Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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Socialization to Killing 
I couldn’t ask [Dr. Fritz] Klein, “Don't send this man to the gas chamber,” because I didn’t know that he went to the gas chamber. You see, that was a secret. Everybody knows the secret, but it was a secret. If I said to him, “Herr Doktor Klein, why should you send this man to the gas chambers?,” I suppose that he would say, “Gas chamber? What do you mean?” 
Partly out of boredom, but for important psychological reasons as well, all Nazi doctors took up what Dr. B. called “hobbies.” These hobbies might include approximation of actual medical work or research; or collaboration with more experienced prisoner doctors in various medical enterprises including surgery and both clinical and laboratory studies. In these the Nazi doctor, in relationship to the prisoner doctor, was both student and arbiter of life and death. Certainly the avid construction of ambitious hospital units was still another. hobby. And the reason these were all hobbies is that, as Dr. B. put it, “We could do [them] at the pace of a hobby or with the attitude of a hobby.” Or, to put matters more simply, such was the nature of Auschwitz that everything not concerned with killing — and to a lesser degree, with work production — was no more than a hobby.

All such hobbies come down to a particular purpose, as Dr. B. tellingly put it: “And there one could seek out, lay out, a task. And in it also achieve success. And in that way sweep the problem [of Auschwitz killing] under the table.” Building medical facilities, then, served the psychological purpose of avoiding awareness of one’s own killing and of others’ dying. In that milieu, as Dr. B. said, “a hospital is a contradictio in objecto [objective contradiction] .... The doctors escape into . . . illusion.”

Also crucial to SS doctors were a series of personal alliances. Each doctor sought to have good relationships with the members of the SS team he worked with on the ramp. In a different way, the SS doctor could also experience various kinds of psychological satisfaction from his contacts with prisoner doctors (to be discussed later) and develop what Ernst B. called “small cells of personal communication” giving rise in turn to “many, many small islands of humanity.” However precarious, these “islands of humanity” enabled SS doctors to feel that they could “really do [people] a lot of good” and helped them block out the Auschwitz mainland of murderous inhumanity. 
Ideology and the “Jewish Problem” 
Crucial to the capacity to perform selections was a doctor’s relationship to Nazi ideology. Important here was the basic early attraction on the part of most of these doctors to the Nazi promise of German resurgence — a tie that could sustain them through reservations arid discomfort: “We  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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