Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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Killing with Syringes: Phenol Injections  
imposed, only Klehr immediately spoke up and said he would not accept the sentence; the other defendants were silent. In his closing statement, Klehr claimed to have had nothing to do with gassing or independent selections: “As a little man in Auschwitz,” or “a soldier under orders,” he “only carried out the orders of the doctors and only with deep inner reluctance.”38

In sum, Klehr brought to Auschwitz enormous psychopathic potential, which the environment readily evoked (as it also did with some of the prisoners who regularly injected phenol). Every society has a pool of Klehrs to draw upon for its killing assignments, and the medicalized dimension gave particular form to his extreme combination of sense of omnipotence, paranoid sadism, and schizoid numbing. (As one prisoner put it, “[He] could kill a few hundred people the way a shoemaker rips a rotten sole off a shoe.”) Klehr found a powerful métier in Auschwitz: while other SS men returning from leave would complain about having to come back to “this den of murderers [Mörderhöhle],” he seemed at home in the camp and his work in it.39

The Auschwitz Klehr was to a considerable degree a creature of the SS doctors, of Entress in particular: he was their psychological delegate who could perform the murderous acts they initiated. Because his hands were so dirty, the SS doctors could almost — but just almost — feel that theirs were clean.  
“Decent” Killers 
Two other SDG people, Herbert Scherpe and Emil Hantl, gave phenol injections but were seen by prisoners as very different from Klehr, as more or less “decent” killers. As one former prisoner nurse put it, they “behaved like saints compared with Klehr. They never beat anyone …. They acted politely. And most important of all, they said ‘Good morning’ when they came in, and ‘Good-by’ when they left. For us who had been so degraded, these were small tokens of humanity.”40

It was these men who were assigned to the killing of the 120 Polish children from Zamosc between 23 February and 1 March. When the killing was completed, Hantl emerged “in a state of total collapse” and “completely went to pieces, cursed the war,” and lost his SS demeanor. While prisoners were impressed with his breakdown, one commented that he had been “too cowardly to refuse to carry out the orders to kill.”41

Scherpe reacted even sooner, emerging from the room in the middle of the killing muttering “I can’t any more.” The word in the camp was that he, too, had “broken down.” He was observed, “pale and agitated,” telling the chief doctor that he could not kill children, and was promptly transferred to an outer camp —  and even promoted.42

Yet Scherpe and Hantl did a lot of killing: the court convicted Scherpe of complicity on at least 200 occasions of the killing of at least 900 people; and Hantl of complicity on at least 42 occasions in the killing of a total  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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