| people, especially those he cared about, wondering
what those people would think if they knew what I have been doing.
When eventually brought to trial, he felt the experience, painful as it was, to
be a kind of relief because the matter was confronted: I had
nothing to hide any more. I could face everyone. He hoped that I
could really leave it behind me then; but the trial dragged on, despite
his original acquittal, because the state appealed that acquittal.
addition to his regular medical practice, Dr. D. developed an interest in
contemporary psychiatry, contrasting its tremendous possibilities
for helping people with its dead end in the past, when
everybody shared the common conviction that these lives [of mental
patients] were already ended that these people were in Hoches
words, empty shells. He stressed that it is the
responsibility of todays psychiatric leaders to point out the human
being in the patient, so that one feels obligated to help him and does not
regard him as something one can shove away [abschieben].
Emphasizing how in the past the professor for me was the highest,
he declared bitterly that it never would have occurred to me that a
professor, in no matter what field, would expect a student or a young colleague
to do something that would step over the boundaries of human ethics.
Concerning euthanasia, or any program resembling that
conducted by the Nazis during the war, he was unequivocal: I would not
agree to such a program today .... Who would do the work that had been expected
of me? ... Who would want to take the responsibility for the decisions?
Horst D.s experience epitomizes the tendency of Nazi doctors to
experience conflicts about killing but to find ways to subdue those conflicts
in adaptation to a murderous environment. His subsequent attitude, despite an
occasional glimmer of self-examination, fell far short of genuine moral
|A Psychiatrist Who Left: Wolfgang R.
|Another doctor who had worked at a killing center, Wolfgang
R., experienced psychological circumstances closely resembling those of Dr. D.
but with a significantly different outcome: R. managed to stop doing the work
after about one month.
Tall and thin and ingratiating in manner, R.,
during our interview, was talkative but aware that, despite being generally
outgoing, whenever I talk about the subject ... the words don't come
easily. His early enthusiasm for the Nazis and especially for the
military even, as he described it, exceeded Dr. D.s. Indeed, R.
thought himself predestined for the military because of the
strong military tradition of his area, and was among the first group of
students to join the new Wehrmacht (the armed forces of which Hitler was
supreme commander): I valued the Wehrmacht in a very special way.
He used words like idealistic and free to describe what
he and other young people felt