Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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[plausi…] ble causes of death, he insisted that he was “excluded” from the actual killing process because of his early efforts to leave — though he was implicated in the deaths of many patients.

Despite — partly because of — his vehement insistence (“I never had the feeling of deserting — no, not at all”), I suspect that this ardent nationalist, who loved the military and believed in obedience, felt considerable guilt at leaving. In discussing those feelings, he stressed that he “used this period to try to learn as much as [he] could about psychiatry,” though he knew that “it may sound macabre.” Here Dr. R. resembles Dr. D. in seeking to minimize guilt by focusing upon medical-scientific experience, though the guilt in D.’s case has to do not only with the activity at the killing center but with his wish to “desert” his position there. In leaving, R. was in no way in bad repute with the regime. He was for a while given the task of tracing genealogies of prospective SS officers in order to determine whether their family trees had been poisoned by Jewishness or hereditary disease.*

But later, during the postwar years, he became increasingly resentful of Nazi medical leaders who had deceived him. He spoke of their manipulations as “perfidious” and of the whole process as “all a very tricky thought-out business.” And during this trial, when one of the program's psychiatric leaders, testified about marking “Yes” or “No” on questionnaires, R. felt himself become enraged and wanted to shout at the man, “You had people killed without even seeing them!” R., in fact, attributed a subsequent illness to those feelings: “I was so angry I had a heart attack.” In that anger, and in his description of the matter to me, he was expressing the deep resentment of the dependent person toward authorities who had failed and misused him, as well as a continuing effort to view them, and not himself, as responsible for what he did. For he still had inner questions about whether he could have left the program even earlier; and when asked what advice he would give to young doctors to prevent them from becoming vulnerable to that kind of project in the future, he immediately answered, “I would advise them to leave — not to stay in such programs!” Don't stay even for a minute, he seemed to be saying, lest you become part of the killing. And even more strongly: “Today I would rather let myself be shot than participate in such an action.”

His attitude had been influenced by the question constantly asked by his children: “Why didn’t you leave [sooner]?” His answer, sadly put to me and undoubtedly to them as well, was, “We simply didn’t ask questions at the time.” He stressed with approval the difference between his and his contemporaries’ unquestioning belief in Hitler and the new generation’s insistence on questioning everything. Finally, he expressed residual guilt in two additional ways. He said,
* In most cases, the policy was to transfer recalcitrant doctors from the program quickly (or, as in the case of Ewald, to cease to enlist them for it) and to find more cooperative replacements. If reluctance or refusal were expressed discreetly — that is, as a matter of individual inability rather than of disapproval or condemnation of the program — there was unlikely to be any punishment or loss of rank or standing.²  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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