Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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Prisoner Doctors: Struggles to Heal 
than a human life. It is not. necessary to treat a patient well, but one has to mention on the observation form [medical chart] that he received all the medication required for his condition, so that the Germans can prove to the world afterward, black on white, that if he died, it was because he was weak and not as a sequel of the poor treatment he was subjected to.
Prisoner doctors were especially drawn into the illusion of medical authenticity in their connections with Nazi doctors, as Dr. M. has made clear in describing her working arrangements with Mengele: 
I act[ed] as if it were a normal hospital, though I kn[e]w it [was] not. But ... when Mengele entered the block, J said, “May I show you this patient? ... Could I take this one to the men’s camp for [an] operation because we have no surgery but the men's camp ha[s] ….” I showed him ten of these patients. He said yes or no and went away. And it all had the forms of the normal head doctor’s visit. 
Lottie M. had a certain standing as a German non-Jew. Gerda N., a Jewish doctor, told me of her own pain concerning questions of “responsibility” and described as a “farce” her and other inmates’ attempts at medical work. With virtually no medication (“We got ten aspirins a day for a block of thousands”), they were expected to treat patients with the most severe and debilitating symptoms. The resulting sense of helplessness was magnified and infused with guilt and frustration by expectations that could not be fulfilled: “What can a doctor do... with nothing in his hands? . . . There's even no water ... but we still had to ... do [things] as if we were responsible for something . . . . [To] be responsible for something you cannot take the responsibility [for], . . . . it's sort of ... schizophrenic, . . . very schizophrenic.”

Like Dr. Ernst B., Dr. N. used the term “schizophrenic” to describe the reversals and confusions of healing and killing — of attempts at, and claims for, the former in the face of the latter. But she went further in revealing the terrible psychological consequences of those healing-killing paradoxes for a prisoner doctor, clinging to a sense of medical responsibility. Without directly saying so, she suffered from the Nazi doctors’ sinister extension of the idea of responsibility to encompass culpability and blame: they accused prisoner doctors of being “responsible” for patients’ deaths as a way of exonerating themselves and other camp authorities. This pattern of “blaming the victim” (in this case the physician-healer-victim) was, as we shall see, psychologically important to Nazi doctors; but here we may note especially its potentially devastating psychological impact on prisoner doctors, even when they were consciously aware that the accusation was absurd.

A related contradiction was the experience of providing, with SS doctors’ encouragement, extensive and ultimately successful treatment for
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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