Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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arm (in fact, she was given an Aryan rather than a Jewish number). It turned out that Dr. J. was needed to provide actual medical care for the women on the notorious Block 10, where various experiments were done.

Since the real medical work of Auschwitz — treatment of sick inmates — was inseparable from selections, when SS doctors involved prisoner doctors in the first they brought them at least to the periphery of the second. In so doing, the SS doctors sought to avoid recognition of their own guilt by bringing prisoner doctors as close as possible to the dirtiest of all medical work. To the extent that they could succeed in tainting those they ruled over, they felt themselves to be less tainted. In that way they could blur, at least for themselves, distinctions between victimizer and victim, between physician jailer and physician prisoner.

When discussing these matters, Dr. B. would revert to this view, emphasizing again his conviction, quoted earlier, that “all those who survived Auschwitz lived from the food that was taken away from the others.”

Thus, the ultimate adaptation of prisoner doctors involved a quid pro quo — that is, “something for something.” The “something" given by the SS via the SS doctors to prisoner doctors was, first of all, survival. And not only one's own survival but the capacity to contribute to the survival of others. Prisoner doctors were very clear about the relation of their medical status to staying alive: “If I were not in the hospital [as a doctor], I'd be dead too”; or, “For me to be a doctor has been life saving”; or, “We survived because of our profession.” One prisoner doctor tells of the concrete ways in which this was true: 
Bread was ... the main currency, the symbol of power and status . ... I realized that, as a doctor-nurse, I was sort of upper middle class in the camp society: the better fed I looked, the more authority I seemed to have. As a member of the [medical] staff, I received a double ration of soup and occasionally some extra bread. It was important to husband one’s energy. I managed, following the example of my veteran co-nurse, to sneak a little after-lunch nap in a corner.³ 
One way prisoner doctors overcame this potential guilt toward other prisoners was by helping them.

The “something” gained by SS doctors from prisoner doctors involved the work of the camp, work that took them to the edge of selections — as another prisoner doctor put the matter self-laceratingly when he declared, “We did the work. They gave us something extra — extra food . ... But [they said], ‘You must help us. You must do the work.’ They are shrewd. They know a lot about human psychology.”

There were further paradoxes about what prisoner doctors did. Many of those who worked closely with SS doctors, and appeared to be actively collaborating in selections, were actually using their position to save as many people as possible. And those who expressed themselves vehe- [mently]  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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