Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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Prisoner Doctors: Collaboration with Nazi Doctors 
about it. I'm quite old now.”) and by his combination of wariness and defensiveness when we did meet. I encountered an elegantly dressed man who received me in a lavishly furnished home and referred quickly to his large clinic and his summer home on the Mediterranean.

But he also showed me the tattooed number on his arm and pointed out how low it was, meaning he had been at Auschwitz very early and very long — four full years. He told me that, when a member of a Polish resistance group, he had been arrested for listening to Allied broadcasts, had undergone six months of brutal treatment in a prison in Krakow (“You keep … expecting that at any moment they are going to shoot you”), was subjected to a severe beating at the hands of SS personnel upon his arrival in Auschwitz (from which he emerged with a broken arm), and soon afterward developed a serious case of typhus. As a patient on the medical block he observed “the way the SS did things” (giving phenol injections and removing the corpses to vehicles to carry them off); the day after his discharge, “the whole hospital was put in the gas chamber.” Even if he stressed these things in order to exculpate himself, there was no doubt about his, violent initiation not just to Auschwitz (though he also worked awhile as a laborer) but to the essence of Auschwitz  “medicine.”

He recalled with some feeling the terror of the early Auschwitz period: how large numbers of Polish prisoners died every day from various forms of brutality; and how this was in accordance with the overall Nazi project of destroying the Polish intelligentsia. Then he added in a way I thought odd, “For their strategy, maybe that was right” — odd because he seemed unusually empathic toward “their strategy.”

His situation improved greatly when he was permitted to do medical work and then to run a large medical block at a major subcamp. There he described himself as beleaguered by political prisoners whom he referred to as “old German Communists,” “Jewish Communists,” and “German Jewish Communists” who, he claimed, constantly made trouble for him by intriguing against him. He insisted that some of those people were still doing so in attempts to accuse him falsely (he was referring not only to attitudes held about him but to talk of bringing him to trial).

Jacob R. gave what is undoubtedly an accurate picture of the situation Dr. T. referred to. A Jewish Communist prisoner, who was an influential functionary in the hospital, told Dr. R., when he arrived there, that T. was anti-Semitic and fascistic and had to be countered; while T. went much further at the time and confided to R. that it was necessary “to eliminate certain Communists” and that R. could have the functionary’s job when the latter had been properly taken care of. Jacob R had the impression that his troubled retreat from any such suggestion was viewed by Adam T. as “very dumb,” that Dr. T. had taken on Auschwitz mores to an unusual degree, that “he considered himself like a god in the hospital” and embraced “his absolute power” without restraint. T. came to resemble Nazi doctors in performing surgery on Jewish prisoners “just to learn  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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