Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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Psychiatrists in Religious Institutions

Resistive psychiatrists and church leaders probably influenced each other more than has been generally recognized, but still in sporadic and limited fashion. Psychiatrists working within church institutions, however, could at times become part of more sustained and shared forms of resistance. At Schussenried, a Protestant psychiatric institution, the chief physician, a Dr. Götz, had a “violent quarrel” with the expert on the “euthanasia” physicians’ commission because he “consistently evaluated [the work capacity] of the patients much too low.” Dr. Götz remembered a previous situation “in which patients had been sent to their deaths”; now he felt that the visitor “put responsibility on [him for selecting patients for death], which was impossible for him to bear.” He had been ordered to cooperate in the matter by the Württemberg minister of the interior, and was therefore aware that “he had not followed an order from the office of his superior and ... that some day he would have to account for this.”23 That sense of potential guilt for patients’ deaths could be a powerful fulcrum for resistance, especially in men with a strong Christian conscience.

Dr. Rudolph Boeckh, chief psychiatrist at the Evangelical Lutheran institution at Neuendettelsau (the site of the invasion of medical students and typists [see page 67]) was blunt in declaring “the commission’s method of operation prejudiced and contrary to all medical practice.” He added, “Since the final purpose of these reports on patients is known to the public, a heavy responsibility is imposed on me as the chief doctor, ... even if several commissions are brought in prior to the final decision.”24

In both cases, we see a tendency to protest the criteria and methods of operation rather than the overall project itself (a much more difficult, and probably more dangerous undertaking): thus, Dr. Boeckh, for example, demanded the questionnaires be returned so that he could fill them out adequately.25 That kind of compromise — pressing to save as many patients as possible while surrendering those one felt unable to save — was frequent.

Perhaps the most notable psychiatric resistance from within a church setting came from Dr. Karsten Jasperson, chief physician at the psychiatric institution at Bethel (separate from the associated institution for epileptics). As a Nazi Party member since 1931, Jasperson could go so far as to institute criminal proceedings against police groups associated with murder arrangements; refuse to fill out questionnaires, claiming that to, do so was “aiding and abetting murder” according to existing criminal law; try to win support for that position from senior academic physicians, including his own Professor Rüdin (with whom he had little success) and Professor August Bostroem of Leipzig (who was responsive and apparently went on to make contact with Ewald). Jasperson’s resistance could  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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