Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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Socialization to Killing  
state, or making exchanges or other deals with prisoners through which Nazi personnel, including doctors, obtained gold or money from them. He went on to point out that, moreover, Auschwitz rules were such that “the very moment [an SS physician] fraternized, he was ... committing a crime.” In the vicious circle of contradiction and illegality that developed, whatever means one took to curb illegal practices could usually be accomplished only by further illegalities: to curb excessive trading of food or hoarding of gold on the part of corrupt SS men or capos required that special arrangements (essentially forms of bribery) be made with others in authority. And since anything was possible in that atmosphere, it was difficult to separate fact from mere rumor or from what Dr. B. called “latrine talk.” As he declared, “Even in the case of Rudolf Höss, certainly the most incorruptible and most correct camp commandant that ever existed, . . . there was this rumor, . . . much talked about,. . . that he had an affair with a Jewish woman.”*

The food situation was a perpetual source of corruption. With near-starvation rations further siphoned off at various points, the ordinary prisoner could not survive on the amount of food made available to him or her. Everyone therefore “organized,” as the Auschwitz term had it: arranged a way to get enough food to stay alive and help friends do the same. Corruption in that sense was life preserving — but, as Dr. B. put it, “All those who survived Auschwitz lived from food that was taken away from the others.” What he did not say was that the SS policy, as carried out by camp medical and command authorities, imposed this fundamental life-death corruption. They used the situation for reward-and-punishment control over prisoners and frequently for additional trading that filled their own pockets.

The ultimate corruption was the existence of the mass killing, around which the camp essentially revolved. Since that killing process depended upon extensive prisoner involvement, it could be maintained most effectively when camp conditions were relatively good. In other words, whatever Nazi doctors contributed to the health of inmates — and they did improve camp hygiene, expand medical facilities, and support prisoner doctors — was in the service of not just the work force but the murder machine. That was the real  “dirt” on all of their “walking sticks.”

Yet many Nazi doctors kept pressing for better medical conditions — searching everywhere for useful equipment, accumulating it in their barracks, seeking to have better operating rooms — but always faced what Dr. B. called the “barrier,” the threat of starvation, so that the medical structures they built were part of a “fiction.” Even if enough food could be “organized” to keep patients alive for a while, “the primary founda- […tion]
* Characteristically, the rumor was partly true (he did have an affair with a prisoner, Eleonore Hodys) and partly false (she was not Jewish) — and, in this latter aspect, more scandalous than the truth. But there was much more to question about Höss's alleged incorruptibility: he in fact tried to murder Hodys when she became pregnant.5   
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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