Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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sitting in the dock,” and “that figure is Hitler.”14 Though Hitler turned on him viciously, Brandt never questioned their relationship or even his Führer’s humanity in initiating “euthanasia,” never broke away from the magnetic attraction Hitler held for him. Hence, Brandt could be sincere when he declared, in June 1948 before being hanged, “I have always fought in good conscience for my personal convictions and done so uprightly, frankly and openly.”15

Brandt is, more than any other doctor, the prototype of what I shall call the “decent Nazi.” Such a doctor was usually from an aristocratic or professional, often medical family whose general cultivation and pre-Nazi ethical concerns seemed strikingly at odds with the depth of his Nazi commitment. That commitment included a fierce involvement in the theme of collective revitalization; Brandt in particular embraced Hitler personally not only as a father, but as a prophet and savior. In these doctors, a romantic-visionary inclination could combine with an embrace, even worship, of scientific-medical rationality. Brandt’s religious-romantic involvement in the Nazi project contributed to his extensive numbing toward mass killing and to his extraordinary capacity to continue to see virtue in the total Nazi program. He could reinforce a sense of personal virtue by a measure of decency in immediate relationships and by opposition to the more “crude Nazis” around him. His powerful sense of himself as a physician, as a healer, was central to the process. The “decent Nazi” did much of the work of the regime and was indispensable to Nazi mass murder. 
The Medical “Old Fighter”: Werner Heyde 
Werner Heyde (1902-61) was of a very different stamp — the medical equivalent of the “old Nazi” or “old fighter,” who became an SS “hit man” before taking over the “euthanasia” project. Even for doctors close to the regime, as one of them told me, Heyde had a “bad reputation . . . a real Nazi who had no inhibitions.”

Neither his family background (he was the son of a textile manufacturer in Lausitz) nor his early academic showing (he was said to be “always first in his class”) give any special clue to what he was to become. Two years older than Brandt, he was able to enlist in the military at the age of sixteen, during the last months of the First World War.

At the age of eighteen, he participated in the Kapp Putsch,* and then in a long series of organizations. events connected with radical nationalism and National Socialism.

Heyde was said to have attended Hoche's psychiatric lectures as a medical student during the early 1920s, and developed into a competent . but unremarkable psychiatrist, described to me by another doctor as “an
* This putsch was an attempt by right-wing paramilitary and military organizations to overthrow the Weimar Republic in March 1920. It failed after four days, in large measure because of united and decisive opposition on the left.   
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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