Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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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 didn’t do that much.” Also, SS doctors were under pressure to comply: “The SS could kill SS too,” and “I always say it’s 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. You must trans- […fer]  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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