Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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“escort physician and close confidant.” Probably similar personal reasons determined his selection of Philip Bouhler, chief of Hitler’s Chancellery and considered absolutely loyal to him, to run the program with Brandt. An additional reason for this arrangement was said to be the fear that radical district leaders (Gauleiter) might otherwise, “ruthlessly and without medical consultation,” take over much of the control of the project — as they indeed eventually did.39 For Hitler, this was a conscious choice of “party discipline” over a state apparatus that still made some demands for legal procedure and fiscal accountability; it was also a choice of procedure most protective of secrecy. Above all, these arrangements suggest how far the impulse toward killing mental patients had already taken hold among Nazi leaders, and their determination to keep the project in medical channels.

Not only Brandt and Bouhler, but also Dr. Herbert Linden of the health ministry and Dr. Grawitz, chief physician of the SS, were active in choosing doctors for leadership roles. Their criteria included the closeness of these doctors to the regime, high recognition in the profession, and known sympathy for “euthanasia” or at least a radical approach to eugenics, probably in about that order. Included were several doctors who had been associated with the children’s program (Unger, Heinze, and Pfannmüller), but also a group of psychiatrists of some prominence in academic circles, notably Professor Werner Heyde of Würzburg, Professor Carl Schneider of Heidelberg, Professor Max de Crinis of Berlin and Professor Paul Nitsche from the Sonnenstein state institution. Others, like Friedrich Mennecke, were primarily Nazified psychiatrists. Heyde became Brandt's representative and directed the program, with Nitsche his assistant and eventual replacement. 40

At these early meetings, Brandt was introduced as the medical leader of the project, and Hitler’s decree was read and sometimes displayed (“I believe I saw Adolf Hitler’s signature on it,” Mennecke later testified). It was carefully explained that there was no official law, because Hitler thought such a law could only feed enemy propaganda; that the authorization to Bouhler and Brandt in the Hitler decree was the equivalent of a law; and that doctors participating would be immune from legal consequences.* One participant later insisted that the emphasis was on killing
* Because of various forms of resistance, along with pressure from legal authorities, a law to legitimate the program was seriously considered, and at least two elaborate drafts were written. Those drafts, combined with the original Hitler decree, contributed to a legal “as if” situation — the assumption that such a law had actually been implemented. It was an assumption easily made because of the authority of the original decree. Hitler was thought to fear that an official “euthanasia” law would give a propaganda advantage to Germany’s enemies, and also that it would increase German (especially Catholic) resistance, as well as psychiatric patients’ resistance to entering hospitals (as several “euthanasia” leaders pointed out). From this experience, it is thought that the Nazis learned that, as a later authority explained, “illegal mass killing could not be carried through in the Altreich ["Old Reich," or Germany proper], where the net of normal working justice and administrative machinery was much too tight, but rather had to be transferred to the occupied areas [Osigebiete] where the executive apparatus of the SS could work with less encumbrance and less trouble.”41   
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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