|AUSCHWITZ: THE RACIAL CURE
] tion was lacking because they were starving
to death. And, we may add, because the same patients helped one day would
be sent to the gas chambers another day, or else utilized to keep the killing
structure functioning. This is what Dr. B. called the schizophrenic
situation, by which he meant ostensible efforts to heal and help in the
midst of the fundamental Auschwitz mission of mass killing.
doctors, Dr. B. tells us, lived like lords, because
everything that amounted to actual work was done by the inmates.
This good life gave them additional incentive to participate in
selections, especially since the alternative, should they have strongly
requested a transfer, would probably have been the Russian front, where their
lives would have been in extreme danger.
That good life
included elegant demeanor, especially from the standpoint of inmates (SS
doctors were extremely well dressed, . . . distant gentlemen, who did not touch
an inmate, according to prisoner doctor Henri Q;), and an encompassing
presence in the camp (They, managed the situation . . . at the infirmary
... selections, ... at the station ... the crematoria .... They were
These legitimaters not only of medical
triage-murder but of medicalized Auschwitz killing were aided in their
function by their sense that all Jews were already condemned. What Dr. Magda V.
said of Mengele applies more generally to SS doctors: It didn't matter to
him [whether he selected someone or not] because he thought that sooner or
later they're going [to the gas chamber] .... For him I think we ... were just
dead anyhow. Another survivor similarly called the whole process,
only a play: that is a staged drama in which we were all
there to be killed: The question was only who was to be killed first.
For the SS doctor, efficiency in selections became equated with
quarantine arrangements and the improvement of actual medical units, all in the
service of keeping enough inmates able to work and the camp free of epidemics.
Within that context, the SS doctor inevitably came to perceive his professional
function to be in neither the killing nor the healing alone, but in achieving
the necessary balance. That healing-killing balance, according to the SS
doctor Ernst B., was the problem for Auschwitz doctors. From that
standpoint, as he further explained, the principle of clearing out
a block when there was extensive diarrhea sending everyone on it to the
gas chambers could be viewed as pseudo ethical and
pseudo idealistic. Dr. B. meant that such a policy in that
environment could be perceived by the doctors themselves as ethical and
idealistic in that they carried out their task to perfection on behalf of the
higher goal of camp balance.
Detoxifying language contributed to this
self-deception. As Dr. Jacob, R. explained, SS doctors were surely cruel in
sending people to the gas chambers but never admitted it:
They called it going on a transport back to camp. Another prisoner
doctor suggested how far this kind of euphemism contributed to a pervasive
atmosphere of denial: