Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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described, the SS doctor would take a quick look around the hospital blocks, or have a number of patients brought to him, and select a few of the weaker ones for phenol injections. With the larger selections, all prisoner patients would be brought, usually naked, before the camp doctor who, with a glance, decided which among them could remain and which were to be killed. These large selections could involve two hundred or three hundred prisoners; and within a day or two of the selection, the prisoners were loaded into trucks and taken to the gas chambers.

There were especially large medical-block selections in connection with typhus epidemics or fear of an epidemic. The most notorious of these took place on 29 August 1942. Typhus had been spreading rapidly through the main camp, affecting SS personnel as well as prisoners, and necessitating that a special wooden barracks be set up specifically for typhus patients. The decision to “liquidate” those typhus patients apparently came from Berlin, and Entress selected seven hundred or eight hundred people, including typhus patients, those suspected of having the disease and those convalescing. Prisoner doctors and nurses were originally supposed to be included but were saved apparently by means of some form of negotiation.20

Dr. Jan W a leading Polish prisoner physician, pointed to the SS doctor as the one who acted on the principle that “a person can live only if he works — unless he works … he must die”; and who together with his assistants “had in fact the task of speeding up [that] death.”
Skeletons Marching
Prisoner doctors could observe what those medical block selections were really like. The highly respected Lucie Adelsberger, who worked on the overcrowded Jewish block* of the women’s hospital in Birkenau, reported a hospital scene: 
The sick lie on straw sacks all jumbled together, one on top of the other, and cannot stretch their sore limbs nor rest their backs The beds bulge with filth and excrement and the dead and the decomposing press with their stiffened bodies against the living who confined as they are cannot move away. Every illness in the camp is represented here: tuberculosis diarrhea rashes induced by crawling vermin hunger, edema where the wasted skeleton has filled itself with water to replace the vanished cell tissue, people with bloodshot weals caused by lashes of the whip people with mangled limbs frozen feet, wounds from the electric wire or who have been shot at for trifles by a trigger-happy SS.
* Regulations required that Jewish inmates be treated by Jewish doctors and Aryan inmates by non-Jewish doctors. How scrupulously this segregation was maintained varied with Nazi doctors, but seemed to be held to more strictly in the women’s hospital in Birkenau than elsewhere.   
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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