Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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Selections in the Camp 
had to be kept alive to perform the necessary work.² Toward the end, the selections diminished considerably — except for the destruction of two entire camp units in mid-1944.

At times the orders for camp selections seemed to be sufficiently precise — at least sufficiently translated by command and medical authorities into precise numbers — that doctors performing the selections did so with rather exact requirements. More often there was considerable leeway so that it could be, as one knowledgeable survivor put it, "very, very arbitrary," and the individual selecting doctor could frequently “do as he liked.”

Selections could be requested unofficially as well as officially. (The head of a subcamp, as the same survivor tells us, might approach an SS doctor with the complaint of Überlag [“overcrowding”].) In either case, there was likely to be a combination of pressure on the doctor to follow a general policy and considerable discretion on his part is to how to do that.

Dr. Otto Wolken, the prisoner doctor who kept records, told of a mass camp selection, held on “the last Sunday in August in 1943,” in which four thousand Jews were sent to be gassed. He referred to a sequence of ramp selections; of individual killings by capos, encouraged by camp authorities; of prisoners admitted to the camp but unable to do the heavy work assigned them — and when “these heroes lost their pleasure in doing this [killing], . . the camp doctor appeared.” His appearance was synonymous with the dreaded order of “Blocksperre!” ["Block sealed!"], which meant that no one could leave his or her block and curtains or blinds were drawn to prevent vision into or from the affected blocks: 
The camp doctor, accompanied by some SS, went from block to block. He received from the office the number of Jews in each single block. The Jews were taken from the blocks ... and their numbers were checked at roll call. Then they had to strip completely, whether it was summer or winter. And now the doctor went along the rows of naked people, and all who appeared weak or frail, who had bandages, showed boils, or even scars or scabies were ... sent along with those to be killed.³ 
Wolken went on to convey the systematic organization of the process from block to block, with those selected taken to a specially emptied block where they remained for a day or two, “packed like sardines,” the near-starvation rations allocated for them largely intercepted by capos who traded food for alcohol and “had drinking orgies, which usually ended with severe mistreatment of the selected.” It did, not matter that some prisoners were killed in this way because “only the [total] number had to be correct, they didn't have to be alive.” When transporting them at night in trucks to the gas chamber, SS men engaged in “rough jokes,” again enhanced by alcohol, and in additional beatings and killings.4
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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