Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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whole thing” and insist that “this is a filthy business [Schweinerei]!” Dr. B. described these outbursts as so insistent as to be “like a mania [Sucht], . . . a sickness . . . over Auschwitz and ... the gassings.”

Such inebriated protest brought about no repercussions — indeed, may even have been encouraged — and was unrelated to commitment or action. Consequently, “whether one condemned it or not was not really so much the issue.” The issue, as Ernst B. defined it, was that “Auschwitz was an existing fact. One couldn't. . . really be against it, you see, one had to go along with it whether it was good or bad.” That is, mass killing was the unyielding fact of life to which everyone was expected to adapt.

Whenever an SS doctor arrived at Auschwitz, the process was repeated as questions raised by the newcomer were answered by his more experienced drinking companions:  
He would ask, “How can these things be done here?” Then there was something like a general answer ... which clarified everything. What is better for him [the prisoner] — whether he croaks [verreckt] in shit or goes to heaven in [a cloud of] gas? And that settled the whole matter for the initiates [Eingeweihten
This ostensibly humane argument Dr. B was saying was itself an assertion of Auschwitz reality as the baseline for all else. His language of initiation is appropriate in that selections were the specific “ordeal” the initiate had to undergo in order to emerge as a functioning Auschwitz “adult.” And by exposing and combating doubts, the drinking sessions helped suppress moral aspects of the prior self in favor of a new Auschwitz self.

Doubts could include the fundamental matter of a physician engaging in killing: “One would say, ‘Selecting is not the province of the doctor, because it is a completely nonmedical activity.’ … I must refuse to select because my only purpose is to sustain life.” That too always evoked an answer to which nobody was able to object “What do you do in war, … in battle, don’t you have to select there as well? Since not all can be treated and not all can be transported this [need to select] is the problem of every military doctor.”

However absurd the comparison by any logical standards in that setting it could seem credible. For, as Dr. B. added, “Whether you believe something or not always depends on the situation.” And the “essential psychological situation” of Auschwitz doctors, in his view, was resignation to its killing structure: “I’m here. I cannot get out. If prisoners come, that is a natural phenomenon [Naturereignis]. And I have to do [make] the best of it.” (This last sentence was spoken in English.)

Beyond mere resignation, SS doctors moved psychologically into that perceived Auschwitz reality. Through the drinking sessions, their resistance was “talked out” (ausdiskutiert), so that after about fourteen days the newcomer “no longer spoke of these things,” and since “everyone [knew]  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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