Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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where special treatment would be performed . . . . But the patients came and were sent to the gas chamber right away.”

Conflict developed in connection with the patients to be killed. While he described many of them as having been in a “hopeless condition” and as “living in a different world,” he also acknowledged that “sometimes one could establish some kind of contact”; and he conceded, hesitantly, that at moments “it might have happened” that he felt sympathy for them as well. That sympathy, and the resulting guilt, was reflected in dreams and images then and now in which “I still see before me ... one group of people... [and] I thought I should have saved them, that I should have helped them.” He confused such dreams with actual memories of “a group of people who had come from far away, and I don't know who judged them.” Having told me that, he paused and added, with quiet agitation, “This is getting dangerous,” because “saying that, from the standpoint of lawyers, means that I have guilt feelings” — that he could be accused of having been aware at the time of wrongly killing people, rather than having acted out of genuine medical conviction: “What I just said could mean the death penalty to me legally.”

Further contributing to his uneasiness and guilt were his doubts “about the way it was carried out”:  
Well .... there were so many, so many to take care of at once, not just the number, . . . but it was not one at a time .... I had imagined it would be done as an individual procedure, . . . one by one. Well, . . . it was done as a mass affair . . . I think in human terms it is different whether you take care of someone who has to go this way as an individual . . . — or whether you do it in groups with so many.
The killing method, that is, did not permit him to sustain the illusion that he was doing medical work: “I was the one who had to do it!” and “Who would like such a job?”

Concerning his activities as a killing-center physician, Dr. D. told of looking over patients and their charts in order to decide upon a “fictive cause of death” and to “supervise” the entire process. When I asked him whether it was his task as a doctor to press the lever to release the gas, he became upset and angrily demanded, “What does this have to do with psychological matters?” — implying that I was behaving like a lawyer or a prosecutor and could even have some connection with his trial. When he calmed down, he answered, equivocally, that doctors had to “determine whether the gas had had its effect” so that "the technical personnel could stop the gas.” While he neither denied nor confirmed that he himself was the one who had released the gas, he left me with the impression that he was — a conclusion I drew not only from his response at the time but from the known activities of doctors at killing centers.

Dr. D. adapted to his work by means of two psychological maneuvers
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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