Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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Another prisoner also had a surprisingly positive experience with Klein: when walking in the camp, this man took the highly unusual and dangerous step of approaching the SS doctor directly in order to ask him to have his (the prisoner's) wife, a nurse, transferred from an attic working place, where a great deal of sawdust caused her to cough incessantly, back to a medical block where she had worked in the past. Instead of saying, “Away with this fellow!” as everyone thought he would, Klein complied. This survivor commented, “These things are so intermingled — murdering and extermination on the one hand, and the very small details where something could work out quite the other way.” He further reflected: 
When I tell this ... after thirty-five years, I think, How could it be possible? ... That one could influence this god and make a man who ... exterminated thousands of people ... to have interest in one prisoner girl, and save her .... There are things that happen in human nature ... that an experienced analyst even cannot understand .... This split, . . . it can be very delicate .... Maybe with these small [positive] things — with Klein, there [was] something of ... medical tradition in them. But, in general, I believe they were no longer doctors. They were SS officers. In these things, the group spirit is one thousand times mightier than the individual spirit. 
This survivor was saying that Klein functioned primarily in relation to the collective SS ethos, or what I call the “Auschwitz self”; but that he had available a humane dimension of self that could emerge at certain moments.

The existence of that humane element of self may, in fact, have contributed to Klein’s and other Nazi doctors’ cruelties. For instance, when SS doctors asked pregnant women to step forward so that they could receive a double food ration — only to send those who did to the gas chamber the following day — it is possible that a brief sense of potential “medical activity” (improving the diet of pregnant women) contributed to the doctors’ psychological capacity to carry out this hideous hoax.

In my interviews with Dr. Lottie M., she raised several questions she asked me to explore with Nazi doctors: How far did they look upon all of Auschwitz as “an experiment [on] how much a person can stand”? How much were they able to recognize “the irrationalism of the racial theory”? At what point had “they started to be afraid of the end”? But what she was most curious about was this question of split loyalty — of conflicting oaths contradictions between murderous cruelty and momentary kindness which SS doctors seemed to manifest continuously during their time in Auschwitz.

For the schism tended not to be resolved. Its persistence was part of the overall psychological equilibrium that enabled the SS doctor, to do his deadly work. He became integrated into a large, brutal, highly functional  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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