Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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The Experimental Impulse 
camp that would give them considerable personal prestige,” and were “very pleased when prisoner doctors would produce something scientifically interesting” which could then be published under their (the SS doctors’) name. This was especially true of Hans Wilhelm König, who responded enthusiastically to the plan, arranging not only for male “schizoid” inmates to be brought to the hospital block for electroshock therapy but taking the unusual step of having female inmates brought there as well from Birkenau seven or eight kilometers away (see pages 227-28).

König, in fact, took a great interest in the work and regularly attended the shock therapy sessions. Dr. E., who, attended some of them as well, felt that the process was genuinely therapeutic, and that it saved lives: “Those [inmates] with nervous disorders were never selected [for the gas chamber] by König because he was interested in the effect of the electrotherapy on them.” Moreover, patients diagnosed as schizoid were placed “under the protection of Fischer and … König … [and] consequently … were treated … in a more favorable manner” — either permitted to remain in the hospital or, if sent back to the camp, not assigned to hard labor.

But no research or therapy escaped the Auschwitz taint. A prisoner who worked on a Birkenau hospital block later testified that “Dr. König did electroshock experiments on women,” and added, “These women later talked about their treatment. I believe Dr. König carried out the electroshock experiments on sick women twice a week and that the women were later gassed.”

In other words, the electroshock treatments could be seen as a prelude to the gas chamber, and on the basis of such testimony and other investigations the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva (in association with the International Tracing Service at Arolsen in West Germany) placed these “electroshock experiments” on the list of “pseudo-medical experiments” for which victims could be compensated.63

Frédéric E. was deeply troubled by this designation, which he considered to be a kind of mythology that developed because the “violent shock” involved caused “rumors that something terrible was happening.” He initiated a correspondence with the International Red Cross authorities, insisting that the project had been genuinely therapeutic and asking that the designation ”pseudo-medical experiments” be changed. The authorities wrote back that the electroshock had sometimes been given to people without mental illness and that it was “done in the utmost secrecy.” Dr. E. ceased his protest only when told that the category “pseudo-medical experiment” meant that inmates could receive compensation as part of the indemnity to the Polish Government paid by the Federal Republic of Germany. Dr. E., in his last letter, made clear that he did not want to deny anyone such compensation, but nonetheless insisted that the designation was “an error” that should not be used in  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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