Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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The Experimental Impulse 
Dr. L. had seen enough of Auschwitz to suspect the terrible truth (“I told myself immediately,…. ‘They are going to a museum’ ”), though she and others refrained from saying so because they “lacked the courage,” felt it would be more kind to remain silent, and could not in any case be certain of their suspicion.

These women were taken to the concentration camp at Natzweiler, near Strasbourg, which although not designated as an extermination camp, nonetheless possessed its own gas chamber with the usual false showerheads as well as one additional feature: a one-way mirror that allowed those on the outside of the gas chamber to observe those inside. This mirror had been installed because the gas chamber itself had been constructed as part of the necessary research equipment.

A prisoner doctor reported that the group of Auschwitz women (thirty-nine of them according to other records) were given a sham physical examination for reassurance, then gassed, and that the corpses were immediately transported to the anatomy pavilion of the Strasbourg University Hospital. A French inmate, who had to assist the project’s director, SS Captain Dr. August Hirt, told how “preservation began immediately” with the arrival of bodies that were “still warm, the eyes ... wide open and shining.” There were two subsequent shipments of men, from each of whom the left testicle had been removed and sent to Hirt's anatomy lab.40

Hirt, a professor of anatomy, had under Himmler’s instructions prepared the cyanide salts used to kill the Auschwitz prisoners in what was the inaugural use of the new gas chamber. He had originally advocated in a memo to Himmler the securing of skulls of captured “Jewish-Bolshevik commissars.” The goal at that time was to “acquire tangible scientific research material” that would “represent … a repulsive but typical species of subhumanity.” The memo recommended that “a junior physician attached to the Wehrmacht” first take photographs and perform various measurements and studies on subjects while still alive, make sure that the head is not damaged in the killing, and then take other specific measures for preserving the head and shipping it to the designated research institute where various studies could be performed on the skull and brain including those of “racial classification” and “pathological features of the skull formation.” In locating two ultimate evils (Jewish and Bolshevik) in members of that group, and anticipating specific anatomical findings in their skulls or brains, the Nazis were acting upon the most extreme blend of racial-biomedical and political ideology.41

But there were apparently difficulties in rounding up “Jewish-Bolshevik commissars” and possibly in severing heads, so that it was decided to make use of full skeletons rather than merely skulls and to collect specimens in the place where any such task could be accomplished — namely, Auschwitz. It was said that 115 people were victimized in this way, all Jews (79 men, 30 women) with the exception of 2 Poles and 4  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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