Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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injections" because “they had the feeling they were some kind of superior being.” Hence, many Polish prisoners engaged in the Auschwitz pattern of violence toward Jews — in the form of (sometimes lethal) physical beatings — and some Polish doctors got into the habit of slapping or imparting a few blows, with Jewish physicians among their victims. Jews in authority could also on occasion “slap one another”; but (as Dr. Erich G. put it) for “the Polish or the others to strike a Jew, it was no problem.” Even when Polish colleagues behaved “in a very correct manner,” (as a Czech woman survivor explained), they could be perceived by Jews as condescending: “We knew they were anti-Semitic.”

The entire Auschwitz structure — its death sentence for Jews — contributed to deadly callousness toward Jews, as a Polish survivor who worked in a medical block described in partly defending Polish doctors: 
Consider the situation of a young [Polish] doctor or [advanced] medical student. He knows that 90 percent of Jews will be put to death sooner or later, and the same percentage of Muselmänner [in general]. He had to fill quotas. If he had refused, he wouldn't have helped anyone and would have died himself — and another person would be put immediately in his place to do what he refused to do. People grow indifferent to certain things. Like the doctor who cuts up a dead body [does a post-mortem examination] develops a certain resistance. 
This Auschwitz death taint greatly intensified the pre-existing antagonism of some Polish doctors toward all Jews, including patients; and there were frequent stories of the former’s efforts to have Jewish doctors transferred from medical blocks to places in the camp likely to result in their death. While these attempts were generally successful, they were sometimes defeated by appeals to other prisoners with influence and, on at least one occasion, to Dr. Wirths himself.

Occasionally a Jewish doctor who had some authority, such as Magda V., could speak frankly to Polish colleagues: “Look, we are all equal here .... I can't have it [anti-Semitic attitudes] here .... We're all in the same boat.” As she explained, “[They knew] that I would stick my neck out for the Poles the same way I would ... for the Jews, and I told them that.” And she emphasized that many Polish colleagues were “all right” and some even “fantastic” in their help to everyone. Other Jewish doctors told of their lives being saved by strong interventions on the part of Polish colleagues. But for the most part Jews, including Jewish doctors, had to be wary of Polish authority as well as of pervasive anti-Semitism in Polish doctors and functionaries, which contributed in a variety of ways to Jewish deaths.

Polish-Jewish struggles intertwined with profound conflicts between political prisoners and ordinary criminals. The latter brought about much suffering and death until the political prisoners gradually took over, their medical contingent spearheaded by a group of German Communists  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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