Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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to be eliminated, whether that meant sending all Jews to Madagascar, forcing most Jews to leave Germany while permitting a small well-established minority to remain and undergo complete assimilation, or murdering every last one of them. By clinging to this ambiguity, Nazi doctors had an additional means of avoiding the psychological reality of the decision for mass murder and its implementation. And by viewing the whole matter as a problem that needed to be “solved,” by whatever means, that pragmatic goal could become the only focus. The very term Endlösung, or “Final Solution,” served both psychological purposes: it stood for mass murder without sounding or feeling like it; and it kept the focus primarily on problem solving. So given a minimum agreement on the necessity of solving the “Jewish problem,” doctors and other Nazis could come to accept, even to prefer, the mass-murder project, because it alone promised a genuine solution, a clearing up of the matter once and for all, and a final solution.

But there were different combinations of ideology and attitude. Even older career doctors — for instance, Hans Wilhelm König — could be in accord with SS principles but retain a measure of humanity so that (as Dr. Jacob R. stated) “As long as a person is allowed to be alive, he could be treated as a person.” It was König who was friendly with a woman prisoner artist (pages 232-33) and Dr. R. told how König had, on the forced march out of Auschwitz, saved his life by helping him up when he found it difficult to continue and was in danger of being shot.

Friedrich Entress, in contrast, was consistently perceived as brutal. According to Dr. R., “he was only, interested in the system and had no interest in patients, and Jewish doctors were non-persons.” Polish prisoners had their own special reasons to be terrified of Entress (see pages 262-63).

But, for Dr. Lottie M., “the fanatic was Klein.” It was he who insisted upon maintaining separation between the Aryan and the Jewish medical blocks, who considered the Jews a “gangrenous appendix” to be removed, and was at one with the selections process. “He felt that the right thing to do was to kill these people, . . . [that] it was right to do so,” Dr. M. stated, still with a certain degree of incredulity. More generally, Nazi doctors, as a Czech doctor, Erich G., observed, would “treat Jewish people as having a human form but not a human quality” and as “potential polluters of the German race” — which was why a Nazi doctor “became a killer instead of a healer,” a phenomenon “I saw daily.”

Careerist concerns became bound up with ideology in ways that reinforced one another. From the standpoint of career, the Auschwitz assignment was of mixed value. Its advantage lay in the likelihood of official recognition, including promotion and future advantages, for performing difficult duty, all the more so for a doctor identified as efficient and zealous in his work. But in terms of useful medical experience, always important for one’s career, Auschwitz offered very little. Dr. Lottie M. observed that Nazi doctors wished to be always professionally “on top of  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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