Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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camp hospital blocks virtually from their beginnings. More often than not, “to become sick in a concentration camp meant to be doomed,” as Eugen Kogon put it. SS doctors or corpsmen would frequently contribute to that fate by means of lethal injections. At Buchenwald, for instance, an SS doctor “finished off a whole row of prisoners with injections of sodium evipan” and then “strolled from the operating room, a cigarette in his hand, merrily whistling ‘The End of a Perfect Day.’”6

Kogon, who had been prisoner secretary to the chief doctor in Buchenwald, described the power held by prisoner functionaries on the hospital blocks; how prisoners brought there as patients, if considered dangerous (because they were brutal to other prisoners who informed on them or because they belonged to a rival political faction) could be either medically neglected by prisoners in charge or even killed by them by means of lethal injections. In most camps, ordinary criminals were at first in charge of hospital blocks, and under them abuses were greatest; conditions improved considerably when political prisoners wrested power from the criminals, and when prisoner doctors were permitted to do medical work. But long before, SS doctors and corpsmen had used camp medical blocks for killing; in Dachau, there were “convalescent” blocks : in which the sick and debilitated were simply left to die 7* And we know of the use of the medical blocks to collect ostensibly incurable or otherwise undesirable inmates for “euthanasia” killing.

But the medical block could also become what Kogon called “a rescue station for countless prisoners.” More than anywhere else in the camp prisoners could be hidden, numbers could be switched, and patients slated for killing could be warned and discharged Another effective device was to hide prisoners on contagious wards where SS personnel rarely strayed: Kogon states that on three occasions he himself hid on the tuberculosis ward in order to avoid transfer to Auschwitz to be killed.9 There could also be genuine convalescent blocks and other medical arrangements that helped one to survive, such as “convalescent slips” enabling one to spend several days under relatively favorable conditions.

The SS doctors assigned to the early concentration camps tended to be medically undistinguished, strong in their Nazi ties, and personally self-aggrandizing. “Generally speaking they were more adept at feathering their own nests than at healing and usually their skill lay in killing rather than in saving.”10 Experiments on prisoners were also done mainly in these traditional camps, though for the most part not on an extensively organized basis until the early 1940s. More characteristic of Nazi doctors was their regular participation in “triage” killing of the weak and the sick as well as of prisoners designated by others for destruction. Camp doc- […tors]
* This license to kill did not always extend to healthy prisoners, at least in the early stage of the camps. In June 1933, the Munich Prosecutor’s office implicated a camp doctor at Dachau together with Eicke’s predecessor in an inmate’s murder.8 Such legal scrupulosity in the camps must have been rare.   
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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