Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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. . . . NCOs and also company commanders and camp leaders Some were . . . how shall we say? . . . well, one cannot put it any other way - interested in it. They pressed forward, or rather they engaged themselves .... They said, “What those others are doing is all rubbish!” Or . . . some who had already been in other concentration camps where one was experiencing these matters because, for instance, the crematoria had been out of operation or were small . . . . Physicians and other people — all those who believed themselves to be experts — they engaged themselves there.  
As Dr. B. summed up the matter: “The problem . . . was not the selections but how one can burn the colossal quantities [of corpses] if the ovens are not working. That’s what was being talked about, and nothing else.”

The problem led to antagonisms among doctors and other SS leaders (“Why didn’t you have an idea?”), and to disclaimers of responsibility (“That is not our job — you go ahead and do something”). Soon discussions of the nagging problem were no longer confined to small medical or technical circles but were extended to casual off-duty moments, with such comments as, “This fool, he did such and such — how can he do that when — ?” Dr B. explained that the “best ideas” did not necessarily come from doctors or other officers but came from “very simple people“ among SS personnel. And his message again and again was that the focus was always pragmatic, on what worked — “not [on] moral or, aesthetic or any other such considerations . . . because that [area of feeling] was already blocked off [abgeblockt].... It was purely a technical matter.” And, with chilling consistency, on the subject of ethics: “No. ‘Ethical’ plays absolutely no [part] — the word does not exist."*

B. then provided a simple but telling model:
The whole pattern of things within the camp atmosphere ... was just the way it is in a civilian community, with all the human squabbling, you understand…. It was like the planning of construction or something on that order, things you observe in any community .... Not only professional conflicts but also positions of power ... were fought out just as in any civilian organization, but here it was all about the Auschwitz crematorium and such things .... It is exactly the same .... Human beings living in communities have a task, . . . administering something somewhere, and ... they always function in the same way — according to rules — for instance, Parkinson’s Law.† ... And it was exactly that way within the concentration camp — especially so because of the secrecy and because it [the camp] had such an exceptional position [Sonderstell- […ung]  

* In the original German: “Nein. Ethisch spielt überhaupt — das Wort gibt es nicht.

† The semi-humorous principle — put forward in C. Northcote Parkinson’s 1980 book, Parkinson: A Law — that bureaucracy expands to fill up available space.  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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