Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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Killing with Syringes: Phenol Injections 
Doctors as Phenol Executioners 
For a doctor, phenol injections were the most literal example of the entire healing-killing reversal. Although most of the injections were given by nonphysicians, SS doctors initiated them in Auschwitz, maintained responsibility for their administration, and sometimes continued to perform the injections themselves.

An early practitioner of phenol killing was Dr. Franz von Bodman, whom Langbein described as having shown considerable “initiative” in this form of murder. Although at Auschwitz only briefly, Bodman managed, as chief doctor (Standortarzt) during the summer of 1942, to inject many inmates by vein, resulting in slow and painful deaths. Once two girls who had been shot by SS men, one in the stomach and the other in the thigh, were brought to the medical block; Bodman prohibited anyone from treating the wounds and then personally injected both girls with phenol.19 It is likely that this man’s zeal in phenol killing was related both to especially strong Nazi involvement and to psychological inclinations toward omnipotence and sadism.
Josef Mengele injected phenol on several occasions — though not as regularly as Bodman — with his characteristic combination of detachment and flair (as I shall discuss on page 347). But the individual doctor most associated with phenol injections in Auschwitz was Friedrich Entress. Entress was a Polish ethnic German (from eastern territories lost to Poland after the First World War), who had been educated in German grammar and secondary schools and joined pro-German and pro-Nazi student groups at the university in Poznan. He entered the SS early and went quickly into the concentration-camp system immediately upon completing his medical training (indeed without having to write his dissertation), first at Gross-Rosen and then at Auschwitz, in December 1941, at the age of twenty-seven. Langbein, with considerable justification, characterized Entress as the “most notorious of all camp doctors.”20 In setting up the experiments with various substances that eventuated in phenol injections, into first the vein and then the heart, Entress was maximizing the murderous elements in the central directives he received. His interpretation of such directives generally followed that of the Political Department, and he was personally close to the extraordinarily brutal head of that department, Maximilian Grabner. Like Grabner, Entress was in conflict with Eduard Wirths, who arrived in Auschwitz in September 1942 and advocated a less draconian interpretation of these directives.

For instance, Wirths could accept the directive that tuberculosis patients had to undergo “special treatment” because they were a danger to others and could not be medically treated in Auschwitz, but wished to limit the policy to such patients, while Entress and Grabner “interpreted the order from Berlin as blanket permission to inject all Muselmänner and patients who were unlikely to return quickly to work.” We recall Entress’s  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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