Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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Prisoner Doctors: Collaboration with Nazi Doctors 
transferred from Dachau where they had been associated with Wirths, an effective contact they were able to maintain in Auschwitz. The struggle could become violent, including arrangements in medical areas (as Dr. Tadeusz S. described) “to send … to their deaths” criminal capos who killed and beat inmates. Over time, SS doctors tended to support the political prisoners, as they helped maintain better medical arrangements and better organization in general.

Jewish doctors had conflicts with one another: for example, more experienced women doctors resented Dr. V., who was given considerable authority upon her early arrival in Auschwitz despite having only recently completed her medical studies. Others understood (as Dr. Lottie M. explained) that “this is no normal medical performance … and she’s a good organizer and [handled things] in a very clever way” useful to other prisoner doctors. There were other antagonisms between Jewish doctors of different nationalities, including feelings on the part of French doctors that they as a group should be in charge of a medical block, and resentment when a doctor from one group thought that a doctor from another was “threatening me with Mengele” — that is, attempting to use a relatively close relationship with an SS doctor to enhance his or her own position.

Doctors were susceptible to sudden humiliations concerning their Jewishness: Michael Z. was assigned to the Gypsy camp but “stayed [only] a very short while because a decree was issued stating that Jews did not have the right to take care of Gypsies.” Furthermore, under certain circumstances (on particular blocks and during a relatively early Auschwitz phase), Jewish doctors could be in considerable danger from their own “élite” patients, Polish and German capos for whom they had to serve as orderlies. “They would sometimes give us our daily round of blows [as]... their way to acknowledge our care,” Dr. Z. observed; and he wondered, “How many [Jewish] university professors, physicians did we see killed by their patients?”

Jewish doctors also faced resentment from ordinary Jewish prisoners, who complained about the superior or “faceless” attitude on the part of some Jewish doctors and their inclination to give curt orders rather than be considerate or even offer a smile (“They don’t shoot people normally for a smile”). And one Jewish survivor told me how her infant, a twin, became ill. Hearing of a “famous professor” from Eastern Europe, she carried the sick infant across the camp but could not get the doctor to make an examination, and the child died (“I don't say he could have saved him, but he didn’t even try …. He neglected his responsibility as a doctor”).

Although privileged compared with other Jewish prisoners, Jewish doctors could share with them the sense of being in overwhelming danger at all times — and from virtually everyone. One prisoner doctor recognized that “there were good people” among the Poles, but his more general feeling was that “the Poles were anti-Semitic, all the Poles,” and  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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