Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
  Page 306  
Previous Page

Home Page
Home Page  
   Next Page
Cohens, that in any case prisoners were registered not by name but only by number, and that there was simply no possibility of finding the man. When B. persisted, he encountered an evasiveness that seemed Kafkaesque and sinister: the SS man responsible for the building Dr. B. had seen the group of prisoners enter passed the question “Do we have a Simon Cohen?” to the capo, who in turn spoke to another prisoner, who more or less did the same, until the query was itself bureaucratically dissolved.

Dr. B. began to realize that everyone considered his question strange, highly inappropriate, and possibly dangerous; prisoners feared that an SS officer seeking out one of their number “couldn’t mean anything good for that person.” But for a few days he was obsessed with finding Cohen and “making some human contact.” He did not succeed but in the course of his quest did make such contact with a different Jew. A former prisoner physician, Michael Z., who had worked in the Hygienic Institute, told me how taken aback he was when Ernst B. burst into the laboratory “look[-ing] for a Jewish friend. He asked me, speaking quite loud… : ‘Do you know Cohen?’ I told him ‘[Please] be quiet you do not have the right to speak like that.’” Dr. Z. explained why he felt it necessary to protect Dr. B. by quieting him down and by implication to protect himself as well. He told B. that “tens thousands of Jews … come through,” that “many of them were named Cohen,” and that it would be impossible to find any such person. But at the same time Z. was deeply moved by SS doctor’s quest: “I understood that he was indeed a man who had a different kind of mind, ... that he was capable of human feelings … Yes, it did impress me … because it was unheard of to see an SS pronounce the name of a Jewish friend.”

The incident made Dr. B. realize that in Auschwitz “it was a completely different existence” and that he had to “comprehend the whole mentality of the place.” Immediately after the unsuccessful search, he began to have recurrent dreams about Simon Cohen — at first frequent, then less so during his stay in Auschwitz and still occurring occasionally up to the time of our interviews: 
He was always a very attractive young man. And now [in the dream] he had really deteriorated And he looked at me with a reproachful, beseeching expression [vonwürfsvollen, bittenden Blick] … sort of [saying] “It can’t be possible that you stand there and I am [like this] …” or more like a disappointed expression: “How can you belong to those people? That can't be you [Wie kannst du zu denen gehören? Du bist doch der garnicht].”
Dr. B went on to tell me, “The older I get, the less I think it was really Simon Cohen and the more I believe it to have been a mirage, … an invention … of the imagination.” He even wondered whether he “only dreamed it” — though we know from what the prisoner doctor recalled
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

Robert J. Lifton
ISBN 0-465-09094
© 1986
Previous Page  Back Page 306 Forward  Next Page