Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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people if there were a proper law). She admitted that until then she had had “steadfast confidence in our Führer,” but now she could feel “the ground ... give way beneath our feet,” though “people are still clinging to the hope that the Führer does not yet know of these things.” The judge forwarded the letter to Himmler, who informed him “confidentially” that there was such a program, “on the authority of the Führer,” being carried out by “medical experts ... conscious of their responsibilities” ; and that, if the project had become well known, “the manner of operating [was] at fault.”29

Indeed, angry crowd reactions came close at times to public demonstrations against the killing of mental patients. One report to the SS Security Service from Absberg on 1 March 1941 states that “the removal of residents from the Ottilien Home has caused a great deal of unpleasantness,” tells of a priest offering communion to patients forced into a bus before large crowds of Catholic townspeople, complains of the visibility of the whole operation, describes how deeply troubled people were, and adds that “among those upset and crying are Party members. ”30 This was one of the few issues on which sentiment against a regime policy was so openly and bitterly, expressed. 
Resistance from the Churches 
Much of Protestant religious resistance centered on mental institutions; two leaders were pastors who served as nonmedical administrators of such institutions. These were Paul-Gerhard Braune, director of the Hoffnungstal Institution in Berlin and vice president of the central board of the Home Mission; and the Reverend Fritz von Bodelschwingh, director of the legendary Bethel Institution, mainly for epileptics, at Bielefeld. Both were active leaders of the Confessional Church, as opposed to “German Christians" who had allied themselves to the National Socialist regime. Both pastors also belonged to the group within the Confessional Church who believed that "where an institution was threatened by the killing, one should fight for the lives of the patients [against], those who were to take them away to have them killed” — rather than speaking out from the pulpit about the evil of the “euthanasia” project and its violation of God’s commandments. The latter course, they feared, might harm the cause of actual patients.31

Bodelschwingh’s institution at Bethel, initiated by his father, was renowned for creating a dedicated and harmonious Christian community. In that atmosphere Bodelschwingh could command the loyalty of his psychiatric physicians — including Jasperson — to join him in resistance to questionnaires, in expressing objections to Nazi officials, and in various maneuvers to keep patients from being drawn into the killing machin- […ery]  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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