Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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those selected, and “once I even stole before the eyes of the camp doctor . . a pile of... reports from which the numbers for the gassing list were supposed to be taken.”7 But mostly, like all selections, those in the camp proceeded inexorably.
Selecting Entire Camps

On two occasions entire camp populations — the Czech family camp and the Gypsy camp — were, in effect, selected for the gas chambers. These were not selections in the usual sense: there was no doctor dividing people into those who died and those who lived.* But there was in each case a high-level order (from Berlin) for the annihilation of a specific group of thousands of people which had previously been kept intact. The events were perceived in the camp as large-scale selections.

It is likely that doctors were involved in these decisions, considering the health problems posed by these family camps — particularly the Gypsy camp, which was described by many as a quagmire of starvation and disease to a degree exceptional even for Auschwitz. Certainly, when the order did come from above, doctors were key figures in conducting the mass killing.

Consider the following description by a former prisoner — then part of the Sonderkommando and therefore a close witness of these events — of the first of two mass annihilations of the Czech (Jewish) family camp, which took place on 8 March 1944 and claimed (according to Wolken) 3,792 men, women, and children. The Nazis had utilized the Czechs — most of whom arrived in September 1943 from the model ghetto at Theresienstadt — for extensive propaganda campaigns, including the careful creation of a documentary film radically falsifying camp arrangements — all this associated with a rumor that the camp was under the protection of the International Red Cross. But, in carrying out the killing, the SS realized that inmates there had been in Auschwitz long enough to recognize what was happening, and therefore treated them with great and overt brutality: 
[In the dressing room of the crematorium] people's blood-stained and battered heads and faces proved that there was scarcely anyone who had been able to dodge the truncheon blows in the yard. Their faces were ashen with fear and grief . . . . Only a few days ago had Lagerführer [Johann] Schwarzhuber promised them, on his word of honor as an SS leader, that they and their families would be going to Heydebreck [an I. G. Farben plant] . . . . Hope and illusions had vanished. What was left was disappointment, despair, and anger.

They began to bid each other farewell. Husbands embraced their wives and children. Everybody was in tears. Mothers turned to their chil- […dren]
* But doctors could arrange to save a few people (see pages 232-33).   
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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