Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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 “Euthanasia”: Direct Medical Killing  
and nursing institution is not the right place for such measures." And there is a report of a nurse who refused to take part in killings of children because she felt herself becoming "hysterical" from the "mental strain." 32 In general, there was probably considerably less medical resistance to the killing of children than to the killing of adults.
“Not Murder [but] a Putting-to-Sleep”

Precisely that impression was vividly conveyed to me by a doctor I interviewed who had been immediately involved in the killing project: “According to the thinking of that time, in the case of children killing seemed somehow justifiable … whereas in the case of the adult mentally ill, that was definitely pure murder.” Hans F. went on to tell how severely impaired the children were when they arrived (“My God ... such high-grade imbeciles!”), that they had been insufficiently fed and were “in terrible condition,” and how events were arranged so that the killing was not quite killing. The head of the institution told one of the two or three nurses colluding in the program to give the designated children luminal in their food — an order that, if not examined closely, could seem routine for impaired restless children: 
Those who were cleared for killing had prescribed for them much higher doses of luminal .. . . Those were children who were spastic, . . . had cerebral polio, . . . were idiots, . . . were unable to speak or to walk. And as one says today, all right, give them a sedative because they have been screaming. And with these sedatives ... the child sleeps. If one does not know what is going on, he [the child] is sleeping! One really has to be let in on it to know that ... he really is being killed and not sedated.
While Dr. F. admitted that one might wonder about a child, “Why is he sleeping so much?,” he insisted (quite erroneously) that one could ignore that inner question — because “the death rate [of those killed] wasn’ t much above the regular death rate with such children.” He stressed the absence of either a direct command (“If I get the order to kill ... I don't know but I [think I] would refuse ... but certainly there was no such order . . . for us”) or, of homicide (“I mean if you had directed a nurse to go from bed to bed shooting these children . . . that would not have worked”). As a result, “there was no killing, strictly speaking .... People felt this is not murder, it is a putting-to-sleep.”

Of course Dr. F. sought by this kind of emphasis to justify and exonerate himself. Indeed, the exact extent of his culpability is not clear. He had been imprisoned for some years while awaiting trial, had been convicted partly on testimony, that he had ordered that a child be given a fatal dose, but his case had been appealed and eventually dismissed, apparently for political reasons, at a time of considerable laxity in trying former Nazis.
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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