Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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greatly in their tone. Another survivor, whose work gave him the run of the camp, explained that “they [the Nazis] were psychologically very [well] prepared for every situation,” so that at times “the doctor was very friendly to the people .... asking, ‘How are you?’ and, ‘What occupation [do] you have?’ ” When an arriving inmate mentioned illness, looked weak, or was too young or too old, the same doctor made the decision to send him or her to the gas chambers. This survivor went on to tell of an incident (described to him by members of the Sonderkommando)* when a doctor appeared in the room outside the gas chamber where prisoners had to undress, noted a broken glass on the floor from shattered eyeglasses, and told the people there,“Please be careful that you ... [don't] injure your[self].” The survivor’s conclusion: “So they [the Nazis] were, to the last moment .... using [the] hoax.”

He went on to list the series of steps in SS doctors’ involvement in the killing: first, the chief doctor’s assignments to his subordinates concerning duty schedules and immediate selections policies second the individual doctor’s service on the ramp, performing selections “in a very noble [seemingly kind] manner”; third, the doctor riding in the ambulance or Red Cross car to the crematoria; fourth, the doctor ordering “how many [pellets] of gas should be thrown in ... these holes from the ceilings, according to the number of people, and who should do it…. There were three or four Desinfektoren”; fifth, “He observed through the hole how the people are dying”; sixth, “When the people. were dead.... he gave the order to ventilate, . . . to open the gas chamber, and he came ... with a gas mask into the chamber”; seventh, “He signed a [form] that the people are dead and how long it took” and eighth “he observed . . . the teeth ... extraction [from] the corpses.” This was the survivor who concluded that “the killing program was led by doctors — from the beginning to the end.”

Other survivors conveyed their sense of bizarre unreality (“Living skeletons in striped uniforms, their skulls shaven .... like silent shadows, climbing onto the trains strange porters [who] took out our luggage”) and the depth of their confusion (“Wild men in striped suits … Half Yiddish, half German; leave everything; clubs descending, blows).³

One could be so numbed as to be catatonic as a Jewish woman doctor, Gerda N., arriving in late June 1944, described:  
We were in such a confusion … in such a shock …. They shaved off our hair and we got such terrible clothes .... They took everything away. Our luggage, everything, . . . and I came to a camp which was called Mexico .... There was nothing in it, . . . even no water. . . . I think one thousand [people] in one barrack .... We got our first meal
* The Sonderkommando consisted of Jewish inmates assigned to dispose of corpses of Jewish victims. Sonderkommando, literally “special command,” could refer generally to groups performing extraordinary tasks, including SS murder teams in the East.   
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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