Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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as another survivor testified, "to kill a man was nothing, no worth talking about": a doctor who was perfectly polite and decent most of the time"felt no compunction about sending people into the gas.”15

From the late spring of 1944, when an enormous influx of Hungarian Jews placed a strain on the scheduling of doctors on the duty roster, the way of conducting selections changed. Now, as Dr. B. explained, mass arrangements had to be made. At a special meeting of medical officers, Wirths announced that dentists and pharmacists were to take regular turns along with doctors in performing the selections. And selections were done by “teams”: “When the train arrived, there were announcements through a loudspeaker, such as ‘Mothers and children go left!’”

Although two doctors were present, neither any longer made decisions about individual arrivals. Rather, the doctor became “only a supervisor.” It was still important that he be present because he had the responsibility of overseeing the behavior of noncommissioned officers, others on the selections team, and prisoners — all of whom took part in placing arriving men and women in lines according to their category. With thousands of people arriving every day — as many as ten thousand in one night — selections were done “only by groups. . . One couldn’t select individuals. In the regulations it was stated that every individual must be judged capable of work — ‘camp-worthy’ — or not on medical grounds. In practice, that was never carried out — because it was impossible. One . . . selected only according to categories.” But the doctor was still central, Dr. B. emphasized: “He stood there and led the thing.”

Doctors could become very engrossed in questions about the method or technique of selections:*

“The people who participated in [a particular] selection would discuss it for days. ‘Which is better: to let mothers go with their children to the gas or to select the mothers later by separating them from their children? . . . Those were the type of problems in Auschwitz — not ideological problems but purely technical problems. And wars were virtually waged over these issues.”

Dr. B. explained how advice would be given to doctors and SS camp leaders by women criminal capos (prisoner functionaries) drawn from among actual German criminals; these capos found it much less difficult to handle arriving mothers whose children were still with them.

They engaged in elaborate exchanges about how many people shout be killed and how many admitted to the camp, always from the standpoint of medical and hygienic considerations:  
There were numerous discussions: Should one gas more or should one [gas fewer]? Where is the limit to be set? That is, if you take more old people into the camps, then there are more diseased people, and
* Contrastingly, they virtually never discussed the nature of selections (see pages 193-94).   
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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