Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
  Page 256  
Previous Page

Home Page
Home Page  
   Next Page
[deriva…] tives in the “euthanasia” of children and the later “wild euthanasia” of adults. Injections of phenol and other lethal substances were widespread in other camps. Early experimentation with phenol in Buchenwald was ordered by Mrugowsky, the overall Berlin chief of the SS Hygienic Institute, after it had been noted that tiny percentages of carbolic acid (phenol) preservative in serum was implicated in the accidental medical deaths of several German soldiers. Erwin Schuler (alias Ding), a camp doctor at Buchenwald who explained that “neither [he] nor Mrugowsky had ever seen a case of death by phenol,” went ahead with the experiments considered “urgent for the fighting troops.”6 But in Buchenwald, too, phenol was mainly used to kill sick inmates, though it was also used for killing various kinds of political prisoner. Dr. Waldemar Hoven testified that on one occasion he was observed in the act by his colleague Schuler: “[He] said that I was not doing it correctly, [and] therefore ... performed some of the injections himself."7* There would seem to be a certain psychological significance in the progression from claimed German military (life-death) requirements to mass murder of members of a “dangerous” group or “race.”  
Phenol and Jews as Spreaders of Epidemics 
In Auschwitz, from about September 1941, phenol injections served mainly as the end point of selections. When patients became debilitated or a medical block was considered overcrowded, the SS doctor in charge “selected a row of prisoners who were immediately. . . killed by phenol injections.” Those who had been on the medical block for relatively long periods were most vulnerable, as were tuberculosis patients (in accordance with the Lolling order). The euphemism of “euthanasia” or “mercy killing” combined with the principle of preventive medicine, and “Jews suspect of [spreading] epidemics” (seuchenverdächtige Juden) had to be, as Rudolf Höss said, destroyed. A prisoner doctor told how “Dr. Entress decided to fight the spotted fever [typhus] by means of phenol injections”: an SS physician “decided whether the patient was to be admitted to the infirmary, given a phenol injection, or sent back to the camp.”8 Another prisoner doctor told how the camp doctor observed a group of emaciated prisoners and made a “lightning decision” by placing each patient’s card in one of two piles.
* Hoven tried to imply that the only phenol killings he did were at the request of prisoners who asked him to help get rid of threatening inmates. There were such killings at Buchenwald, having to do with the struggles between political and criminal prisoners and various other factions. But Hoven and other SS doctors clearly did most of their direct medical killing (with phenol or sodium evipan) with sick inmates, including tuberculosis cases. Hoven himself was arrested by SS officers investigating corruption at Buchenwald — partly because he poisoned a material witness against the former camp commandant.   
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

Robert J. Lifton
ISBN 0-465-09094
© 1986
Previous Page  Back Page 256 Forward  Next Page