Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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[organ…] izing special transports of Jewish patients to his killing institution at Brandenburg; a pocket diary of his denoted the various Jewish transports with the letter “J,” together with the number of people and the names of the towns in which institutions sending transports to Brandenburg were located.33

Eberl’s enthusiasm for “euthanasia” killing was expressed in his intense advocacy of the law that would openly legitimate the project as well as mercy killing on request. He pointed out that, whatever the existing reservations on the part of doctors, “the number of ideologically unacceptable medical officers will indeed shrink from year to year, since the new generation presumably will be ideologically correct to an overwhelming extent.” 34

Eberl was appointed commandant of Treblinka at the camp's opening in July 1942. An engineer from T4 had helped construct the gassing apparatus; and the personnel, as in the other death camps in Poland, came heavily from SS men earlier involved with “euthanasia.” Ukrainian guards with dogs were a new feature. The fact that Eberl was the only physician known to have headed a death camp suggests that the Nazis had good reason to feel that he was indistinguishable from a nonphysician in his attitude toward killing Jews. It could also mean that the Nazis were at the time considering wider use of doctors as commandants of death camps, thereby extending the principle of medicalized killing.

If Eberl was a test case, he failed. An SS inspection visit to Treblinka a few weeks after the arrival of the first transport exposed a chaotic situation. Decaying corpses were piled up as new trains arrived, giving incoming Jews an all too clear idea of what awaited them, and making them difficult to handle; trains could not keep their schedule as one was held up behind another. Eberl was dismissed in short order. He had not been able to cope with the new dimension of murder, although his inefficiency in no way slowed down the process. At the peak in late August, trains were bringing in 10,000 to 12,000 Jews a day; by the end of that month, some 215,000 had been killed. (In comparison, as a T4 doctor, Eberl had killed “only” 18,000 patients in a little over a year and a half.35)

During his brief tenure, Eberl was said to have worn his white physician’s coat when walking about the camp. Whether or not he actually did, he became, for a brief period, the ultimate healer-turned-killer — even if he did not quite make the grade. Whatever his prior psychological propensity for omnipotence, sadism, and violence, he apparently experienced the kind of total immersion into Nazi ideology that would
in the interest of successful cooperation to refrain from using this diagnosis in such great numbers, especially if there have been no previous symptoms. I also must reject the advice of your office chief because, as a nonphysician, he is in no position to judge the facts properly, and I agree with him when he says that this question is a purely medical one and therefore is only to be decided by doctors.32
His consistent principle was that one needs a careful medical lie.   
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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