Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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The Doctors’Surrogates 
The brutalized prisoners and the SS men who did most of the injecting tended to maintain the medical aura — in fact, to see themselves as doctors.

There was a hierarchy of phenol injectors, from a German political prisoner named Peter Welsch to four Polish prisoners to the leading SDG injector, Josef Klehr, and two others in his unit. Those in the sequence who injected most enthusiastically were likely to “play the doctor.” A Polish prisoner orderly named Mieczyslaw Panszczyk, for instance, who “bragged that he killed 12,000 people with his own hands,” not only injected but “also liked to do smaller surgical operations although he had no medical training whatsoever. It didn't matter to him that he sometimes cut tendons and vessels when he cut open abcesses.”25

Other prisoners, with good cause, considered such men to be psychopathic in their enjoyment of killing. They also, as a Polish prisoner doctor made clear, derived personal advantages from what they did they had a “secure” job, did not have to work as hard as others, were given better food and generally preferential treatment. The injector “was under the protection of the Political Department, ... the camp Gestapo,” and “the other prisoners were afraid of this man.”

Dr. W. told of one Polish injector, who identified closely with Nazi anti-Semitism and wanted the prisoners to be as frightened of him as of the SS people. One morning this man told Dr. W., “I had an interesting dream — a dream that after my death I would live in a special place where I would rule where I would be sent thousands of people to kill personally with phenol injections. It was a wonderful dream.” Jan W. commented that the dreamer thought it “a very positive dream — the murdering of people,” and that the task was not something imposed on him but one “he chose for himself, and he enjoyed it.” This dream epitomizes the ultimate Auschwitz vision: heavenly immortalization and absolute omnipotence via constant, institutionally arranged, medicalized (the dream mentioned only phenol injections) killing.

There were Polish prisoners who injected but had scruples: one man refused to kill a group of children and saved a number of sick people from injections before being enlisted to do them himself; and another man, despite injecting, continued to save the lives of people and also used his power as phenol executioner to do away with dangerous informers.26

Prisoner doctors besides Dering appear to have occasionally performed the injections. While German or Polish inmates were most likely to be called upon to perform phenol injections, Jewish prisoner doctors were asked to do them at times. One of Langbein’s sources refers to a Dr. Landau, probably a Jew, who was said to have administered injections.27 Further, a prisoner doctor injected mental patients with insulin,
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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