Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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The Auschwitz Institution 
[doc…] tors did at times conduct something on the order of a sick call for inmates, but usually only grudgingly or even brutally.

The doctors’ manner tended to be military: from the start, their medical function was subsumed to requirements of the camps and the legitimation of brutality and killing. For instance, doctors signed forms attesting to prisoners’ capacity to withstand corporal punishment or to undergo transfer to another camp. While the doctors also had the actual medical function of controlling and preventing epidemics, their concern tended to be solely with the health of SS personnel.

Auschwitz was created, in June 1940, on the model of the traditional concentration camp, and was apparently intended then mainly for Polish prisoners and as a quarantine and transit camp from which prisoners were sent to camps in Germany. The medical arrangements at Auschwitz were originally the same as those in traditional concentration camps.  
Auschwitz as Work Camp 
In concentration camps, work was always required of prisoners, was generally part of a systematic program, of terror and humiliation, and was often a means of gradual but intentional killing — of Poles as well as Jews. From 1937, the work force in camps became sufficiently organized to be considered an important national source of forced labor, and increasing arrests were motivated by the need for such labor. As with T4 inmates, prisoners came to be judged as worthy of life only to the extent that their ability to work contributed to the power of the Third Reich — which made them, as has been pointed out, “less than slaves.”11

But underneath that pragmatism was the Nazis’ worship of work, and their mythology that prisoners could earn their freedom by means of work. This mythology was especially promulgated by Eicke, who probably was responsible — without irony — for the notorious Arbeit macht frei (“Work brings freedom”) sign first put up at Dachau and then at the entrance to Auschwitz.*

From at least late 1941, the work function began to take on central importance in the camps and that led eventually to relative improvement in conditions for prisoners concerning such things as confinement arrangements and food, and in some cases monetary awards, cigarettes, and access to camp brothels. The focus on work coincided with the camps’ becoming subordinated, in March 1941, to the SS Economic and Administrative Department (Wirtschaftsverwaltungshauptamt, or WVHA)
* In Höss’s words, “It was Eicke’s firm intention that no matter what category, those prisoners whose steady and zealous work marked them out from the other should in due course be released, regardless of what the Gestapo and the Criminal Police Office might think to the contrary. Indeed this occasionally happened, until the war put an end to all such good intentions.”12  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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