Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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“A Human Being in an SS Uniform”: Ernst B 
seen (his wife said specifically, “This is not for us!”), Weber took him aside, told him to send his wife home, and asked him how he could make such a disastrous blunder in bringing her there.

Alone with Weber, Dr. B. continued to express his desire to leave, but, in his confusion, felt “fortunate to have Weber [there] as my friend.” Weber urged him to stay and serve there as ordered and stressed that his leaving would cause embarrassing “complications”
for their common SS sponsor as well as uncertainty concerning B.’s own future.

Weber then laid out to B. “almost with irony” the central Auschwitz truth, invoking the official term the “Final Solution of the Jewish question”: "He [Weber] said, ‘If you want to see how it works, go look out of the window. You will see … two large smokestacks …. The normal kind of production of this machine …. is a thousand men in twenty-four hours.’ ”

Weber then added what Dr. B. called “the most important thing to me” — an explanation of how the autonomy of the Hygienic Institute from the camp and its medical hierarchy would enable them to keep their own hands clean and “stay out of this whole business.” Weber added that they were responsible only to their Berlin chief, Mrugowsky, who encouraged the Auschwitz unit to employ capable prisoner physicians in its laboratories to produce work that could be published under his name. That arrangement contributed to the group’s advantageous situation, as did its important role in combating the danger of typhus epidemics. Weber added that if B. stayed (“If you and I can stick together”), the institute’s position would become even stronger. B. was immediately convinced and made no effort to leave.

In moving from “hearing … the [Auschwitz] story and seeing the smoke on the one hand and being directly confronted with the actual machinery on the other,” he had two enlightening lessons. The first began with a sudden visual impression he had during his first days at the camp, an image he is still not quite sure how to evaluate. He observed a miserable-looking group of prisoners from the “outside Kommandos” (Aussenkommandos) marching back from their work, bunched together six abreast, in humiliating rapid cadence, all of them emaciated and dressed in the same Auschwitz clothes: “Then all of a sudden I … thought — I don’t know whether it was true or whether I imagined it — I still don’t know …. I thought I saw a schoolmate of mine …. Immediately after … I talked to Weber and said, ‘I’m sure that was Simon Cohen.’”

A Jewish classmate from a well-to-do family, Simon Cohen had been a good friend during the early 1930s, when anti-Semitism was already widespread in Germany. The two boys were drawn to one another partly by their common lack of interest in schoolwork and would take long vacation trips together on their bicycles. Upon returning from a year abroad in 1933, Ernst B. found that the Jewish boy “wasn’t there any more.” He had sometimes wondered what had happened to his friend.

When questioned, Weber told him that there were large numbers of  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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