Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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The Auschwitz Institution 
charge of the. Death's Head Units* — quixotic brutality was replaced by a policy of impersonal, systematic terror. Earlier, because of his own violent acts, Eicke had been imprisoned on orders from Himmler and then transferred briefly to the Würzburg University Psychiatric Clinic where, as we have noted, he was Heyde’s patient; it was upon his release that Eicke was assigned by Himmler to run Dachau. Whatever happened between psychiatrist and patient, this sequence suggests that very early Heyde contributed significantly both professionally and medically to concentration-camp policies. In any case, those policies under Eicke grew into what Rudolf Höss, who trained at Dachau for his post as commandant of Auschwitz, later called a “cult of severity” and a “Dachau spirit” according to which all inmates were enemies of the state; and camp guards were to be trained in cruelty and to dispense it with pitilessness (or “hardness”), detachment, and incorruptibility.³ In fact, corruption was endemic to such a system.

During the middle and late 193o5 categories of camp inmates were extended to include people considered “habitual criminals”; “antisocial elements” (beggars, vagabonds, Gypsies, vagrants, “workshy” individuals, idlers, prostitutes, grumblers, habitual drunkards, hooligans, traffic offenders, and so-called psychopaths and mental cases); homosexuals; Jehovah’s Witnesses (whose organization was outlawed because of its absolute pacifism); and — especially from the time of Kristallnacht (10 November 1938) — Jews. A system of identification was instituted, according to which each prisoner had a rectangular piece of material sewn onto his or her uniform, upon which was imprinted a colored triangle: red for political prisoners, purple for Jehovah’s Witnesses, black for asocials (for example, prostitutes), green for criminals, and pink for homosexuals. Jews wore a triangle (usually red), under which an added yellow triangle was sewn on to form a hexagram (Star of David). Late in 1944 this “Jewish Star” was abolished and replaced by a horizontal yellow bar above the classification triangle.4

The legal and social theory of the camps, as articulated in 1936, had a distinctly biological and therapeutic hue. Werner Best, Himmler's legal authority, identified the "political principle of totalitarianism" with the "ideological principle of the organically indivisible national community," and declared that "any attempt to gain recognition for or even to uphold different political ideas will be ruthlessly dealt with, as the symptom of an illness which threatens the healthy unity of the indivisible national organism, regardless of the subjective wishes of its supporters."5† Thus, the disease-cure imagery was extended to the concentration camps — a still larger reversal of healing and killing. That reversal dominated the
* The Death’s Head Units (Totenkopfverbände) were created by Himmler at Dachau under Eicke’s command and became the general concentration-camp guards. They took their name from their skull-and-crossbones insignia.

†At issue was the Prussian law on the State Secret Police of February 1936, which removed the Gestapo, particularly its use of protective custody, from judicial restraint.  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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