Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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Resistance to Direct Medical Killing 
received Nazi Germany's highest military decoration from Hitler himself. In a letter to superior officers, Mölders expressed his chagrin over the "euthanasia' program and threatened to return his decoration.

Perhaps we could not have expected from the medical or the psychiatric profession as impassioned an ethical condemnation as Bishop Galen’s. But we could have hoped for a statement as comprehensive and morally clear as Pastor Braune’s or a commitment to patients as dedicated and tenacious as Pastor Bodelschwingh’s. Dr. Ewald's actions and memorandum come closest. But he was constrained — other physicians more so — by Nazi affiliations, by the German tradition of psychiatric and medical subservience to governmental authority, and, more broadly, by ethical gaps in twentieth-century medical professionalism. I say this not to render the churches as a whole heroic: most Protestant and Catholic leaders either went along with the Nazis or did nothing. Rather my point is that the Nazi attempt at medical mystification of killing was given the lie not primarily by psychiatrists or other physicians, many, of whom were directly involved in carrying out the program, but by a few church leaders, who gave voice to the grief and rage of victimized families with ethical passions stemming from their own religious traditions.

Nazi leaders faced the prospect of either having to imprison prominent, highly admired clergymen and other protesters — a course with consequences in terms of adverse public reaction they greatly feared — or else end the program. The latter was essentially the recommendation of Himmler, who noted that the secret was no longer a secret, though added, “If operation T4 had been entrusted to the SS, things would have happened differently,” because “when the Führer entrusts us with a job, we know how to deal with it correctly, without causing useless uproar among the people.”51 Hitler apparently gave Brandt a verbal order on or about 24 August 1941 to end or at least to “stall” operation T4.52* But the killing of mental patients did not end: mass murder was just beginning.
* Dr. Friedrich Mennecke (see pages 139-42) told postwar German court an anecdote that he thought explained the end of the program on which he had served as expert. One day, Hitler was traveling between Munich and Berlin on a special train when it suddenly stopped at a station. Looking out the window to see what the problem was, he saw a crowd watching the loading of a group of retarded patients into a train. Seeing Hitler at the window, the crowd became threatening.53 Whether true or apocryphal, the story says something about perceptions of degree of opposition.

Although the “halt” was accompanied by a “whispering campaign” to the effect that Hitler had on his own initiative stopped a program about which he had previously known nothing,54 many of the protests I have discussed came after 24 August and in reference to a program that the protesters clearly thought had not stopped. The halt was not only partial but apparently allowed for the possibility of resumption.  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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