Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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Prisoner Doctors: Collaboration with Nazi Doctors 
[trans…] fer them to the central hospital.” “It was no problem for the SS. There was the same situation at the front. If a German soldier would have an open break [bone fracture] - a leg amputation - if it would heal in three or four weeks, he was sent to work in an office. But with soldiers they couldn’t help — they had to die. They did it with their own soldiers. That was the war — a very hard situation.* 
In addition to the exaggeration and probable falsehood contained in the account, it presents the Auschwitz authorities as a beleaguered group trying to do their best with “a very hard” wartime situation. Dr. T. could thus add the equally dubious contention that “usually if someone was sent to the gas chambers, he was very sick ... [and would] have no chance to live in the camp.”

Despite his general sympathy for SS doctors, Dr. T. condemned Wirths as largely “responsible for the whole catastrophic situation … [in which] they made this extermination from the medical point of view.” His anger probably reflected both a residual fear of SS doctors (“In the evening they [could] send a piece of paper down to the office, which means [someone], will be killed the next day”) and, more important, his recollection of Wirths’s connection with the group of Communist political prisoners he, Adam T., considered to be his enemies. At one point, however, he softened notably in talking about Wirths and gave me the distinct impression that he was unconsciously associating the chief SS doctor with his own moral dilemma: “I ask myself, why did Wirths stay in Auschwitz? He could go away. He could say he wanted to go to the front. Of course the commandant may say, ‘I have no one else. I need you.’”

Dr. T. made a point of his frequent contacts with Jews, in the German city in which he lived. One prisoner doctor, in commenting on Dr. T.’s extensive contact with the Jewish community, said with gentle sarcasm, “I hear he has become a Tzodik, ” using the Hebrew term for “saint.” The turnabout, hardly convincing to Jewish survivors, was a part of T.’s post-war adaptation.

Another Jewish survivor, Isaac K., who had worked as a non-physician in the same hospital, confirmed Adam T.’s clear anti-Semitism but acknowledged that he would occasionally help save a Jewish prisoner’s life when requested, though in such cases he usually had to be bribed (with food, money, clothing, or whatever). K. condemned Dr. T. for performing selections — as he apparently did on occasions when the SS noncommissioned officer evaded the task — though adding that within the Auschwitz structure “somebody had to make the selections [because of) the overcrowding of the hospital.” K. was saying that Dr. T. had gone beyond what a prisoner doctor was required to do even in Auschwitz. K. made a still more damning accusation: “We have proof that he collaborated
* Concerning “euthanasia” of German soldiers, see page 143.   
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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