Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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Socialization to Killing 
system. Thus Dr. Henri Q. could wisely urge me to concentrate upon Nazi doctors’ relation to this system rather than upon a single, infamous individual such as Mengele: “What impressed us was the fact that Auschwitz was a collective effort. It was not just a single person, but many. And the disturbing thing was that it was not something passionate [irrational]. It was something calm — there was nothing emotional about Auschwitz.”

Dr. Jacob R., in discussing Nazi doctors’ continuing function, stressed “this question of power — of having uncontrolled power over somebody.” And in regard to the evil use of that power, Dr. Tadeusz S. quoted Dr. Fischer as having told him, “We [Nazis] have gone so far now that we have no way out.” There are two possible implications here: the moral principle that the evil could not be undone; and the psychological principle that, having maintained a death factory for a period of time, one felt impelled to continue its function. The psychological point is that atrocity begets atrocity: continuing to kill becomes psychologically necessary in order to justify the killing and to view it as other than it is.

That dynamic of living with the schism and the numbness was, revealed also in what Dr. S. took to be later attitudes of Nazi doctors: “Oh, they still live all over the world. They have no moral problem. They are only unhappy that they lost the war.”

These last few remarks by prisoner doctors suggest that the collective process of medicalized killing was, psychologically and technically, self-perpetuating; and that Nazi doctors found a way to engage in the process — the schism of which I speak — with sufficient detachment to minimize psychological discomfort and responsibility, then and over time.  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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