrible pain and suffering. Indeed, a sympathetic member of the jury before whom the physician is eventually tried states categorically that “the most important precondition is always that the patient wants it.” The film’s real message is more or less subliminal — a reference, in the midst of ostensibly thoughtful discussion, that an exception to that voluntary principle should be made for the mentally ill, where “the state must take over the responsibility.”11

But “I Accuse” is of respectable artistic quality; and after viewing portions of it, I could understand why doctors I interviewed still felt its impact and remembered the extensive discussion it stimulated among their colleagues and fellow students about the morality of a doctor’s aiding incurable patients to achieve the death they long for.

These doctors’ response was confirmed by a research report prepared by the SS Security Service (the Sicherheitsdienst, or SD), which stated that the film had “aroused great interest” throughout the Reich and had been “favorably received and discussed,” and that the majority of the German population accepted its argument in principle, with some reservations concerning possible abuse and questions of consent. These reservations could generally be overcome by the “convening of a medical committee in the presence of the family doctor” for declaring a patient incurable: that is, by keeping the procedure medicalized. Doctors polled also had “a mostly positive response.” Doubts were raised, especially by older physicians, concerning accuracy of diagnoses and other medical arrangements; but the investigators had the impression that the medical profession was ready to take on or at least go along with such a project.l2* The project that doctors and others saw themselves approving, however, was essentially voluntary dying with careful medical supervision and built-in arrangements to prevent any possible abuse. It is unlikely that many respondents
* These SD “reports from the Reich” were, according to Heinz Hohne, based on “a sort of secret Gallup poll,” and were thought to be rather accurate, although often impressionistic in content.   
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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