Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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Prisoner Doctors: The Agony of Selections 
[coopera…] tion on many counts. For one thing, since only prisoner doctors were in direct touch with sick patients, especially typhus cases, their cooperation was necessary to control epidemics in the camp. As Ernst B. explained, before mid-1942 if several cases of typhus broke out in a particular area of the camp, “it was shut off . ... All inmates were gassed (whether or not they showed signs of typhus) .... Then it was disinfected, and one hoped it would work.” But Dr. B. knew that prisoner doctors used “every available means to hinder the SS doctor in recognizing ... an epidemic” and hid typhus cases or falsified diagnoses.

SS doctors sometimes more or less recruited prisoner doctors they thought would be useful to them. For instance, Dr. Magda V., although very young and medically inexperienced when arriving in Auschwitz in early 1942, was skillful with her hands, impressed an SS doctor who saw her perform an emergency tracheotomy, and was almost immediately made head woman prisoner doctor, a position of authority she retained during her entire stay in Auschwitz.

Similarly, Dr. Peter D., an accomplished otolaryngologist working in a small, outlying camp, saved the life of a fellow prisoner by diagnosing his condition as acute mastoiditis with extradural abscess (external to the brain membrane, the dura mater) and operated on him with carpenter’s tools, the only instruments available. This was, in Auschwitz, a dangerously illegal act. Nonetheless, when the SS doctor in charge of the camp, Horst Fischer, found out about it, he quickly had Dr. D. transferred to a large hospital at Monowitz and given a special ward of fifteen beds for work on ear, nose, and throat cases, as well as appropriate surgical instruments.

These prisoner doctors were recruited, first of all, because the SS doctor needed to maintain actual medical work in the camp. In addition, many of the prisoner doctors knew the German language; and their knowledge was useful for certain kinds of reports and records, often false ones, which could be more important than actual medical treatment. Their recruitment could even depend on neatness. One prisoner doctor, for example, was tested by the SS doctor Bruno Weber, head of the Hygienic Institute, for his capacity to prepare an accurate, well-turned-out graph on the basis of numbers derived from work in the laboratory. This prisoner doctor was inspired to something close to perfection by the memory of “a young Frenchman” who had been similarly tested and whose graph was “a little fuzzy and had a few smudges from erasures” — resulting in his rejection. A few months later he was a Muselmann.2

But the most remarkable recruiting procedure of all was that of Dr. Wanda J., whose ability as a surgical gynecologist and hospital organizer was recognized while she was a prisoner at a different camp, and led to a visit from Dr. Enno Lolling, overall head of concentration-camp medical services. Lolling explained to her that she was to be transferred to Auschwitz under an unprecedented arrangement in which her hair would not have to be shaved and she would not have a number tattooed on her  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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