Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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Prisoner Doctors: Collaboration with Nazi Doctors 
In 1943 he was given unprecedented authority for a prisoner doctor when appointed by Wirths to be block elder at the infirmary, making him not only chief prisoner doctor but a leading capo as well. During this period, he was enlisted by Horst Schumann (with the aid of Wirths) to perform surgery in connection with sterilization experiments. Dering removed ovaries and testicles of about two hundred Jewish inmates after these organs had been subjected to radiation, to make them available for pathological examination to determine whether the radiation had been effective. He administered spinal anesthesia in a crude and painful manner (rather than following the usual procedure of first anesthetizing the track of the main injection), often while patients were forcibly restrained. Operations were done without sterile procedures for hands and instruments, were performed extremely rapidly, and were followed by hasty and rough suturing. The entire procedure took about ten minutes. (Dr. Wanda J. recalled Schumann telling her — when she, pleading lack of surgical facility, resisted his request to perform the same operations — “I'll show you a surgeon who’ll do it in ten minutes each.”)

Although Dr. J. who had known Dering from medical school days in Poland, knew that “he wasn't very ... pro-Jewish,” she was at first pleased to learn he was block elder in the infirmary because she thought, “He will help me.” But he rebuffed her dietary request for very, sick patients because, she thought, he believed that “we [Jews] are condemned to death.”

Since she was asked to calm the young women Dering operated upon, she witnessed much that went on. She told me with some bitterness how during an operation she asked Dering in Polish, “Do you realize what you are doing?” to which he answered, “Of course. I have to remove the ovaries … because, you know, Schumann is here.” She added that “he did ten girls in one day ... one afternoon” under conditions that were simply “septic” (meaning infectious and non-antiseptic). In subsequently taking care of these women, she observed the extensive tissue destruction and infection resulting from the combination of deep X rays, crude surgery, and general Auschwitz conditions. She had to struggle not only to keep these patients alive but to find ways to protect them from official scrutiny since, as “bearers of secrets” (Geheimnisträger — secrets, in this case, of the surgical experiments), they were always in danger of being sent to the gas chambers.

Other prisoner doctors observed Dering’s. increasing brutalization. Dr. Jacob R. told how once, when making rounds together, Dering looked at a patient he had operated on, and remarked, “Sterilization magna” — an intentional double entendre, since the same term, “great sterilization,” referred in medicine to the discovery of sterile procedures to prevent infection. Dering also made a tobacco pouch out of the scrotum of one of the testicles he had removed from Jewish prisoners, and sometimes displayed it to other inmates.4  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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