Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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“Wild Euthanasia ”: The Doctors Take Over 
related preparation) was usually given at night; those patients not dead the next morning. were given lethal morphine-scopolamine injections. Over time, the method became routine, with greater reliance on injections and greater self-reliance on the part of nurses who increasingly came to decide upon necessary dosages of barbiturates or injected morphine-scopolamine for patients whose names were placed on the special “list.”18*

As he involved himself in the process, Dr. Wahlmann discouraged one chief nurse from questioning it. And with the arrival, in 1944, of Polish and Russian workers mostly diagnosed categorically as “tubercular,” the killing procedure became automatic. The only examination performed on them by Wahlmann or any other doctor was done, after they had received their lethal drugs, for the purpose of confirming their death. At his trial, Wahlmann justified that situation by explaining that the Russians and the Poles had been “sent to us by specialists who stated they were incurably diseased and were to receive the euthanasia on the same day”; and said that he was “not a [T.B.] specialist.”20 To gain the patients’ cooperation for the injection, according to a former male nurse, “We told them that it was for treatment of their lung disease.”21† The records of these laborers were then brought to Wahlmann’s morning conferences, where his task was to decide upon a false but plausible cause of death in order “to write in the end to those case histories,” as he later put it.23

In his legal testimony, he stressed medical principles concerning such things as the criteria used to determine the killing dosage of injections: “That is very different [for different people]. If I have a very strong person, then I have to use more. If I have a person who is used to morphine, then I have to use very much. If I have a very weak person, then I need very little.” He could not remember the exact origin of the injections — whether “I ordered [initiated] it at that time or whether it was generally done then”; but he did stress that “injection is a completely painless method, and the term euthanasia comes from the Greek eu, which means beautiful.”24 Killing with drugs, then, was the most “medical” form of all. There could be “conferences” where doctors discussed “therapy,” the ordering of “medication,” and further “clinical” decisions depending upon the effect of that medication. With the onset of “wild euthanasia,” the doctor could share his syringe with a nurse, but he took on greater authority than
* Several nurses and nonprofessional employees, who sometimes also gave out the tablets, experienced anxiety about what they were doing, but most seemed to remain at their jobs and to consider themselves to be following orders. One employee experienced what was described as a “nervous breakdown” and was given six weeks’ leave but then reassigned to the undressing room (which had so disturbed her in the first place) with the explanation that this was to “harden” her; she remained there a while and then succeeded in resigning by claiming to be pregnant.19

†At one of the trials, the chief female nurse, when asked whether she considered the Russians and Poles to have been murdered, answered, “Murder? How do you want me to understand murder? They died from injections.” But pressed further whether in her opinion that was murder, she answered, “Yes.”22   
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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