|Socialization to Killing
|what is going on, so that if they would say,
No, no, that wasnt good, they would mean that something
wasnt good because their career was interrupted.
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
| Dr. B stressed the absoluteness of the situation, the need
to decide immediately that youve 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 Himmlers
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.