Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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pages 61-62) It is tempting to declare him a “psychiatric thug” and let it go at that.

Gerhard Schmidt, the anti-Nazi psychiatrist who took over Pfannmüller’s institution at the end of the war, wrote a book on what he found there and elsewhere concerning the “euthanasia” project. Schmidt stressed Pfannmüller’s deep commitment to the ideology of “life unworthy of life” and to a Nazi worldview that demanded the elimination of, as Pfannmüller put it, “the pitiful patient” who exhibited only “the semblance of a human existence.”19 And during talks I had with Dr. Schmidt he described Pfannmüller, whom he met for the first time after the war, as “a simple man [who) was strongly convinced that [the “euthanasia” program] was urgently necessary,” and belonged to the group who “thought they could make humanity healthier in this way.” Schmidt also said that Pfannmüller had a reputation for being “very soft — a soft depressive type,” who ordinarily “could not hurt a fly.” It is likely that Pfannmüller was both a genuine ideologue and an extreme example of the depressed person who overcomes his own anxiety and death imagery by harming others. But when he had reached the point of starving to death infants, children, and adults, it is likely that there was operating within him a strong psychological brew of omnipotence and sadism. At the same time, he could have continued to see himself as for the most part idealistic and even decent. He later testified that he differed with Heyde in wishing to consider as “capable of work” even those adult patients who could perform only the simplest tasks. That testimony was undoubtedly self-serving but could also reflect his effort to see himself, even at the time, as a progressive and humane professional. In 1948, a Munich court declared him medically unfit for trial. The next year he was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment.20

Pfannmüller remains the epitome of the brutalized physician-turned-killer. Contributing to his motivation is a mixture of ideological (biomedical as well as political) and bureaucratic passion, careerist ambition within the Nazi hierarchy, and tendencies toward depression and powerlessness which could be overcome by means of omnipotent and sadistic behavior. 
The Double Life: Max de Crinis
Professor Max de Crinis  (1889-1945), probably “the most outspoken and influential Nazi within the German psychiatric establishment,”21 was striking in the double life he attempted to lead. Appointed in 1939 to succeed Karl Bonhoeffer to the psychiatric chair at Berlin and Charité Hospital, he was a psychiatric consultant at the highest level of the regime. As mentioned earlier, he was thought to have provided Hitler with the wording for the original “euthanasia” decree, and was certainly active in all aspects of the planning of that program and yet never identified as one of its leaders.

An Austrian, de Crinis had been active in anti-communist and Freikorps  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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