Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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looked at it [Auschwitz] as a totally messed-up thing. [But] you could not change it, you see. That's like in a democracy, where you may find many things wanting, but you cannot change it. Or rather you stick with it nonetheless. Because [you] think democracy is better.” The strong implication is that Nazism even with Auschwitz was the best of all possible worlds.

However ironic, these medical participants in mass murder were held to the regime behind the murder by the principles of what Dr. B. called “coherent community” (zusammenhängende Gemeinschaft, which also means “community that hangs together”) and “common effort” (allgemeine Anstrengung, which implies intensity and exertion) in discussing his and others' sense of the Nazi movement's commitment to overcoming staggering national problems. Hence he could speak of "a faith" [Glaube] and, more than that, of a "practiced faith" joined to a community [Gemeinschaft]; in all this, “the bridge ... is the ideology.” And that “bridge” could connect the Nazi doctors to an immediate sense of community and communal purpose in their Auschwitz work.

Anti-Jewishness was an active ingredient in that ideology. While there was individual variation, Dr. B. claimed that “all physicians were absolutely convinced that ‘the Jews were our misfortune’” — the phrase first uttered by Heinrich von Treitschke, the nineteenth-century politician-historian who contributed to the sense that “there was something virtuous about being anti-Semitic” (see pages 35-36).6 When I mentioned the phrase “gangrenous appendix” an SS doctor had applied to Jews (see pages 15-16), Dr. B. quickly answered that the Nazi doctors’ overall feeling was: “Whether you want to call it an appendix or [not], it must be extirpated [ausgerottet, meaning also ‘exterminated,’ ‘destroyed,’ or ‘eradicated’].” He went so far as to say that even the policy of killing all Jews was readily justified by this “theoretical and ideological” stance, so that “of course they supported it.”

On other occasions, B. spoke differently, stressing that Auschwitz Nazi doctors were not for the most part ideologically minded. But he was consistent in stressing their sense of a “Jewish problem” and their tendency to speak in what he called the usual propaganda phrases: “That all cultures have realized that the Jews . . . must be kept outside of the regular [normal] culture .... That German culture cannot grow [ausbreiten; also: ‘spread,’ ‘unfold,’ ‘open out'] if it is being infiltrated ‘Jewishly’ or some thing along that line.”

But to perform selections, the Nazi doctor had to make the psychic shift from ideology to actual mass murder (as Karl K. explained): 
There was no one in Germany or in the whole world who had not heard Hitler’s and Streicher’s proclamation that the Jews had to be exterminated [vernichtet] . . . . Everybody heard that. And everybody “heard past it” [vörbeigehort; “didn't take it in”]. Because nobody believed that such a reality would come into practice . . . . And suddenly one is confronted with the fact that what one used to, my God! take  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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