| healthy inheritance. His only reservation was that
the program had become too politicized.
He seemed similarly sympathetic
to euthanasia, which he stressed was a medical term,
but became critical of it when it seemed more a political action.
He told how confused he and his colleagues were as patients were taken
from us . . . I didn't know where to until he learned from
relatives that those patients died soon in specific institutions.
Upon learning the truth, I was shocked .... frightened to think it
happened in an orderly state. He and his colleagues sought to find ways
of saving people (by not diagnosing schizophrenia, by transferring them to
private institutions less vulnerable to the killing project, or by sending them
home) but mostly cooperated in ways they thought they had to. Psychiatrists
varied between being oppositional or indifferent. The
latter seemed in the majority and accepted [the project]. And since it
was a state policy they did not wish to oppose it. Much depended upon the
stance, of hospital directors and of local medical-administrative authorities,
some of whom were radical Nazis and pressed for maximum compliance
while others sought to minimize the number of patients taken.
went on to explain that he and other psychiatrists came to distinguish between
dishonest opinions from those experts who acted out of sheer
political motivation, on the one hand; and, on the other,
honest judgments from those experts, much fewer in number, who
based their opinions on genuine medical considerations. As he talked, it became
clear to me that a focus on this distinction had enabled him and his colleagues
to avoid moral truths concerning the euthanasia project: to avoid
recognizing that what they viewed as honest medical opinions about
schizophrenic or mentally deficient patients became the basis for mass murder
of these patients. Yet his visible pain as he discussed these matters suggested
that he could not avoid that recognition, and probably had not even then.
After we had been talking for a little less than. two hours, he made it
clear be did not want to say more: I am nearly eighty years old, and . .
. I dont want to have anything more to do with that era .... I dont
want to think about it any more.
His story is that of the
middle-aged psychiatric functionary in a state system as a dependent,
essentially obedient civil servant. While the medical killing project was too
radical for such a person, he could not risk or even imagine genuine
resistance, and his compromise was to combine compliance with an effort to
cling to professional psychiatric standards. The result was bitterness over his
own moral corruption and disillusionment toward a regime he had served. Dr.
Es personal experience epitomizes the dilemma that haunts all of German
psychiatry: a murderous episode in the recent past whose memory can be neither
confronted and absorbed nor wished away.