Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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according to S., “came into conflict with biological experience, . . . with the laws of life.”

During those heady years from 1934 to 1939, S. became a missionary for this biomedical vision, making hundreds of speeches to doctors’ groups, Party meetings and general audiences. He combined his mystical concept of “biological socialism” with Nazi leadership principles, especially concerning the hegemony of physicians as the authentic, practicing biologists in matters of race and population, judgments about the needs of the people, and much else. As for anti-Semitic attitudes and actions, he insisted that “the racial question ... [and] resentment of the Jewish race. . . had nothing to do with medieval anti-Semitism ... but only [with] the aim of self-fulfillment, völkisch self-fulfillment.” That is, it was all a matter of scientific biology and of community. Again S. declared nostalgically, “It was a beautiful time for me.”

Everything changed in 1939, the year Gerhard Wagner died and the war began. While S. took the Nazi view of the war (as being forced upon his country by Poles mistreating ethnic Germans), he felt that it interrupted his biological mission and, indeed, that it “ended the whole National Socialist movement.” He saw the medical aspect of the movement, under Conti, Wagner’s successor, increasingly bureaucratized within the Interior Ministry, with lawyers taking over and Party-based visionaries like himself having less to say. Even before then, S. had been critical of this legalistic trend as manifested in the Nuremberg racial laws and the sterilization program. Rather than its courts and elaborate legal machinery, S. wanted it run completely by doctors, who alone would decide which people had dangerous hereditary traits, and who could alter policies according to changing medical knowledge.

Another villain in the piece was the SS leader, Himmler, whom S. characterized as “a mere animal breeder . . . [who] thought he was competent in racial questions,” and who never represented the real view of the National Socialist Party and was the reason for much unfair criticism of it. S. arranged to be reassigned out of Berlin in order to escape the “grotesque” bureaucratic situation.

Concerning “euthanasia,” he was sympathetic to the concept, emphasizing what a “blessing” it was for regressed mental patients to be “released.” But he was extremely critical of the actual project, considering it a product of “Himmler’s circle,” and its timing a bureaucratic disaster. He also objected to the Nazi state — the representative of the whole community, or Gemeinschaft — taking human life, and seemed to prefer here also that the matter be left completely to doctors. He believed that the “loudest protest” against “euthanasia” came from old Nazi doctors who were district medical officers; that Karl Brandt’s execution at Nuremberg was “completely unjustified”; and that the responsible people were Brack, a “failed doctor” who sought only his own advancement, and Bouhler; also a nonphysician, who implicated Brandt at Nurernberg to save his own neck. But the whole subject embarrassed S.: from it, he  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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