Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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Bringing “Euthanasia” to the Camps 
Heyde’s involvement since 1936 with the camps themselves as supervisor of “neurologic and hereditary control” of prisoners. Early in 1941, T4 leader Bouhler agreed to let Himmler use T4 personnel and facilities to rid the camps of “excess” prisoners — notably those “most seriously ill,” physically and mentally. Sometimes called “prisoner euthanasia” or (by prisoners) “Operation Invalid,” the resultant program was officially “Operation [or Special Treatment] 14f13.”* The designation came from the reference number for the operation in documents of the Concentration Camp Inspectorate. † That spring, “experienced psychiatrists” from T4 were sent to the camps, assured that their work in selecting out “asocial” elements had scientific importance. Their work, as in T4, was based on prior questionnaires. For this purpose, however, they were shorter, asking after a prisoner’s name, race, and “health” (that is, whether incurable) ** The short form was explained by the T4 doctors’ lack of time, although camp commandants or camp doctors did the initial screening. To camouflage procedures, those selected were told that they were being sent to a “rest home.” (In fact, people apparently volunteered until it was realized what was happening when personal effects, but no “rested” prisoners, returned.)6

As low as T4 standards were, those in 14f13 were worse. “Examinations” by T4 doctors were perfunctory or non-existent, and the questionnaires frequently contained no medical information at all, but only a list of an inmate’s ostensible crimes and political deviations. Ordinary SS camp personnel could construe political beliefs or rude comments about the Führer as “mental deficiency” or “psychological aberration,” and the visiting doctors’ commission almost never objected to an SS request for “transfer” (to a killing facility). Whatever the travesty of medicine, inmates observed that “the doctors were dressed in white coats,” although other prisoners apparently assumed that they were Gestapo in disguise.7 Toward Jews these white-coated doctors developed an approach that was to become a Nazi trademark — that of collective diagnosis. For Jews, neither “examination” nor health considerations were necessary. As one participating T4 psychiatrist recalled, “it sufficed to take the reasons for arrest (often very extensive!) from the documents and transfer them to the questionnaires.”8 This meant that the only thing to be considered was
* There is some evidence — Friedrich Mennecke’s recollection in his testimony at Nuremberg¹ — that, as early as the summer of 1940, psychiatrists from T4 were sent to concentration camps to evaluate inmates, whose original questionnaires were filled out by camp doctors. One commentator sees in this early sequence an “experimental” phase in the expansion of medical killing.² But others question whether any such phase actually occurred

†Similarly, for example, natural deaths were 14F1; 14f2 was a suicide or accidental death; 14f3, shot while attempting to escape; 14fl, execution. 4

‡ This contradicts Nitsche’s later testimony that “the combing out of the c[oncentration] c[amps] was done according to precisely the same viewpoint, by means of the same questionnaires, as those in the insane asylums.” He claimed that, because of rumors of popular unrest over the placing of the mentally ill in camps, they were being returned to proper institutions.5   
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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