Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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Auschwitz had been “earmarked” for the task because its location was favorable for communications and transportation as well as isolation and camouflage. Himmler impressed upon Höss the gravity of the undertaking, the “difficult and onerous work,” requiring “complete devotion notwithstanding the difficulties that may arise.” Höss was to “treat this order as absolutely secret.”20

Auschwitz took on a special status as the primary institution for carrying out the soon-to-be clarified policy of mass murder of the Jews. The task required Höss to explore — together with Adolf Eichmann, who held the Jewish desk at the RSHA — “the ways and means of effecting the extermination.”21

Despite earlier remarks by Hitler regarding annihilation of Jews, the Nazis considered a variety of plans for expulsion, voluntary immigration, resettlement in Madagascar, etc. Only after these plans had been abandoned — found unfeasible for various reasons, including the reluctance of other nations to accept large numbers of Jews — was the definite decision made to, implement the “Final Solution.” In 1938, there were still 350,000 or so Jews in Germany (reduced from 515,000), and the Nazis’ invasions and annexations kept acquiring more Jews. In March 1941 Keitel signed an order for the operation of Himmler’s killing units in Russia, once that invasion took place. Then, on 31 July, after the invasion, Göring signed an order for Heydrich authorizing him to make “all necessary preparation” in respect to organizational and financial matters for the “complete solution of the Jewish question in the German sphere of influence in Europe.”22 Other agencies had been ordered to cooperate as needed.

The power of organizing deportations was now given Eichmann, the RSHA expert on Jewish affairs. Höss’s remembered interview with Himmler may have followed this order. On 21 November, Heydrich ordered various state secretaries and SS chiefs to a meeting to discuss the Final Solution. The resulting so-called Wannsee Conference, after the RSHA address, was held on 20 January 1942. The Führer’s authority was cited for a discussion of evacuation to the East, where the survivors of their labor utilization would be “treated accordingly” (entsprechend behandelt). While there was some discussion of side issues, such as mixed marriages and old Jews and war veterans — who, it was said, would go to the model camps at Theresienstadt — the point of the conference was clear, if largely unspoken. As Hilberg puts it, “Gradually, the news of the ‘Final Solution’ seeped into the ranks of the bureaucracy .... How much a man knew depended on his proximity to the destructive operations and on his insight into the nature of the destruction process.”23

During early 1942, the details of the killing procedure were not yet clear, and were not solved until spring with the establishment of gas-chamber camps in Poland. The resulting time lag between the beginning of deportations and the construction of killing facilities led to overcrowding in some eastern ghettos and to bureaucratic myths of Jewish “migra- […tion]  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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