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.
The third element was the making available to Delmotte as intellectual mentor (for the research and writing involved in his dissertation) a distinguished older Jewish prisoner physician, a professor and widely acclaimed scientist who, according to Dr. B., became a “father figure” to Delmotte. The two men became extremely close, and it was B.’s claim that the professor even advised Delmotte to go ahead with selections because “he would be severely punished if he refused.” B. had the impression that the professor “contributed the most toward helping Delmotte out of his [difficulties] — let’s say, to motivate him.” Because of his own psychological needs, B. may well have exaggerated the professor’s role in regard to the selections question — I would give greater emphasis to Mengele’s influence and to that of the overall Auschwitz environment — but I have seen letters from the professor confirming his closeness to Delmotte.

Delmotte selected without further incident until selections were discontinued in Auschwitz in the fall of 1944. After the evacuation of Auschwitz, Ernst B. met him briefly in Dachau — after which Dr. B. “never saw him again.” Delmotte tried to flee to his home area but was soon caught; when taken into custody (or about to be) by American troops, he shot himself.

Dr. B. thought that Delmotte had killed himself because of having violated his own medical principles in performing selections, and because he could, in any case, expect the death penalty from the Americans and wanted to spare himself and his family the pain and humiliation of conviction, and execution. But what had actually gone on in Delmotte’s mind continued to trouble B., remaining “a key problem” that he felt a need to “trace further.” He did make some inquiries but did not succeed in learning any more. He added, with a quality of feeling unusual for him: “I had... hoped that I could be of some assistance to him, because I have a bad conscience toward him …. He had to do the job which I had succeeded in getting out of …. Maybe I could have been more honest with him, but it was very difficult in that situation.”
Who was this unusual Auschwitz doctor? A not very unusual man, an exploration of his past suggests, but one with certain preoccupations and abilities that contributed to his Auschwitz behavior.

Ernst B. came from an upper-middle-class professional family, his father a university professor distinguished in his scientific field, a man with whom he “had no personal contact, no personal relationship.” B. nonetheless “respected him very much” because of the intensity of his commitment and his combination of personal integrity and tolerance for his children’s idiosyncrasies. B.’s mother “was the opposite” — affectionate and close to him, and insistent on her beliefs and on the virtues of her own family traditions, which were strongly nationalistic, with two of its members being distinguished physicians.  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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