Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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“Euthanasia”: Direct Medical Killing 
In late 1938 or early 1939, Hitler ordered Karl Brandt, his personal physician and close confidant, to go to the clinic at the University of Leipzig, where the child was hospitalized, in order to determine whether the information submitted was accurate and to consult with physicians there: “If the facts given by the father were correct, I was to inform the physicians in [Hitler’s] name that they could carry out euthanasia.” Brandt was also empowered to tell those physicians that any legal proceedings against them would be quashed by order of Hitler.16

Brandt reported that the doctors were of the opinion “that there was no justification for keeping [such a child] alive”; and he added (in his testimony at the Nuremberg Medical Trial) that  “it was pointed out [presumably by the doctors he spoke to] that in maternity wards in some circumstances it is quite natural for the doctors themselves to perform euthanasia in such a case without anything further being said about it.” The doctor with whom he mainly consulted was Professor Werner Catel, head of the Leipzig pediatrics clinic and a man who was soon to assume a leading role in the project. All was to be understood as a responsible medical process, so that — as Brandt claimed was Hitler’s concern — “the parents should not have the impression that they themselves were responsible for the death of this child.”17 (See pages 115- 16 for the child’s father’s recollection of Brandt.) On returning to, Berlin, Brandt was authorized by Hitler, who did not want to be publicly identified with the project, to proceed in the same way in similar cases: that is, to formalize a program with the help of the high-ranking Reich leader Philip Bouhler, chief of Hitler’s Chancellery. This “test case” was pivotal for the two killing programs — of children and of adults.

The two programs were conducted separately, though they overlapped considerably in personnel and in other ways. 
The Killing of Children 
It seemed easier — perhaps more “natural” and at least less “unnatural” — to begin with the very young: first, newborns; then, children up to three and four; then, older ones. Similarly, the authorization — at first, oral and secret and to be “kept in a very narrow scope, and cover only the most serious cases” — was later to become loose, extensive, and increasingly known. A small group of doctors and Chancellery officials held discussions in which they laid out some of the ground rules for the project. Then a group of medical consultants known to have a “positive” attitude to the project was assembled, including administrators, pediatricians, and psychiatrists.18

The sequence was typical: the order to implement the biomedical vision came from the political leadership (in this case Hitler himself); the order was conveyed to a leading doctor within the regime, who combined  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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