Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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“Wild Euthanasia”: The Doctors Take Over 
health of the working asylum-inmates," it was no longer justified to feed everyone equally, “whether they contribute productive work or are in therapy or whether, on the other hand, they are merely being cared for. . . without accomplishing any useful work worth mentioning.” The henceforth privileged patients were to be those performing useful work or in therapy, children capable of education, war casualties and those with senile diseases. Directors were ordered to institute such a program "without delay.”9

It should be said that the number of patients included in this program was a fraction of the total hospital population. Their deaths would have made little difference to the state of nourishment of the German population, which, in any event, was much less affected than it had been by the First World War and its blockades. Yet in the Eglfing institution, for example, the Second World War mortality from starvation-related causes was twice that of the earlier war. Moreover, the exceptions, notably war veterans and the elderly, reflected those areas where popular disapproval was greatest.10

Pfannmüller and his colleagues had carte blanche on whom to choose for starvation. There were no forms or questionnaires. Indeed, this “pseudo-nourishment,” in the words of Gerhard Schmidt, who took over as director at Eglfing at war’s end, was a “method of killing ... that in the classic sense is no killing, no one-time action with a recognizable cause or conclusion.”11 Pfannmüller often chose patients who had been considered insufficiently ill to be sent to the gassing centers. The motto at Eglfing was: “We give them no fat, then they go on their own.”12 The diet basically duplicated the Kaufbeuren model, with the addition of a slice of bread a day. When this proved ineffective at times — and, indeed, the kitchen staff sometimes added fat or meat to the soups against orders rations were cut.13

When Dr. Schmidt took over the directorship at Eglfing-Haar at the end of the war, he encountered (as he told me) a total of ninety-four survivors on the two wards and a scene he would never forget: “Huge, dark halls ... silent. No noise. Nothing.... The people showed no sign of life. A few stood. They said nothing. Like half-corpses.”*

Doctors treating these surviving patients found that they experienced hallucinations of ghosts coming at night and eating their food; feelings of guilt over having done something bad for which they were now being punished; and dreams and fantasies of food of every kind in limitless amounts. The slow starvation method led many patients to believe they were getting the same wartime rations as everyone else, and few if any seemed to understand they had been singled out for starvation. On the basis of records, it was estimated that 444 Eglfing patients had died directly or indirectly from malnutrition, often from pneumonia, tuberculosis, or some other infection.14
* That image was the beginning of Schmidt’s study of Nazi medical killing, a study that can be said to serve as the personal survivor mission of an anti-Nazi physician.   
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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