Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
  Page 300  
Previous Page

Home Page
Home Page  
   Next Page
future publications. He was surely defending both his colleagues’ integrity and his own. But the overall episode once more reveals the tendency for the Auschwitz environment to subsume virtually any medical effort to its relentless destructiveness.
Medical Witness 
There is still another kind of research, much more rare, conducted solely by prisoners as a means of investigating what they were being subjected to — that is as a form of medical witness Frédéric E and a distinguished prisoner colleague studied the blood of twenty-six other Auschwitz (Monowitz) inmates, falling into five groups ranging from new arrivals in relatively good condition to inmates in advanced states of emaciation and edema These doctors eventually prepared a careful scientific report published in 1947, which Dr. E. told me with some pride was the only published medical research done [by inmates] under the Germans.”64 He and his friend were interested in the deprivations of the diet and the physiological effects of these deprivations: “You see it was in 1944, and we could understand that Germany was going to lose the war, and we wanted to know what we were being fed.” But in order to get König’s approval, which they needed to do the research, they spoke of studying “inmates’ weight loss from a medical point of view,” rather than admit that they were evaluating the camp diet.

König probably let them go ahead because he envisioned the possibility of publishing the results “under his [own] name in the German medical literature”: “It would have been perfectly possible for him to omit the fact that it had been done in Auschwitz …. There are always people who lose weight, who are in misery.”

Just before evacuating Auschwitz, Dr. E. prepared two copies of a chart summarizing the results of the research, so that he and his collaborator could each carry one of them His was lost through a search but his collaborator managed to retain the other copy, and there was a discussion with a physician from the Hygienic Institute in Buchenwald of the possibility of resuming the work there. While that did not happen the status achieved by E. simply through the discussions with the SS doctor was instrumental in preventing his being sent elsewhere and “may have saved my life.”

In the paper itself, there are descriptions in dry medical language of “cachetics without edema,” “moderate emaciation … with moderate edema,” and “extensive edema [with] lowered plasma total proteins and albumin.” But underneath those words is a passionate expression of the survivor mission of bearing witness and giving meaning to the Auschwitz experience by revealing some of its cruel medical dimensions. While even they might have had moments of self-questioning concerning whether they, too, were making other inmates into “guinea pigs” (all the more so since the work required the approval of an SS doctor), these prisoner  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

Robert J. Lifton
ISBN 0-465-09094
© 1986
Previous Page  Back Page 300 Forward  Next Page