Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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ordinary person ... . [whom one] would never have thought . . .,capable of doing such things.” Originally a ward physician and eventually a clinical “chief doctor” (Oberarzt) in a psychiatric hospital, he enhanced his career by his standing as a Nazi (he joined the Party on 1 May 1933), and he became a full professor at Würzburg in 1939. In 1935, he became leader of the Würzburg Office of Racial Politics.

His SS career could be said to have begun as early as 1933 when he formed a close relationship to Theodor Eicke, who was first his patient and, in June of that year, became commandant of Dachau before being appointed overall inspector of concentration camps. Eicke, who became the architect of much of the concentration-camp system and mentor for many camp commandants, did much to institutionalize systematic physical and psychological brutality. It is not impossible that Heyde contributed to some of these conceptions (see page 153).

Heyde had joined the Party on Eicke’s urging. Through this connection and then through that with Ernst Robert Grawitz, the notorious SS chief physician, Heyde joined that organization in 1936, was immediately made captain, and in 1941, 1943, and 1945 he was promoted to major, lieutenant colonel, and colonel. Among his SS assignments, were the creation of a neuropsychiatric division and supervising  “psychiatric-neurologic and heredity research” on concentration-camp prisoners. This latter assignment was deemed “particularly urgent” because of its potential for “scientific applications.” Heyde was also a consulting neuropsychiatric expert for the Gestapo in Berlin. This last assignment involved secret activities of which Heyde wrote in his Nazi vita, “naturally I can only hint,” and which probably included advice on torture methods to induce prisoners to provide information as well as psychiatric evaluations useful to the Gestapo.16*

Heyde was a central figure, and the embodiment of medical legitimation, in the “euthanasia” mass-murder program. He played a large role in the planning of the entire structure of deception and overall killing procedures and, until replaced by Nitsche, was the main “chief expert” on ultimate decisions about who was to be killed. At the same time, as
* Walter Schellenberg, the head of the German Foreign Intelligence Service, paraphrased a report Heyde wrote on Georg Elser, the carpenter-electrician who nearly succeeded in assassinating Hitler in 1939, describing it as the “best analysis” made at the time, and revealing to us how far psychiatric corruption could go:
[Heyde] said that the assassin was a typical warped fanatic who went his own way alone. He [Elser] had psychotic compulsions, related especially to technical matters, which sprang from an urge to achieve something really noteworthy. This was due to an abnormal need for recognition and acknowledgement which was reinforced by thirst for vengeance for the alleged injustice which had been done to his brother [who had been arrested as a communist sympathizer and sent to a concentration camp]. In killing the leader of the Third Reich he would satisfy all these compulsions because he would become famous himself, and he would have felt morally justified by freeing Germany from a great evil.. Such urges, combined with the desire to suffer and sacrifice oneself, were typical of religious and sectarian fanaticism. Upon checking back, similar psychotic disorders were found to have occurred in Elser’s family.17   
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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