Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
  Page 126  
Previous Page

Home Page
Home Page  
   Next Page
“dreadful isolation of people” in the city (“People die in the same house, and the other person doesn’t even notice it at all”) He went so far as to say, “The fact that I became a politician* can be traced back to this [dislocation],” by which he meant that a vision of rediscovering that ideal community became the leitmotif of his political struggles. 
Overcoming War and “Betrayal”  
In his early adolescence at the outbreak of the First World War, he remembers the “very powerful sensation” of the mobilization order and the euphoria of the general population at that moment and later at the announcement, in the marketplace, of each German victory. His entire family was directly involved: his father as an army doctor; his older brother training to become an officer; his mother, a leader in support activities; even his grandfather, a veterinarian with a cavalry regiment; and S. himself, a boy who was drawn to the military and hung around with officers quartered in his home. But before long victories and celebrations were replaced by defeats and by food shortages and hunger. Worst of all was the telegram announcing that his father had been wounded. The sight of his father “standing in front of me at the railroad station, . . . his arm in a bandage, . . .wearing a uniform together with ... house slippers” was so overwhelming that it seemed like a déjà vu experience: he was convinced that he had encountered that exact scene in, dream the night before the telegram arrived. (It turned out that his father had been hit by a bullet from a German plane; but rather than acknowledge that absurdity, S. tried to make it a form of distinction by equating his father with Prince Wilhelm of Hesse, who was also hit by a German bullet, and in his case killed.) Though his father survived, S. recalled a series of subsequent events, almost equally disturbing, including the final defeat and returning troops shouting anti-military and anti-monarchical slogans, forming soldiers' councils, and tearing off the rank insignia from the uniforms of their officers (which caused S. to be especially “shaken”). To make matters complete, his older brother was wounded during the last days of battle, and “then the government collapsed.”

In fact, the family never quite left the war. The older brother became one of the founders of a Freikorps unit (these "free corps" were voluntary paramilitary units composed mostly of demobilized soldiers); and S. himself, then age seventeen, joined to serve under his brother. He was eager to get into the military: “I belong to the age group that was not drafted for the war in 1918.” While the formation of these units was initially encouraged by a weak government to help it keep the peace and suppress the threatened Communist revolution, members of the Freikorps came to see themselves as “cemented by their blood” to one another, struggling
* Since the word “politician” (Politiker) generally had a derogatory connotation for a person of Dr. S’s rural background, his use of it here could suggest a certain inadvertent self-condemnation.   
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

Robert J. Lifton
ISBN 0-465-09094
© 1986
Previous Page  Back Page 126 Forward  Next Page