Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
 
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Killing with Syringes: Phenol Injections 
 
did not know what awaited them,”* many must have at least partly understood. The SDG then opened up Room 1:  
 
a room that was kept locked at other times and whose windows had been painted white. To the left of the door stood a small table; on it were a set of injection needles and syringes; next to these, a bottle with a yellowish-pink liquid — phenol. There were also two stools in the room, [and] on the wall [was] a hook on which hung a rubber apron.14 
 
At that point two Jewish prisoner assistants brought a victim into the room (sometimes victims were brought in two at a time) and positioned him or her on a footstool, usually so that the right arm covered the victim’s eyes and the left arm was raised sideways in a horizontal position. Sometimes one’s right hand was at the back of one’s neck, with the left behind the shoulder blade; and some victims were blindfolded with a towel. The idea was for the victim’s chest to be thrust out so that the cardiac area was maximally accessible for the lethal injection, and for him or her to be unable to see what was happening. (There is also mention of a position in which the right arm was placed so that the hand was in one’s mouth, not over one’s eyes, so that one stifled one’s own cries.) The person giving the injection — most often the SDG Josef Klehr — filled his syringe from the bottle and then thrust the needle directly into the heart of the seated prisoner and emptied the contents of the syringe.15 Most prisoners fell dead almost immediately, but some lived for seconds or even minutes: 
 
The executioners used to boast about their records. “Three in a minute.” … And they did not wait until the doomed person really died. During his agony he was taken from both sides under the armpits and thrown into a pile of corpses in another room opposite. And the next took his place on the stool.

There was also substantial mechanization. … Approximately fifty people could be killed during one and a half to two hours. Thus, an average of two minutes and 22 seconds sufficed to murder one prisoner. 
And finally, as Dr. Klodzinski observed: “The corpses of those murdered with phenol shortly afterwards took on a pinkish livid color, small
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* Because “phenol was… a secret of the camp hospital,” and people risked their lives if they revealed it; because prisoner hospital workers realized that to tell the truth to the doomed people would cause them greater pain, and therefore tried to contribute to the illusion of “the injection as some normal administrative and medical procedure”; and because of the universal psychological need to refuse “to accept the idea that life is coming to an end.” One could hold to that denial precisely because “everyone had for years [prior to Auschwitz] connected the idea of hospital, doctors, nurses, injections, medical treatment with the struggle for life — and not with murder.”13   
 
THE NAZI DOCTORS:
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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