Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
 
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The Experimental Impulse 
 
then prisoners suffering from this disease were placed on the operating table."60

Here again Auschwitz becomes a medical caricature: now of doctors hungry for surgical experience. In the absence of ethical restraint, one could arrange exactly the kind of surgical experience one sought, on exactly the appropriate kinds of “cases” at exactly the time one wanted. If one felt Hippocratic twinges of conscience, one could usually reassure oneself that, since all of these people were condemned to death in any case, one was not really harming them. Ethics aside, and apart from a few other inconveniences, it would have been hard to find so ideal a surgical laboratory.  
 
 
Prisoner Doctors and Research  
 
Inevitably, prisoner doctors were drawn into Auschwitz’s experimental world. “I do not believe that there was one single SS doctor who did experiments without the help of prisoner doctors in some form or other, willingly or not” was the way that the French prisoner doctor Frédéric E. put it. Usually that involvement was no more than helping to treat victims “because they were sick after those experiments,” but it could extend to performing the experiments or “research.”

In the latter case, there were important distinctions to be made in the inmate professional’s relationship to the work. For instance, Dr. Lottie M. referred to a Polish prisoner anthropologist, Teresa W., who took measurements for. Mengele in his study of twins. Though Dr. M. and others thought highly of this woman, other inmates resented her because Mengele favored her (her own room, sufficient food, special treatment arrangements when she was ill) and also because “she did real work”: that is, made accurate measurements in accordance with her own professional standards. In contrast, Dr. M. told of her own response to a request from Dr. König that she take blood from a particular patient every two hours over a twenty-four-hour period in order to follow the sedimentation rate. Because Dr. M. did not wish to be up every two hours during the night and was “not interested in his work,” she simply drew the total amount of blood required, distributed it evenly into twelve containers, went to bed, and presented him with the containers the next day: “I didn't mind that this was not [authentic] and … just sabotage.” That Teresa W. “did not have this attitude” suggests a morally problematic scientific integrity. An inmate was most likely to try to be accurate, as this Polish anthropologist did, when working regularly with an SS doctor, (who might well be able to detect falsifications) in what seemed a relatively innocuous enterprise (and thereby inviting to one’s own professional identity), such as W.’s measurements. At the same time, she claimed to know nothing about what was well known to many: namely, that Mengele would occasionally  
 
THE NAZI DOCTORS:
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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