Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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Resistance to Direct Medical Killing 
Ewald felt so immediately preoccupied with formulating his objections that he could not recall what else Heyde said. When given an opportunity to speak, Ewald stated, “On principle I would not lend my hand to exterminate in this way patients entrusted to me.” He pointed out that schizophrenics, the largest patient group concerned, were not as “empty and hopeless” as claimed, and could well benefit from new forms of therapy just then being developed. After giving additional arguments and making clear his refusal to become an expert, he was joined by two other psychiatrists. But those two reversed themselves, Ewald testified, when Paul Nitsche, Heyde’s next in command and a man with considerable professional standing, spoke passionately of having personally lived through the tragedy of coping with a mentally ill brother-in-law and urged the group not to oppose the extermination of the mentally ill.* As Ewald said nothing more and clearly had not changed his position, Heyde “dismissed” him, in a firm but “very polite and collegial fashion,” even expressing “respect for my point of view.”8

Immediately after the meeting, Ewald made notes of what had happened at it, and these became the basis for a memorandum he sent to the dean of his faculty at the University of Göttingen, as well as to Heyde, Conti, a regional official in Hanover, and the psychotherapist Dr. Matthias Göring with a request that he pass it along to his cousin Hermann, the powerful air marshal.† Written essentially from a Nazi framework, the memorandum began by raising questions, not about the rights of patients, but about whether so “far-reaching” an action would be sufficiently beneficial to the Volk to justify it. Ewald conceded that, if a people were absolutely besieged, and “needed every grain (of food) for its healthy members, then ... those unfortunate sick members would be the first to give their life in favor of the healthy population.” But without that extremity, doctors should not “interfere with fate.”  
* One of those two doctors, Arthur Kuhn (of Reichenau), disputed this and testified that he met the other man, a Dr. Meusberger (of Klagenfurt), at the train station, having left early while the rest of the group stayed late to drink and celebrate; but their overall roles remain obscure. Neither Kuhn nor Meusberger appears on lists of experts in Nazi documents. (I am grateful to Ernst Klee for a personal communication [November 1985] on this matter.)

†Matthias Göring was a psychiatrist and Adlerian psychotherapist who, largely because of his family connections, was made director of what came to be known as the Göring Institute in Berlin. Although an ardent Nazi who kept in constant touch with his eminent cousin and did not hesitate to exploit his name, Matthias Göring was generally perceived as being relatively benign (he was known within the institute as “Papi”) and managed to maintain under one professional roof, with certain restrictions, Adlerian, Jungian, and Freudian psychotherapists and psychoanalysts, as well as those who were strongly pro-Nazi, anti-Nazi or somewhere in between. Because he and his institute enabled psychotherapy to survive as a profession in Nazi Germany, and because he offered some protection to individual psychotherapists, he has been somewhat romanticized. Although he never achieved his goal of a “new German psychotherapy,” he did press German psychotherapy into service to the regime and maintained active links with the military and the SS. The Göring Institute is a fascinating story on many levels, but I believe that Göring is best understood as a prototypical “decent Nazi” — a genre I shall have much more to say about later; and that he and his institute served the primary function of Gleichschaltung for German psychoanalysis, psychotherapy, and a small portion of psychiatry (the minority of the discipline concerned with a psychotherapeutic approach)
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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