Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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of the Führer,” having “absolutely no idea what it meant, what it was all about.” Upon reporting there, this very young and inexperienced doctor had an impressive encounter:  
Two professors of psychiatry met me. One was Heyde and the other was Nitsche. Both were wearing civilian clothes . . . and they talked about euthanasia. They talked about this problem, from the viewpoint of the work of Hoche and Binding [see pages 46-48] .... It was a very intensive conference and presentation of the necessity . . . of all this, and they convinced me.
Dr. D. was so impressed by Heyde and Nitsche’s tone of quiet “persuasion,” and by the “completely ... extraordinary” situation of sitting down together with men of that professional standing, that he could turn over to them the responsibility for what he himself was being asked to do: “Whenever someone [of that standing] takes up that sort of thing, that means he’s taking on a good deal of responsibility. I thought he [Heyde] would be well aware of what he was doing and of the responsibility involved.”

The briefing included a discussion of the concepts of Hoche and Binding (brought up by the two professors) which, though not specifically familiar to Dr. D., were not inconsistent with the stress on organic and hereditary influences he had been exposed to during his psychiatric work as a medical student. Generally speaking, the encounter evoked his long-standing impulse toward obedience — an impulse inculcated during his rural childhood, especially by his civil-servant father. And when Dr. D inquired of Heyde and Nitsche whether he could discuss the matter with an older respected friend, he was told quite sharply that “the entire matter was top secret.”

He gained the impression that the project offered him better medical opportunities than the military situation he was then in:  
I found myself in a horrible dilemma. On the one hand there was the military idleness - with the likelihood that all of a sudden I would find myself in a medical situation I could not handle at all. That was horrible. . . . On the other hand, I did not think it would be just a killing institution. I thought I would have an opportunity to go on with my medical training - with patients - and that only certain patients would be selected, and then not just killed but given a mercy death. . . . Anyway, what was decisive then was the wish to work medically and not just as a soldier.
Or at least he could, partly and temporarily, convince himself of that — until he arrived at the actual killing center: "It was a great disappointment to see that there were no patients .... I imagined an institution with mental patients, and then some single, rooms — well, what shall I say —  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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