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. 
do selections. B. remembered Mrugowsky answering, “I myself could not do it either. I also have children.” Then the chief of the Hygienic Institutes, also indignant that “his” doctor had been pressured by Wirths, picked up the phone and made the calls necessary to reassert his authority in protecting B. from selections: “In a few minutes it was all done.” B. insisted that Mrugowsky’s actions were more than mere assertion of authority, “I must say, it was also humane [menschlich]”; and his further comment that this was “the same man who was later hanged as a war criminal” suggested either contradictions in Mrugowsky’s behavior or possibly B.’s sense that the Nuremberg verdict had been unfair.

While Dr. B. was never again asked to do selections, the episode had certain uncomfortable ramifications for him. As a compromise, Mrugowsky provided a young doctor named Delmotte, whose Auschwitz assignment specified that only one half of his time would be at the Hygienic Institute and the other half as a camp doctor — which meant he was to do the selections instead of Ernst B. An ardent member of the SS in his mid-twenties and from a family with high Nazi connections, Delmotte had just emerged from one of the first classes of a special SS cadet training course made available for doctors; he had wished to be sent to the front but agreed to Auschwitz because of having been promised that he could write his doctoral dissertation there.

At the first selection he was taken to, Delmotte became nauseated and returned to his room quite drunk; what was unusual, however, was that he did not leave his room the next morning. Dr. B. heard that Weber, upon visiting Delmotte, found him “catatonic … completely blocked”; Weber thought at first that the young doctor had been stricken with a severe illness but concluded that he had simply had too much to drink. When he finally emerged in an agitated state, he was heard to say that he “didn’t want to be in a slaughterhouse” and preferred to go to the front, and that “as a doctor his task was to help people and not to kill them.” It was an argument, Dr. B. said, that “we never used” in Auschwitz: “It would have been totally pointless.” Indeed, no other Auschwitz doctor I came upon in the research expressed that truth so clearly and repeatedly. B. thought that Delmotte spoke in that way only because of “his ingenuousness, his youthful inexperience, his total ignorance of the work in this respect.” B. also stressed that Delmotte approached the medical profession “with high ideals and great enthusiasm,” that he had “grown up in an SS cadet camp” and was “determined not to betray his SS ideals,” and that he had declared (though this only when drunk) that he would never have joined the SS if he had “known that there was such a thing as Auschwitz.” At the heart of Delmotte’s resistance to selections, in other words, was his SS idealism.*
* Langbein confirms B’s version of these events, reporting that it was the morning following the outburst that he realized that alcohol had not played the primary role. He also observed that Delmotte’s appeal to his superior had been “diplomatically very awkward — he told us that later — in that he had officially refused and said he requested either to be sent to the Front or he himself should be gassed. But he could not do it [select].”   
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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