|AUSCHWITZ: THE RACIAL CURE
| the operation, while insisting that an experienced
surgeon assist him; otherwise, he had little concern for patients and treated
Jews as though they were nonexistent. For T., the most
important thing was that the system worked smoothly, and that he retained
his power and privilege.
In talking to me about SS doctors, Adam T. at
first dismissed them as just big Nazis with no idea about
medicine. But over the course of our interview, his references to them
became increasingly sympathetic. He told how they helped him to replace
nonmedical people with real doctors, but how later one of them
along with an SS noncommissioned officer were unfairly imprisoned. For in
evoking SS doctors sympathetically, he was defending his own behavior. For
example, he claimed that he would say to SS doctors during a selection that
certain people would be able to work after a couple of weeks, and
they said, Good, they can stay here. The SS doctor always
said yes to such requests from Dr. T. Moreover, it was not the SS doctor
but the camp commandant, T. insisted, who demanded the selections, and
the first proud killer was the Political Department [which had] nothing
to do with the [SS] doctors. SS doctors, he claimed, were very nice
[and] talked quietly with us and, rather than putting pressure on
prisoner doctors to become involved in killing, took pride in improving medical
facilities and medical statistics in their camps. In any case the
liquidation was performed by nonmedical personnel, and the
doctors didnt do that much. Also, SS doctors were under pressure to
comply: The SS could kill SS too, and I always say its
not so easy to be a hero.
In this way, Adam T. mixed kernels of
truth, half-truth, and falsehood in presenting an apologia for SS doctors and
for the prisoner doctor who cast his lot with them. The apologia included
elements of blaming the victim: stressing the difficult psychological
situation of Jews who had previously lived comfortably, but now developed
prison neurosis and; finally despairing, committed suicide by
plunging toward the wire, and being shot from the tower.
T. tried to
present himself as a healer, as someone who kept people alive in
this sea of death, and who worked closely with prisoner colleagues to improvise
equipment and do what could be done for patients.
But he became tense
when talking about selections; and in telling how patients were sent away when
his hospital became overcrowded, he used a euphemism for the gas chambers I had
not previously heard the central hospital. He referred to
that euphemism in a way that tended to justify selections by equating them, as
SS doctors were told to do, with combat medical triage. He talked about the
extraordinary situation of the one occasion when the camp was bombed, and five
hundred people were killed and one thousand injured:
People came to our hospital. Some were very bad.
The SS would say, It is not possible you can make these people healthy.
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