Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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its culmination and bitter frustration in the First World War; the overwhelming death immersion of that war and the degradation of defeat, remarkably reversed in the glorification of the “front experience” and the “stab in the back” explanation through which German resurgence becomes a survivor mission and debt to the dead who “are not really dead at all ... [but] climb out of their graves and visit us at night in our dreams”; 48 the violence of the collective redemptive-revitalizing impulse as expressed through militarized male bands (the Freikorps and the SA) with ambivalence that could become murderous toward their homoerotic tendencies; 49 the combination, within a single mystical constellation, of those elements of völkisch romanticism, the warrior ethos, and national revitalization with visionary biologism, Nordic-centered racism, and passionate anti-Semitism; and a vision of physician-philosopher kings with mythical medical-alchemist powers (see pages 481-84) who both exemplify and serve the “Führer principle” in bringing about immortalizing racial revitalization.

Dr. S.’s decision for purification in battle could well have been an effort to fend off perceptions of overall failure, wrongness, even evil, having to do with the entire Nazi project. (A somewhat parallel purifying impulse may have motivated Hitler in his effort to destroy all of Germany at the end of the war.) Whatever S.’s front experience served, he emerged from it regretting nothing. He knew the Nazis had been excessive in their killing of Jews, but purported to prove that the numbers were exaggerated, that much of it was done not by Germans but by Ukrainians, and that “numbers don't count anyway,” as he struggled (successfully) to hold on to his Nazi religion. His conclusion was not that National Socialism was wrong or bad but that “the time was too short”; that for its purposes to be achieved, it “will take many generations”; and that Hitler, presumably like Moses, “opened the gate into a new century but did not cross the threshold” and essentially “was a man of the nineteenth century.” And, finally, “National Socialism failed because we could not develop enough biological teaching — it was not possible to educate people sufficiently in biology” — so that “the tragedy of National Socialism was that it was never realized.”

While Dr. S.’s swings between modes of logic and madness could be attributed to senility, they were characteristic of someone caught between an elaborate belief system with a certain internal coherence and that system’s larger intellectual absurdity and moral madness. Crucial was the extensive sharing of the project, so that the most bizarre ideas and policies “seemed normal to all concerned.”50 Johann S. demonstrates how Nazi doctors could combine certain logical structures with flamboyant and murderous expressions of that moral madness and continue to function in the process.  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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