Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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Medical Leaders 
The “Decent Nazi”: Karl Brandt 
Of the leaders of the “euthanasia” program, Karl Brandt (1904-48) must come first, as the Führer’s choice to initiate the program — that is, as the Führer’s conduit for it — and its ultimate medical authority, even if he came to have relatively little to do with its day-by-day operation. More than any other Nazi doctor, Brandt epitomizes the élite, highly educated, and dedicated healer joining actively in the medical killing.

Brandt came from a lower civil service family in Alsace, trained under surgeons Georg Magnus and Ferdinand Sauerbruch and was himself, in his twenties, already emerging as a gifted surgeon and authority on head and spinal injuries.4 He was also a fervent nationalist who embraced the Nazi movement as “the avenger, the party of hope,” as part of what a friend and fellow medical student called Brandt’s “fantastic dream” of Germany regaining the Alsace area he had been forced to leave in order to be a German national. Yet the same Karl Brandt had been strongly drawn to Albert Schweitzer, a fellow Alsatian, and was said to have been prevented from joining him in medical missionary work in Africa only by French requirements (Lambarene was in French-controlled Africa) of military service and citizenship. According to Brandt’s old friend, “Schweitzer and Hitler were the two most influential figures in Brandt’s life. They were his two models, his two mirrors.”5

Brandt joined the Nazi Party and the Nationalist Socialist German Physicians' League in 1932; was introduced to Hitler that same year by his fiancé, a German swimming champion; and by 1934, at the age of twenty-nine, had become Hitler’s personal “escort doctor.” Within the inner medical circle surrounding Hitler, Brandt was the scientific figure and reliable traditional physician — as opposed to Theodor Morell, the Führer's personal physician since 1939, who was considered (accurately) a quack and a charlatan (see page 132).6 While Morell retained his hold on Hitler, it was Brandt who developed what some called an “adopted son” relationship with Hitler similar to that of Albert Speer, Hitler’s personal architect and later minister for armament and war production. Both young men were tall and elegant, came from respectable families, and were well connected in German academic and professional circles — advantages that Hitler himself lacked but was drawn to and exploited.

Other Nazi doctors also held Brandt in unusually high regard both professionally and personally. They spoke of him as decent, straightforward, and reliable. One doctor who knew him quite well described him as “a highly ethical person, . . . one of the most idealistic physicians I have
* The origins of certain mythologies concerning Brandt’s alleged social and cultural distinction and family background are unclear. His father was in fact a policeman. I would like to thank Michael H. Kater for clarifying Brandt’s background.   
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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