Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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permit killing any individual or group in any way at any time to further the vision of purifying and curing the Aryan race. 
Biological Romanticism: Johann S. 
While Johann S. was not much involved in the “euthanasia” project, he lived out the full history and ideology of Nazi medical leaders. During about twenty hours of conversation over three full days, I found this canny, energetic, and fanatical old man, living in prosperous rural surroundings, to be the most unregenerate Nazi among all the doctors I interviewed. His life uniquely reflects the special Nazi blend of violent nationalism and visionary biology.

Soon after we sat down for the first time, he referred to a recent television program about a plan for a physicians’ academy bridging the split between pre-clinical theory and clinical work, and declared that he had been working on such a plan during the Third Reich, at which time “doctors formed a tightly knit, completely self-contained medical organization” that integrated all health organizations and private institutions into “a complete medical sector.” That set the tone of the interviews: nostalgia for the beautiful Nazi medical experience and justification for its failure, with no faltering in his embrace of the original vision. Indeed, he had spent virtually his entire medical life — as a medical “old Nazi,” and a medical official in the upper reaches of the regime — pursuing and implementing that vision.

Johann S. described himself the “son of a doctor” — his medical family traceable back to the early seventeenth century and having ties to ordinary people (as veterinarians and blacksmiths) before emerging as part of the progressive rural élite (both grandfathers were National Liberal members of the Reichstag). As a child, he was involved with all forms of animal life; and when I asked him what subject interested him most, he answered emphatically, “Always, in life, in biology.” When a little older, he began to read Bölsche and Haeckel. Ernst Haeckel, a towering figure in German biology and an early Darwinian, was also a racist, a believer in a mystical Volk, and a strong advocate of eugenics who “can be claimed as a direct ancestor” of the Nazi “euthanasia” project.36 Wilhelm Bölsche was a literary critic who became a disciple and biographer of Haeckel and was known to have provided Hitler with “direct access to major ideas of Haeckelian social Darwinism” (see pages 441-42).37

When S. was eleven, his father moved his medical practice from the country to a large city — a move his son came to associate with a loss of idealized rural communal life, or Gemeinschaftsleben (“We would always have a friend dropping in to share what was on our table . . . . Our coachman would sit with us, . . . live with us”) and the discovery of the  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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