Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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Resistance to Direct Medical Killing 
potential capacity for improvement, work, and eventual contribution to society. There could be unspoken cooperation among colleagues in these maneuvers, sometimes with the help of medical, psychiatric, and non-medical administrators who were not fully enthusiastic about the program. Psychiatrists engaging in these attempts at evasion varied in their attitudes from ambivalence toward the program to strong condemnation, and their evasions tended to be accompanied by what they considered necessary cooperation with the project.

Nurses and ward workers could also contribute to evasive maneuvers, either by warning patients to leave the hospital before it was too late, or even on occasion helping them to hide. A former patient in a church-run institution told of how fearful she and other patients were upon hearing that cars were coming to take them to their deaths:  
We went through the forest, ran around,,., because we did not know where to go .... When the sisters [nurses], came to fetch them, many [patients] started to run again . . . . We hid in barns a few times .... One was safe nowhere .... As soon as a car came, the head nurse called: “Get up, march, hide yourself. If someone comes, don't stand still.”²  
These nurses and hospital workers could, like the doctors, express such resistance at one moment and carry out their part in the killing at another.

Expressions of discomfort could come from psychiatrists who wanted things to be more forthright and more legal. “If the government actually wishes to carry out the extermination of these patients ... should not a clearly formulated law be proclaimed — ... as in the case of the [Sterilization] Law,” was the way the head of a mental hospital expressed his view to the Ministry of Justice.³

Crucial to whatever psychiatric resistance existed was the influence of a few leading psychiatric humanists of the older generation, such as Karl Bonhoeffer. These men became known as opponents of medical killing and, in varying degree, of the Nazi regime in general. In 1939, the politically suspect Bonhoeffer was replaced in the prestigious psychiatric position of the chair of Berlin University and Charité Hospital by Max de Crinis, Party and SS member. Bonhoeffer then became more active in helping his two sons and his son-in-law, all of whom were eventually killed by the regime for their opposition to it. He involved himself specifically in the struggle against medical killing by helping his son Dietrich, later a celebrated Protestant martyr, in the latter’s contacts with church groups seeking authoritative psychiatric grounds for refusing to turn over their patients to the project.4

The unusual degree of respect accorded Bonhoeffer in the profession, together with his well-known opposition to medical killing, provided at
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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