Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
  Page 86  
Previous Page

Home Page
Home Page  
   Next Page
Prussian minister-president’s subordinates so that the man’s illness would not become known; Ewald had even gone to Berlin to report to Göring on the progress of the patient’s therapy. This connection was undoubtedly a factor in Ewald’s later decision to ask Matthias Göring to forward his critical memo on “euthanasia” to Hermann. Indeed, Ewald’s way of articulating these views and making them known to high medical officials indicates some trust in the regime and some expectation that it would take seriously his moral scruples. The tone of his covering letters to Heyde and Conti is that of a friendly colleague discussing a serious matter. To Heyde, Ewald said, “I was sorry that I had to disappoint you”; and to Conti, he declared himself “gladly at your disposal for a personal consultation at any time, should this appear convenient to you.” But, in these letters, he also spoke of his “medical conscience” and “inner need” to do what he did.18 And he was not without fear of reprisal. After his return to Göttingen from the meeting with Heyde in Berlin, Ewald said, according to his widow, “Please be sensible about things, but be prepared for the possibility that, any day from now on, I might be sent to a concentration camp.” Also, he did not consult with colleagues about Nazi medical killing because, his widow believed, it was forbidden to talk about the subject to others, and he in any case “thought it would be of no use.” She did, however, remember that later, sometime in 1944, he talked actively with psychiatric colleagues about joining in an effort to declare Hitler mad.*

Ewald's behavior became even more complex immediately after the German surrender. His wife told how he burned most of his psychiatric files because they "contained material against many people - they would lose their capacity to earn a living and could be sent to prison." Further questioning gave me the impression that the files contained correspondence exhibiting various degrees of support for Nazi positions, from pro forma expressions to strong enthusiasm, and could have been embarrassing not only to colleagues but to Ewald himself.

Ewald’s widow also reported that he had “hidden” a considerable number of psychiatrists in his hospital, people who had been implicated in the “euthanasia” program. He enabled them to work there with minimal visibility (it is not clear whether they changed their names or took other measures to avoid being found), and at one time had “fifty-one guest doctors.” She presented this as part of her husband’s humanitarian impulse, his conviction that “it would not help anybody if these men
* There is some confusion concerning this remembered event. In 1938, at the time of the Czechoslovakian crisis, a group of conspirators, including Hans von Dohnanyi, who was Karl Bonhoeffer’s son-in-law, considered capturing Hitler and trying him in a People’s Court for endangering Germany’s safety by courting war. Dohnanyi and another man had produced a report of Hitler’s various illnesses which they showed to Bonhoeffer in the hope that he, or a panel he headed, would certify Hitler insane. A later attempt to question Hitler’s sanity involved intrigue among high-level Nazis during the last year of the war. There is no written evidence of Ewald’s participation in either of these attempts, but he could have been involved in still another, unrecorded effort by psychiatrists to declare Hitler mentally ill.19  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

Robert J. Lifton
ISBN 0-465-09094
© 1986
Previous Page  Back Page 86 Forward  Next Page