Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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“Something that still weighs on my mind [is that the ‘euthanasia’ project] was experience in preparation for the mass killing later on [because he knew that] during this process, Desinfektoren, were shown [how to kill] and these people later on worked in concentration camps in the East.”

He also raised to himself a disturbing question — “the. problem I cannot solve.” That question was, “How would I have reacted . . . if I had psychiatric training and had done psychiatric work at the Wehrmacht — and were then sent to this place, ... if I had been the right man on the right spot?" He strongly implied that he might well have stayed, because “at that time Hitler was still for us the Führer Hitler couldn’t have made a mistake.”

Yet Wolfgang R. managed to leave, and we must ask why he was able to do at least that and Dr. D. was not. We cannot say with certainty, but the question Dr. R. asked himself suggests two probable factors: his greater sensitivity to guilt and his intense focus on technical issues. Concerning the latter, we shall see again and again that a plea of technical professional limitation was the best way for a doctor (or anyone else) to avoid taking part in a Nazi project. But Dr. R. appeared to mean it his uneasiness at being thrust into a killing situation would not have been sufficient inner justification for refusing an important assignment coming from the Führer, but his sense of actual technical (psychiatric) limitation could both add to that uneasiness and serve as that justification. There was an additional factor, an ironic one, that might have been the most important of all: Dr. D’s intense idealization of the regime — his extraordinary attachment to both the Nazis and the German military. This idealization could turn to profound disillusion when confronted with the Nazi killing project and especially when asked as an unprepared doctor, to participate in it. 
The Rank and File 
In respect to the T4 programs several ordinary psychiatrists I interviewed described various combinations of knowledge and confusion, and of cooperation along with gestures of resistance.

Dr. Günther E., who had worked in a few of the state hospitals where most German psychiatrists were then employed, represented one kind of response from the psychiatric rank and file. I encountered him as an old man living in rural retirement at first friendly and responsive but increasingly uncomfortable over the course of the interview as the atmosphere of the Nazi era emerged.

Never an ardent Nazi but friendly toward the regime at the time, he had considered the sterilization program “a useful thing” because he agreed with the regime’s contention that the state should be associated with  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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