Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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Socialization to Killing 
as one SS doctor recalled years later: “One could react like a normal human being in Auschwitz only for the first few hours. Once one had spent some time there, it was impossible to react normally. In that setup everyone was sullied.” And SS doctors, as a survivor added, were “doing what the society wants you to do.”

Dr. Henri Q, noting angrily that doctors “who are to care for the sick” instead “participated in such a massacre without resisting,” pointed out that only one SS doctor (and there is actually some doubt about him) asked to be sent to the Russian front instead. Dr. Q. contrasted that record with consistent resistance by prisoner doctors who risked their lives changing lists and protecting people from selections in various ways. And he observed closely the relationship between routinization and extreme moral blunting — the “relaxed” manner of “gentlemen who came and went” described in the epigraph to this chapter. And the prisoner doctor Magda V. pointed out (as did the SS doctor Ernst B.) that, whatever the difference in the Nazi doctors’ attitudes toward selections, they did them as “part of their job” — with such compliance that “I think those bastards knew what they came for.”

But Dr. V. nonetheless noticed that doctors could behave differently from one another. One factor was fear. Of Dr. König, she said that he took more people from the medical blocks in selections than he need have taken “because he was scared,” and added, “[Among SS doctors] there [weren’t] ... many brave men there .... We didn’t get the cream of . . . humanity.”

The doctors were affected as well by the impending German defeat. Some became considerably more pleasant and helpful, looking for the support from liberated prisoners they knew they would soon need. But some had a reverse reaction, selecting people to die all the more energetically; as Dr. Lottie M. observed, “it seemed to them more necessary to believe that they [were] right .... Somehow you felt them say, ’We are still right.’” Individual psychological attitudes toward women and men could also be important in ways to be discussed. Dr. M. told me, for instance, that Rohde was relatively considerate to women prisoner doctors — and, in fact, was especially active in arranging release from the camp of pregnant non-Jewish women inmates (made possible by later Auschwitz rules) — but was at the same time “an awful man toward the men.”

Another element was their education and general knowledge. The Polish doctor Tadeusz S. stressed that they were “not educated doctors,” “did not understand either human beings or medicine,” and sometimes resembled medical students whose basic ignorance enabled them to think of “fantastic experiments,” all the more so when combined with Nazi ideology. This ignorance was greatest in older SS doctors who had been early Nazis, the medical version of the “old fighters.” But Dr. S. was referring to the overall Nazi impairment of the profession and to medical versions of the Nazi pseudo intellectual: the half-educated visionary,  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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