Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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[chemi…] cals.” He explained that the Gestapo was dissatisfied with its results in torturing people in the camp, mostly Poles, in order to extract confessions and information about comrades in the underground. “So the next question was, Why don't we do it like the Russians, who have been able to get confessions of guilt at their show trials?” Since it was thought that those confessions had been obtained by means of drugs, Weber was enlisted to investigate the matter; and he, according to Dr. B., “played along with them [the Gestapo].” Weber worked with Rohde and Capesius, the chief SS pharmacist, in trying out various barbiturates and morphine derivatives. On one occasion they were observed to feed a coffeelike substance to four prisoners, at least two of whom were known to have died that night, and the other two possibly later. Upon being notified of these deaths, Rohde is said to have commented that they had died a pleasant death — which, in that setting at that time, an ordinary SS doctor could well have said.48*

Dr. B’s response to learning about his chief’s experiments tells us much about the Auschwitz atmosphere. He said that his affection and respect for Weber changed “not at all” because “within the context of Auschwitz,† what difference did two or three people make — people who were in the hands of the Gestapo and so already dead anyhow?” Dr. B. provided a “psychological explanation” for his chief's behavior: the latter’s considerable ambition and high intelligence in a man seriously ill with kidney disease (from which he died soon after the war), which gave him the feeling “I must do everything now.” Dr. B. added that Weber worked closely with Mrugowsky, the chief physician of the central Hygienic Institute of the Waffen SS in Berlin — an ideological and medical collaboration that may have been the more important influence. For Mrugowsky was a key figure in the planning and carrying out of destructive medical experiments in many concentration camps. The Nuremberg Tribunal found him guilty of planning fatal experiments with typhus vaccine in Buchenwald (carried out mostly by Schuler); of conducting fatal experiments with “poison bullets” in Sachenshausen (together with Schuler and Dr. Albert Widmann, the SS chemist involved in T4 gassing); of assisting Gebhardt in fatal sulfanilimide experiments at Ravensbrück in which infections were artificially induced; and of planning and ordering of gas edema experiments, also fatal, in Buchenwald, including further experimentation with injected phenol. Mrugowsky undoubtedly coordinated many additional experiments as chief of all Hygienic Institutes. In that capacity, moreover, he was a central figure in the maintenance and distribution of Zyklon-B for use in Auschwitz and elsewhere.49

One of the more benign institutions in Auschwitz turns out to have
* Related experiments described at Nuremberg and elsewhere may have involved mescaline.

† Throughout our interviews, he repeatedly used this phrase — unter dem Aspekt von Auschwitz — to make similar points.
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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