Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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Selections on the Ramp 
the next day …. I must say I was in a … stupor. . . . I couldn't move. I just sat and couldn’t move .... I really didn't move at all the first few days, maybe a week or ten days ....
“You cannot realize it” was the way another prisoner doctor put it — meaning that one could not take in or absorb the experience.

From late 1942 or early 1943, those who arrived as doctors were not only permitted to live but were made a special category of prisoner. They were usually singled out at the ramp, though some were admitted to the camp (rather than being dispatched to the gas chamber) on the basis of their relative youth and strength, and only there identified as doctors. The process could be haphazard. Some older doctors were sent to the gas without ever having been admitted to the camp. At the other extreme, a survivor doctor stated that, upon arriving at Auschwitz with a transport for which he had medical responsibility, 
the doors were pushed open and we were told to hurry out onto a platform. There was a high-ranking SS medical officer near us and I told him in my best German that Nora [this survivor's fiancée] and I were the nurse and doctor in charge of the transport. He seemed friendly and told us where to stand, and not to let anybody move us. He treated us as colleagues. He even told me to hold onto the books I had in my hand, to contact him later in the camp, and added that I would be well taken care of.4
One suspects that even the relief at being treated so well was accompanied by an underlying terror which this doctor partly suppressed.

Moreover, to be identified and favored as a doctor could intensify pain and self-condemnation concerning the fate of family members. One prisoner doctor stated simply that when the SS doctor doing the selections identified him as a physician, “he directed me to the right and my mother to the left.” Another doctor, who arrived in Auschwitz in September 1943 from a transit camp in Holland, conveyed to me the primal feeling of both the strength of his urge to survive and his guilt that he alone of all his family survived because he was a doctor:  
We were . . . my wife, my child, and her parents. We came out of the train. There was a German. He said women to the one side and men to the other side. And then I — what really happened I don’t know exactly .... But at the moment I was standing with my father-in-law. He was about, over seventy. He was an old man. And I was thinking, “Maybe I can help him.” And when I was standing there, then I heard someone saying, “Doctors [in English], austreten [‘Come out of the ranks’].” And I went out and they put me to the other little group of younger people . ... You see, if I should not have heard this outcry [call for doctors], I should not have been here. Luck is such an important  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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