|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] didnt ... do anything): that is, as
a means of distancing themselves from what they had actually done.
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
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. Ones 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 weeks
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:
Hösss family lived with him in Auschwitz as did the wives or
families of other commandants; and among doctors, Wirthss 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.