Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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been made into “a Godlike being”; that he was the kind of man who had to “talk himself free” of problems, and would contradict himself, and that people were too quick to rush to do what they thought he wanted; and that, like all geniuses, he was psychologically unstable and “what we doctors would call a psychopath.” S. described telling Conti, before he himself went off to war, that “you cannot ask me to follow a Führer. . . who I am convinced is no longer sane.” In the end, however, S. exonerated Hitler by attributing his mental difficulties to his medical mismanagement by Morell, the quack doctor, who constantly gave Hitler drugs and created what Dr. S. was convinced were addictions to both amphetamines and to intravenous glucose.* In this way, he invoked a medical explanation for the errors and excesses of Hitler himself and the Nazi regime.

Concerning the concentration camps, Dr. S. said that those physicians who worked there “had nothing to do with us” — that is, were not part of the physicians’ groups he worked with or presided over. He insisted that he had heard nothing of the camps. until after the war, that doctors’ roles in experiments and selections were “disputed,” that “the whole Himmler shop” responsible for it all was so secretive that it was hard to learn the truth; and finally that “the doctors in those institutions [camps] were the least National Socialist,” and “if they had been genuinely National Socialist, they would have been at the front!” — which is where Dr. S. went.

In 1943, when he saw signs of Hitler’s “deterioration” and other “big mistakes,” he went to see Conti and berated him for his shortcomings, especially his failure to protect Hitler from Morell, and abruptly enlisted with other old SA men in a Waffen-SS unit as a common soldier and left for the Russian front. S. was seeking a form of purification, following an important personal quest (“I wanted to experience war”), and, above all, sought the mystical “front experience” associated with the First World War. Referring again to his brother and father, he said, “All this left such an impression on me that, even though I was leaving seven children, I volunteered for ... this war experience, . . . right there at the front.” He was not disappointed. He wrote glowingly about his experience as both common soldier and military doctor, and added, “Humanly speaking and also from a physician’s viewpoint, I would be lacking a great deal had I not lived this.”

Johann S.’s life story illustrates the interaction of historical forces with individual-psychological tendencies. Concerning that interaction I would emphasize his intense belief in the immortal Volk; the mystique of war and
*Dr. S. gave a psychohistorical twist to the matter by saying that Hitler’s distress at not being able to realize his dream of an alliance with England caused chronic stomach trouble, which Morell was called in to treat. There is little doubt that Morell was a charlatan, but there is dispute about whether he created amphetamine or other addiction in Hitler. One study concludes that “amphetamine toxicity is an extremely probable diagnosis”; but a still more recent study concludes that no such addiction existed. 47 Whatever Hitler’s relationship to amphetamine, one should recognize the danger of invoking addiction as “the reason” for his or the Nazis’ extreme behavior or negative historical direction.   
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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