Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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Resistance to Direct Medical Killing 
be expressed, as he put it, “precisely as a National Socialist doctor [for whom] these measures go directly and decisively against every conception of a physician’s profession.” He expressed these views to Martin Bormann, with whom he had a long-standing tie, and spoke of his concern that the absence of legal basis for the killings would impair “the ethical concepts of our Volk.” Bormann defended the program by contrasting the Christian view of wishing to keep alive “even those creatures least worthy of life” with the National Socialist position that keeping such people alive was “completely against nature.”26 
The People’s Resistance. 
What eventually persuaded Nazi leaders to cancel the project officially was not psychiatric resistance but rather general resistance among the German people, articulated and heightened by a few courageous Protestant and Catholic religious leaders. Family members of patients wrote letters to institution heads (as excerpted in the epigraph to this chapter) expressing confusion and pain but also at times accurate knowledge and anger: references to “strange talk” about the fate of patients, questions about their dying “so fast,” and resentment about relatives not being permitted a proper burial and not having a “chance to say goodbye.”27

The unrest could reach high places. A provincial probate judge wrote to Franz Gürtner, the minister of justice, stating that he (the judge) had received formal charges from the guardians of patients and the personnel of institutions from which patients had been taken to their deaths at Hartheim. He went on to say to his judicial colleague, “Man commits an act of ... extraordinary arrogance when he takes it upon himself to put an end to a human life because, with his limited understanding, he can no longer grasp the entire meaning of that life.” In the same letter he also declared, “Everyone knows as well as I do” that “the murder of the mentally ill is as well known a daily reality as, say, the concentration camps.”28

And Else von Löwis, a leader in the Nazi women’s organization and a woman of the highest social standing who mixed regularly with regime leaders, wrote to a friend, the wife of the presiding judge of the Party Chancellery Court and a close friend of Himmler, of her horror at the regime’s attempt to deceive the people in killing mental patients ("When the farmers of Württemberg see the cars g by, they too know what is going on — just as when they see the smoke pouring m the crematory chimneys day and night”); and at the policy of killing mental patients indiscriminately, including some only slightly ill or those sane for long periods of time, rather than only those “without the slightest glimmer of human consciousness” (which, she thought, would be accepted by the  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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