Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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of a special group of  “disinfectors,” or Desinfektoren, from within the Sanitätsdienstgrade or SDG) and the gas pellets, to a gas chamber adjoining one of the crematoria. As Führer, or “leader,” of the team, the doctor had supervisory responsibility for the correct carrying out of the killing process, though the medical technician actually inserted the gas pellets, and the entire sequence became so routine that little intervention was required. The doctor also had the task of declaring those inside the gas chamber dead and sometimes looked through a peephole to observe them. This, too, became routine, a matter of permitting twenty, minutes or so to pass before the doors of the gas chamber could be opened and the bodies removed.

SS doctors also carried out two additional forms of selections (chapter 9). In one, Jewish inmates were lined up on very short notice at various places in the camp and their ranks thinned in order to allow room for presumably healthier replacements from new transports. The other type of selections took place directly in the medical blocks in a caricature of triage. Rather than simply permitting those closest to death to die — in order to use limited medical resources to treat those who might be saved — as in traditional medical triage (the meaning given the term as originally used by the French military), the Nazis combined triage with murder by sending to the gas chamber those judged to be significantly ill or debilitated, or who required more than two or three weeks for recovery.

Medical triage-murder became a standard SS policy, influenced both by the vision of the Final Solution and by I. G. Farben’s economic arrangements. But an additional factor also of great importance was the residual influence of the 14f13 “euthanasia” action in the camps. In other words, the principle of killing the weak, the sick, and the generally undesirable had been established in medical circles, extended specifically to concentration camps, and then institutionalized (still within medical circles) in Auschwitz, and Auschwitz alone, on a phenomenal scale. That 14f13 influence involved both the mentality and the legality of a medical form of a triage murder, so much so that the Frankfurt court could view medical-triage killings as probably derived from 14f13 policies. In other words, the Nazi versions of  “euthanasia” and the. Final Solution converged on Auschwitz medical blocks, thereby rendering them an important agency of the Auschwitz ecology of murder.4

SS doctors also conducted murderous forms of  “epidemiology”: prisoners with a contagious disease, usually typhus but also scarlet fever or other conditions, would be sent to the gas chambers, sometimes together with the rest of the patients on that medical block (many of whom might have been free of the contagious disease) so that the empty block could then be completely  “disinfected.” (Nazi doctors played a similar role in Jewish ghettos in Poland, where they contributed to oppressive policies in the name of controlling epidemics, especially typhus.)5  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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