Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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Killing with Syringes: Phenol Injections  
But rather than controlling epidemics, the widespread use of phenol injections had the opposite effect. Hermann Langbein, who worked as secretary to Wirths, told of informing the chief Auschwitz doctor that “most of those who come into the hospital are not healed but are injected [gespitzt].” Therefore, Langbein explained, “if one has a headache and fever [the early symptoms of typhus], he does everything not to have to go to the hospital …. That’s how typhus stays in the camp.” Langbein knew he would be listened to because he was aware of Wirths’s determination to fight typhus epidemics, having been ordered to do so by Berlin. Langbein thought that Wirths seemed surprised and troubled by this information about phenol injections, and when Wirths sought an explanation from Entress, the responsible doctor, he was further deceived by the latter’s claim that injections were being given only to incurable tuberculosis patients — a lie that Wirths was apparently willing to accept on the basis of the Berlin directive. Eventually Langbein was able to demonstrate the truth of the matter to Wirths; and as a result, Langbein suggested, the phenol injections decreased markedly and finally ceased altogether (see page 387).9

Other survivors have questioned during interviews how much influence these talks between Langbein and Wirths could have had. At the time (late 1942) Auschwitz’s schedule of killing had been relaxed to keep a maximum number of prisoners working; and the increasing availability of the gas chambers and crematoria had largely supplanted phenol injections for mass killing.10 While it is impossible to gauge the exact weight of these various factors, we can assume that Langbein did have a certain influence precisely because his message to Wirths (do something to stop mass phenol injections if you want to stop the typhus epidemics) coincided with Wirths’s mission. (I shall have more to say about the chief doctor’s healing-killing contradictions in chapter 18.) 
The Injection Procedure 
The choice of killing substance and the injection technique had a specific development in Auschwitz. There was considerable experimentation with other substances — benzine, gasoline, hydrogen peroxide, evipan, prussic acid (cyanide), and air — all injected into the vein. The prisoner pathologist, Dr. Miklos Nyiszli (see pages 350-51), thought he detected chloroform in his post-mortem examinations of four pairs of twins put to death by Mengele, and believed that it was injected into the heart.11

Initially, phenol was injected into a victim’s vein, maximizing the medical aura of the entire procedure. A Polish non-Jewish prisoner doctor,  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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