Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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Selections on the Ramp 
consisting of about 1,500 people, about 1,200 to 1,300 went to the gas chambers. Very seldom was the percentage greater of those who were permitted to live. At these selections Mengele and [Dr. Heinz] Thilo made their selections while whistling a melody. Those elected for the gas chambers had to undress in front of the gas chambers and were then chased into them with whip lashes, then the doors were closed and the gassing took place. After about eight minutes (death occurred after about four minutes) the chambers were opened and a special Kommando for this purpose had to take the corpses for cremation to the furnaces, which were burning day and night. There were not enough ovens at the time of the Hungarian transports [beginning in late May 1944] so that large trenches had to be dug to burn the corpses. Here the wood was sprayed with petroleum. Into these trenches the corpses were thrown. Often living children and adults were thrown into the burning trenches. These poor ones died a terrible death by burning. The necessary oil and fats for the burning were obtained partly from the corpses of the gassed in order to save petroleum.¹
For those entering the camp, as Marianne F. went on to describe, there were a series of initiatory humiliations: undressing completely in front of SS men when entering the shower or “sauna”; having all of one’s bodily hair shaved (“I grant you, good for ... preventing all the lice, which of course were there, but psychologically, . . . it was unbelievably degrading .. . .”); the issuing of minimal, ill-fitting clothing, mostly old Russian prisoners’ uniforms; and the tattooing (“I remember when ... that thing [the number tattooed on each prisoner’s forearm] was put on, . . . it got infected and everything, and I suppose swollen and what have you — I never felt any pain — you were really numb”).

She spoke of the psychological effectiveness of the whole process:  
[There was] this fiendish insight that whoever organized . . .. it had. And the fact that if you do something that is totally unbelievable and ... you are incapable of believing, you don’t believe it. And the things that went on in Auschwitz ... the gas chambers — nobody would have believed that. And then the houses that the crematoria had — you know, brick houses, windows, curtains, white picket fences around the front. And people never thought of anything — regardless of chimneys smoking. They could not believe it .... There was a touch of diabolic genius.  
Wolken stated, similarly, that, although told about Auschwitz before being taken there by a Pole who had been to the camp, he and his friends “did not want to believe him .... We said that he must not have been there and that he is telling us fairy tales.”²

Nazi doctors and others involved in the reception process varied  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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