Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
  Page 208  
Previous Page

Home Page
Home Page  
   Next Page
believed that doctors were “certainly” affected by Himmler’s message because it heightened the sense on the part of SS officers and personnel that working in a camp made them a special élite, and the doctors’ further sense of being an élite within that élite.

That special recognition received for participating in murder helped shift doctors’ conflicts to intra-organizational ones — questions of personal loyalty to either the chief doctor or the camp commandant, and general issues of one’s “sense of duty as a civil servant,” or at least its military equivalent. For these and other reasons, Ernst B. could say that he saw no direct expressions of revulsion toward selections, though he “always wondered” why that was so. A partial answer is that a combination of ideology and cynical detachment became a much more comfortable psychological stance — here described by the prisoner nonmedical scientist who observed a few Nazi doctors closely and read some of their records:  
They considered themselves performing Therapia Magna Auschwitzciense. They would even use the initials TM. At first it was mockingly and ironically, but gradually they began to use them simply to mean the gas chambers. So that whenever you see the initials T. M., that’s what it means. The phrase was invented by Schumann who fancied himself an academic intellectual among the intelligentsia of Auschwitz doctors. By that phrase they meant, for instance, saving people from typhus epidemics. They were doing them a favor. And there was also a sense of humane method in what they were doing .... A second part of the concept of Therapia Magna was doing things for science — learning things for science, etc. 
In connection with those few doctors who resisted selections Dr B groped unsuccessfully for their reasons. He concluded only that, after one has “witnessed the whole procedure from the beginning ... then you can only in a clearly intuitive way [nur rein gefühlsmässig] say, ‘This is impossible!’ I don't have any explanation for it.” (Just one SS doctor so far as we know — Dr. B. himself — succeeded in refusing and holding to it, though with the help of a special relationship to chain of command; and one other SS doctor — Hans Delmotte — tried to, for a while.)

The very contradictions and complexities concerning healing and killing that caused Dr. B. to speak of a schizophrenic situation also militated against resistance at the time — and against comprehension later on. On trying to explain Auschwitz by writing about it, Dr. B. said, “For me, it’s impossible because . . . if you start at one point, then the [endless] problems [of nuance and explanation] come and because nothing is concrete, you see.”

What did become clear was the power of the Auschwitz environment,  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

Robert J. Lifton
ISBN 0-465-09094
© 1986
Previous Page  Back Page 208 Forward  Next Page