|Socialization to Killing
|everyone else's point of view ... there [was] no longer any
discussion [of it]. And at that point one became an insider.
Dr. B. summed up, with considerable feeling, the extremity and
mystery of this transition process:
When you see a selection for the first time
Im not talking only about myself, I'm talking about even the most
hardened SS people, ... you see, . . . how
children and women are selected. Then you are so shocked ... that it just
cannot be described. And after a few weeks one can be accustomed to it [kann
man es gewöhnen; also suggests becoming inured]. And that [process,
change] cannot be explained to anybody. But it is the same phenomenon that
takes place right now in terrorists, in relation to close terrorist groups ....
And one can ... only experience [it to know it]. The expert can record it, but
he cannot enter into it [nachempfinden; know it from the
inside] .... But I think I can give you a kind of impression of it. When
you have gone into a slaughterhouse where animals are being slaughtered, . . .
the smell is also a part of it [es gehört auch der Gauch;
literally, the smell is what is required (for your reaction)], . .
. not just the fact that they [the cattle] fall over [dead] and so forth. A
steak will probably not taste good to us afterward. And when you do that [stay
in the situation] every day for two weeks, then your steak again tastes as good
| The slaughterhouse example is all too apt, but Dr. B. was
struggling to convey both an explanation and his retrospective awe and anxiety
at the fact of such a psychological transition.
But, as he also
explained, doctors inwardly wanted to make that transition because of
the great urge to become an insider. For in so extraordinary a situation, he
implied, personal isolation would be intolerable, and one would become
desperate to establish contact somehow with others. Newcomers would
seek out men with whom they could identify because of relatively similar
backgrounds and outlooks. For instance, a young doctor who had just joined the
SS would seek out men in that category rather than medical old
fighters who had been in the concentration-camp system for years. There
would be shared regional attitudes (such as Bavarian antagonism to Prussians)
or educational and class affinities. Sometimes experienced Auschwitz doctors
were assigned as mentors to arriving neophytes (in ways I shall discuss), which
suggests that the authorities were aware of the pattern of conflict during the
early transition experience.
Pressure and Mentorship
At the same time there was constant pressure from above toward
maximum involvement in selections, particularly from the spring of 1944 when
dentists and pharmacists were also ordered to take their turns on the ramp. One
of those dentists later testified that his plea to Wirths that