Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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Killing with Syringes: Phenol Injections 
(see pages 223-24) — a very different situation, but also a form of Auschwitz medical killing — and probably not unique. We recall as well Dr. Michael Z.’s refusal to perform intracardiac injections by insisting upon his technical inability, and Langbein cites a similar episode involving a Dr. Miklulás Korn who “had to fear the consequences of refusal much more than any ‘Aryan,’” but was not punished.”28 Dr. Jan W. also told of a Polish doctor who was able to refuse and “got away with it.”

At the time they were using prisoners for the task, the Nazis did not seem to press those who were reluctant but preferred to seek out people whose psychological and ideological inclinations made them willing or even enthusiastic practitioners.  
“Today I Am the Camp Doctor”: Josef Klehr
Sometime in 1942, phenol killing was essentially taken over by Josef Klehr, who murdered as a delegate of Nazi doctors: “[Entress] left the work to Mehr and then went away.”29 A semi-literate laborer and medical orderly from Upper Silesia, he was intent upon killing as a doctor: “Klehr put on his doctor’s coat and told the girl: ‘You have a heart condition.’ Then came the injection.”30 His nickname was “Professor,” and his identification was not just with the doctor’s role but with the latter's specific Auschwitz killing role. Klehr conducted selections himself at times and on Christmas Eve 1942, when told that the camp doctor could not appear, replied immediately, “Today I am the camp doctor.”31

Klehr took pride in his medical skills. He is said to have taken over the phenol killings because one of the prisoners doing it had broken an injection needle. He devised efficient ways of positioning prisoners for injection into the heart, and was proud of his speed in killing people, two or three in one minute. He even took up performing lumbar punctures, or spinal taps — a demanding procedure, in which a long needle must be injected between the vertebrae. He usually experimented on prisoners he was to inject with phenol, and if they cried out (he took no measures against pain), he “was reported to have hit these victims before their death.”32

Klehr was the ultimate caricature of the omnipotent Auschwitz doctor. According to one account of a special execution of a Soviet political “commissar,” the victim, “covered with blood,” was held down by four prisoners while “Klehr ... [stood] next to him in a white coat holding a hypodermic, ready to kill.” There are similar descriptions of Klehr against a background of corpses turning to inject again, with his sleeves rolled up and wearing either a white coat or “a pink-rubber apron and rubber gloves” and “holding a 20-cc hypodermic with a long needle” in his hands.33

When there was no SS doctor present, Klehr would combine his image of himself as doctor with that of oriental potentate:  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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