Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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Introduction to Part II  
necessity and appropriateness, enhanced by the medical, as well as the military, aura surrounding it.

Sonderbehandlung was part of the mystical imperative to kill all Jews; and once Auschwitz took on that imperative, any Jewish arrival or prisoner could be experienced by the Nazi doctor’s Auschwitz self as designated for death, and, psychologically speaking, as already dead. Killing someone already dead need not be experienced as murder. And since Jews, long the Nazis’ designated victim, were more generally perceived as carriers of death, or bearers of the death taint, they became “doubly dead.” Just as one could not kill people already dead, one could do them no harm however one mutilated their bodies in medical experimentation. The human experiments performed by Nazi doctors (chapter 15), while tangential to questions of ecology, were fully consistent with the regime’s larger biomedical vision.

For their regulation of the Auschwitz ecology, SS doctors needed the actual medical work of prisoner doctors, who in turn needed SS doctors to make that work possible — to keep others alive and stay alive themselves. What resulted were profound conflicts within prisoner doctors concerning their relationship to the Auschwitz ecology and to their SS masters as they (the prisoner doctors) struggled to remain free of selections (chapter 11) and to retain a genuinely healing function (chapter 12).

There were antagonisms among these prisoner doctors along with a few examples of close identification with Nazi medical policies (chapter 13). But it was the SS doctors who pulled the strings, who, while not without their own significant inner conflict, managed to adapt sufficiently to the Auschwitz system to maintain its medicalized killing (chapter 10). Their adaptation involved the process I call “doubling,” which permitted them to select for the gas chamber without seeing themselves as killers.

At the end of part II, I examine in greater detail the behavior and psychological experience of three individual SS doctors: one who managed to avoid doing selections and to help many inmates despite his Nazi contradictions (chapter 16); another, the notorious Mengele, who found full self-expression in Auschwitz (chapter 17); and the chief doctor (chapter 18), who sought to “reform” the Auschwitz system in ways that might benefit prisoners, even as he set up the full machinery of medicalized killing.  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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