Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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agrees to euthanasia and its implementation. It is a ‘can’ and not a ‘must’ order."30 They even claimed that, in some situations, there were no expert opinions at all and the decision about whether to kill a child was left to the discretion of the institutional doctor. To be sure, this kind of later legal testimony was put forward by the program’s organizers in order to deny or minimize their own responsibility. But that evasion of responsibility from the top can be said to have been built into the project: the institutional doctor’s role as triggerman was a way of investing the actual killing with a “medical responsibility” that was at least partially his. And the contradictory legal status of the “euthanasia” program — a defacto law that was not a law — added to the confusion and contradiction surrounding the question of anyone’s responsibility.

Inevitably, there was great slippage in whatever discipline originally prevailed — broadening the killing net and fulfilling the regime’s ultimate purposes. As the age limit of children included moved upward, it came to include a large number of older children and adolescents and even at times overlapped with the adult killing project. Conditions considered a basis for killing also expanded and came to include mongolism (not listed at the beginning) as well as various borderline or limited impairments in children of different ages, culminating in the killing of those designated as juvenile delinquents. Jewish children could be placed in the net primarily because they were Jewish; and at one of the institutions, a special department was set up for “minor Jewish-Aryan half-breeds” (Mischlinge).

After 1941, the year Hitler officially ordered the general “euthanasia” project terminated, the killing of children continued, indeed probably increased, and was conducted still more haphazardly. It is estimated that five thousand children were killed — but the total was probably much higher if we include the “wild euthanasia” period (see chapter 4).31

The resistance to children’s euthanasia came mostly from families of children killed or threatened with death, later from Catholic and Protestant clergy, and to a lesser extent from within certain medical circles, all of which I will discuss in chapter 3. But certain forms of resistance from within the children’s project are worth mentioning here, if only because they were so limited. There were many attempts — it is hard to say how many — on the part of doctors either to avoid diagnoses on children that they knew would lead directly to death, or to arrange to release children from institutions before they were swallowed up by the killing, machinery. A Dr. Möckel at Wiesloch is reported to have refused an appointment as chief of a children’s section because he claimed to be “too weak” for the implementation of the Reich Committee’s program. And there were other reports of high-ranking doctors in certain areas responsible for appointments to these institutions holding back on those appointments because of the claim that candidates were too young and inexperienced. One doctor who had been extremely active as an expert consultant in the adult program refused to kill nine of the twelve children sent to the children's unit he became chief of because, as he put it, “a therapeutic  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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