Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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failed and he was “put on a truck to the gas chamber,” he was rescued by a Polish block chief  “whom I had taken care of in the past.”

Moreover, one could finally take active steps for one’s own survival or that of others; and sometimes for getting oneself transferred to a better or less dangerous situation, one could make use of influence, have special access to food on the medical blocks, or even arrange that certain records be altered.

But a prisoner doctor quickly came to see the series of falsifications that underlay the medical structure. These included elaborate falsification of the cause of death, not only for prisoners selected for phenol injections or the gas chambers, but even for special executions ordered by the Political Department and carried out in medical blocks by means of phenol injections. In the latter, there could be arrangements resembling those of the “euthanasia” project, as Dr. Jan W. made clear: “Telegrams, ... official forms, statements to the family — the exact time of death in hours and minutes, though the victim died four days earlier, . . . the cause of death ... this or that - pneumonia, for instance.” However appalled by the world of SS doctors, prisoner doctors had no choice but to adapt to it.

For Dr. Henri Q., what Nazi doctors did was “an abomination” of medicine by “men who were trained to heal, help, relieve suffering and prolong life, and there they did just the opposite.” A prisoner doctor, aware of how little he or she could do, could feel (as Dr. Gerda N. put it) like “a prisoner in a camp [who] had a [medical] degree but really didn't do [the] work of a physician.” Prisoner doctors had to connect with, even as they struggled to attenuate, the Auschwitz medical reversal of healing and killing.

Whatever their privileged state, prisoner doctors were constantly reminded of Auschwitz truths and of the extreme danger just underneath any apparent security. Dr. Q., for instance, remembered one Sunday morning: 
We had seen parades of deported women [women inmates] for three hours. They were coming from the crematoria to the station. Each woman was pushing a child's baby stroller .... And those were the strollers that their children had been taken to the gas chambers in. They were taking them back to the station for the Germans to send to Germany to be used there. We understood, . . . but even we refused to believe this concrete image.*
SS doctors applied considerable pressure to involve prisoner doctors in the overall Auschwitz system because they needed the latter’s coopera- [tion]
* It is not clear from this description how much the mothers understood about the deaths of their children, or whether the mothers themselves were destined for the gas chamber in accordance with the policy of killing mothers with children, or whether the incident occurred at a time when mothers were permitted to survive.   
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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