Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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The Auschwitz Institution 
[migra…] tion.” Höss’s recollections make clear how, much this “solution” was influenced by individual initiative once it was known what the Führer, in fact, wanted.24

Finding a “Suitable” Method

The severe psychological obstacles experienced by the Einsatzgruppen troops in carrying out face-to-face killing were known to Nazi leaders. As Rudolf Höss later recalled:  
I had heard Eichmann’s description of Jews being mown down by the Einsatzkommandos armed with machine guns and machine pistols. Many gruesome scenes are said to have taken place, people running away after being shot, the finishing off of the wounded and particularly of the women and children. Many members of the Einsatzkommandos, unable to endure wading through blood any longer, had committed suicide. Some had even gone mad. Most of the members of these Kommandos had to rely on alcohol when carrying out their horrible work.25
In the fall of 1941, one of the leading Einsatzgruppen generals, Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski, stunned Himmler by declaring to him, after they had witnessed the killing of about one hundred Jews: “Look at the eyes of the men in this Kommando, how deeply shaken they are! These men are finished [fertig] for the rest of their lives. What kind of followers are we training here? Either neurotics or savages!”27 And Bach-Zelewski himself was to feel the effects: hospitalized with severe stomach and intestinal ailments, he experienced, according to Dr. Ernst Robert Grawitz, chief SS doctor, “psychic exhaustion” and “hallucinations connected with the shootings of Jews” he instigated and “grievous other experiences in the East” (see also footnote on page 437).28

As a consequence, as Höss explained, only gas was seriously considered, “since it would have been absolutely impossible by shooting to dispose of the large numbers of people that were expected, and it would have placed too heavy a burden on the SS men who had to carry it out especially because of the women and children among the victims.”29 Inevitably, they turned to earlier Nazi experience with gassing, and Eichmann familiarized Höss with the “euthanasia” project’s use of carbon monoxide gas released through showerheads. But the method was inadequate for large numbers of people because of the great amount of gas an the many installations with gas chambers that would be required. Mobil gassing units used in the East had similar limitations. Hence, “Eichmann decided to try and find a gas which was in ready supply and which would not entail special installations for its use.” As late as November 1941 Eichmann and Höss had not yet discovered a suitable gas, though the
* Himm1er is said to have become ill while watching a mass shooting, after which he ordered “more humane” killing.26  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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