Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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Bringing “Euthanasia” to the Camps 
central moment in the sequence from T4 to genocide. “The day before yesterday,” he wrote, “a large team from our Operation left for the East under the leadership of Herr Brack to help save our wounded in the ice and snow.” This mission was “top secret! Only those who could not be spared from carrying out our Operation's most urgent work have not come along.” The team, consisting of twenty to thirty doctors, nurses, and office personnel, drawn particularly from Hadamar and Sonnenstein, apparently crossed the Russian border and went somewhere in the area of Minsk. On the face of it, there is no reason such an ostensibly humanitarian and patriotic mission should have been kept secret. The camouflage was apparently twofold. First, some observers believe that this team carried out “euthanasia” on German soldiers, whether severely wounded, particularly brain-damaged, or simply rendered psychologically unfit to fight.29 Such killings would, of course, have been publicly taboo. Second, this project apparently related to the setting up of death camps in Poland, for which some of the mission personnel stayed in the East. Key figures were Christian Wirth (see pages 71-72), whose technical knowledge of T4 gas chambers was now to be used in the East (Belzec was then being built); and Dr. Irmfried Eberl, who would soon become commandant at Treblinka.30*

Another doctor from the mission, Horst Schumann, would soon complete his trajectory from the Grafeneck and Sonnenstein killing centers to Auschwitz (see pages 278-84).

The previous summer Dr. Ernst Grawitz had recommended the use of gas chambers to Himmler as the best way to go about mass killing. The carbon monoxide method developed for  “euthanasia” was subsequently used in all death camps, with the exception of Auschwitz.

All of these developments were expressions of an evolving genocidal mentality. The Nazis were moving toward violently carrying out Lorenz’s vision (quoted in the epigraph to this chapter) of replacing the evolutionary forces of selection.31 For, as Raul Hilberg and others have emphasized (and as I shall discuss in part III), Nazi genocide seems not to have been the end result of a clear, long-standing plan but rather to have evolved from shared imagery in the minds of Nazi leaders.32 A crucial period for the evolution of this genocidal mentality was early 1941, when restraints were increasingly abandoned and bold action was first countenanced, then demanded.. This was the period of preparation for the invasion of the Soviet Union, of activation of the Einsatzgruppen, of the extension of the T4 program to 14f13, and of the conversion of the biomedical vision into the Final Solution. The actual invasion of the Soviet Union in June had extreme importance. It enormously strained all German resources, including those necessary to maintain large numbers of Soviet prisoners. The invasion also brought about the increasing con- […centration]
* Many of those originally sent to the East were returned to Germany before being assigned to the death camps.   
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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