Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
  Page 207  
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Socialization to Killing 
what is going on,” so that if they would say, “No, no, that wasn’t good,” they would mean that something “wasn’t good because their career was interrupted.”

Nazi doctors did not recall being especially aware in Auschwitz of their Hippocratic oath, and were, not surprisingly, uncomfortable in discussing it with me. A number of them, in fact, told me directly that the oath of loyalty to Hitler they took as SS military officers was much more real to them than was a vague ritual performed at medical school graduation (see also page 435). The latter oath had enormous power, as I learned from a doctor who, though long anti-Nazi, refused to listen to the BBC toward the end of the war because of his oath to Hitler. (An oath for Germans especially can be experienced as an absolute commitment to an immortalizing principle, an association of self with a transcendent morality). Dr. Lottie M., however, felt that the Hippocratic oath was always in some sense present for German doctors, in contention with more immediate loyalties and with the oath to Hitler. And this woman prisoner doctor thought the Hippocratic oath, however dim in awareness, an important factor in certain situations, as when Nazi doctors insisted upon better conditions for prisoners or when, for instance, König insisted that “pregnant women cannot be kept in a camp.”* With all their participation in murder, the residual influence of a healing self once bound to the Hippocratic oath rendered the SS doctor, according to a prominent non-Jewish prisoner and resistance leader, “the weakest link in the SS chain.” But his oath to Hitler maintained the link nonetheless. 
Making the System Work 
Dr. B stressed the absoluteness of the situation, the need to decide immediately that “you’ve got to go [here] — and you will go there! — with utterly no room for additional discussion.” And that absoluteness was consistent with membership in a ramrod SS military élite. As Dr. B. also pointed out, “The SS doctor was from the start different from other military physicians” in that only he among them carried a pistol, and there was the sense that “if the need arises, he becomes a soldier like anyone else.” Moreover, through Himmler’s messages, that special status was particularly associated with serving in the camps: “Himmler always made clear to us that this task of concentration-camp personnel was especially significant [wichtig; ‘weighty, essential, vital’], . . . a matter of the highest level, . . . high and elevated, . . . so somehow in this way [conflict or expressions of revulsion] were cut off [abgeschnitten].” Dr. B.
* Konig meant that pregnant non-Jewish women should be released.   
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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