Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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Socialization to Killing 
evidenced by the fact that they tended to leave quickly after the selections and turn things over to the underlings (as if, as Dr. V. put it, “they [themselves] didn’t ... do anything”): that is, as a means of distancing themselves from what they had actually done.

Dr. Peter D. commented on this inner division in Dr. Horst Fischer (who had supported D.’s work in otolaryngology): “[His] manner was human . . .when he was alone with me; [yet concerning selections, he] never had a regret for what he did.” Dr. D. “wondered how he could ... go on doing that [selections].”

Another way Nazi doctors coped with Auschwitz was to lead a double life that both reflected and enhanced their psychological doubling. Thus, they spent most of their time in the camp (except for occasional professional or pleasure trips to nearby areas) but went on leave for a few days every other month or so to spend time, usually in Germany, with their wives and children. They remained extremely aware of the separateness of the two worlds. One’s wife, children, and parents came to stand for purity, as opposed to an inner sense of Auschwitz filth. Ernst B., for instance, managed to get home every two or three months for about a week’s time but spoke strongly against the idea of his wife ever visiting him at Auschwitz: “I could never have subjected my wife to a closer look at things . . . . I can't even express myself properly, [but] the thought of her coming there would have caused [me] great [inner] resistance. One simply gave it no consideration whatsoever.”*

Dr. B. observed that each SS doctor could call forth two radically different psychological constellations within the self: one based on “values generally accepted” and the education and background of a “normal person”; the other based on “this [Nazi-Auschwitz] ideology with values quite different from those generally accepted.” The first tendency might be present on one day, the second on the next, and it was hard to know which to expect on a given occasion or whether there would be a mixture of both.

Only a form of schism or doubling can explain the polarities of cruelty and decency in the same SS doctor. Klein is perhaps the best illustration here. This cruel and fanatical racist was seen by Dr. Magda V. as profoundly hypocritical and simply a “bad man,” and by another prisoner physician, Olga Lengyel, as “one of the fervent zealots” who ran the Nazi annihilation project. Yet this latter doctor also spoke of him as a person capable of kindness, as when he brought her medicine for her patients and protected her from cruel SS personnel (see pages 226-27); he was, Lengyel said, “the only German in Auschwitz who never shouted.”8
*There were exceptions: Höss’s family lived with him in Auschwitz as did the wives or families of other commandants; and among doctors, Wirths’s family lived there some of the time, and the wives or families of a few others periodically or, more briefly. Even in those cases, however, the men seemed to maintain the separation between the world of Auschwitz killing and their family life nearby (see also page 319).

SS officers also had social and sexual opportunities involving German women, mostly civilians, who did clerical work at nearby command areas or in some cases in the camp itself.   
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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