Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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“Euthanasia”: Direct Medical Killing 
In other words, he and other doctors could follow a pattern that recurs throughout this study: the immersion of themselves in “medical science” as a means of avoiding awareness of, and guilt over, their participation in a murderous project.

Moreover, some years after the war Hans F. returned to the same institutional complex and began to make more systematic studies of this “pathological material.” As he explained to me, all brains of autopsied children, whether they were killed in the “euthanasia” project or not, were kept at the institute, and “among them were some of scientific interest.” He compared his decision to study those brains to that of any contemporary medical scientist: “So just like today, when a patient dies, where I say, ‘Yes, this is an interesting illness,’ .. . . I should like to know what was going on there and then I have the brain kept and I receive it for examination. Just like it was back then, right.”

When I asked him whether, when doing these later dissections, he had any thoughts about what had happened to children during that earlier time, his answer was equivocal. He admitted “some. . . thoughts ... about individual cases one remembered — that was this or that child.” While he denied that one could tell whether the brain came from a child who had been killed, he did acknowledge that “one could assume that with severe cases that were, let's say, diagnostically and prognostically in the range of the [‘euthanasia’] program, that some of these cases of course did suffer a forcible death.”

Dr. F.’s political and biomedical ideology, together with his relationship to specific political and medical authority, contributed crucially to his psychological responses and, ultimately, to his participation in the killing program. Contributing also to his behavior was the prevailing stance of German — and not only German — psychiatry of that time toward mental patients in general and radically impaired children in particular, a stance of great distance and a limited perception of these patients as human beings. More than distance, former child patients later described a cruel, even sadistic institutional environment, including corporal punishment for misbehavior and electric shocks for bed wetting, all of which was undoubtedly intensified by the institution’s killing function. Dr. F. was especially susceptible to this ultimate medical corruption because of the intensity of his relationship to the regime, but other doctors less involved with Nazi ideology did similar things within a structure that maximized whatever psychological potential one possessed for joining in the reversal of healing and killing.
“The Most Simple Method”: Hermann Pfannmüller

Finally, there were the extremes in the killing of children. The following is a description by a nonmedical visitor, in the fall of 1939, to an important Reich Committee institution at Eglfing-Haar, where the direc- […tor]  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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