Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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The Experimental Impulse 
doctors could undoubtedly see it primarily as contributing to the world's learning the truth of Auschwitz. 
Removal of Limits  
There is an additional Auschwitz research function: that of the camp as a constant source of victims for research done almost anywhere. Besides the Auschwitz prisoners taken to Strasbourg to be made part of Professor Hirt’s skeleton collection, there are many other examples: eight prisoners from Auschwitz sent to Sachsenhausen for experiments with epidemic hepatitis, in which the possible death of the inmates was an accepted part of the arrangement; and the notorious sequence of twenty Jewish children, ages five to twelve, transferred from Auschwitz to Neuengamme in Hamburg, where they were subjected to injections of virulent tubercular serum and to other experiments, until they were removed from Neuengamme and secretly murdered just before the arrival of Allied troops.65 Auschwitz was not just a medicalized death factory but a source of "raw materials" for everyone's deadly medical experiments.

Prisoner physicians could speak with bitter accuracy about the specific way in which their and other inmates’ humanity was negated by Nazi experimenters. One observed that “man was the cheapest experimental animal …. Cheaper than a rat.” Another declared that the experiments “had no scientific basis, and … that the main interest they had for those who performed them was to give Berlin, in their detailed reports, the illusion of important and continuous work so that these brave ‘researchers’ might be kept far from the front in a position of sinecure.”

We know that Nazi doctors partly justified the experiments by their sense that Jews were in any case doomed. While prisoner doctors made no such justification, their emotions were also affected by the Jewish death sentence. Dr. Jacob R. could remember a feeling that “the experiments were of considerably less import than the whole inferno I was viewing there.”

The experiments represent, among other things, a removal of medical limits. Ordinary medical behavior is predicated upon maintaining life — and refraining from actual or potential killing or maiming one’s patient in the name of enhancing the life of one‘s own group or people. Paradoxically, that medical vision of social cure contributed directly to using medicine to kill or injure. Hence the array of Auschwitz experiments, and others done elsewhere including artificially inflicted burns with phosphorous incendiary bombs; experiments on the effects of drinking sea water; experiments with various forms of poison, by ingestion as well as in bullets or arrows; widespread experiments on artificially induced typhus, as well as with epidemic hepatitis and with malaria; experiments in cold immersion (“in freezing water”) to determine the body’s reactions and susceptibilities; experiments with mustard gas in order to study the  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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