Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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His early memories include images of merging with the rural landscape, extreme isolation from other human beings, and fear close to terror of wild beasts, fed in part by jungle tales his parents told him. He associated the fear and isolation with the First World War — both with the increasingly difficult living conditions caused by the war, and then with the sense of humiliation experienced by his family in an area occupied by the French following the German surrender (at which time he was a small boy).

But one particular war-related event took the shape of an ultimate family tragedy: the death of his uncle, who had been critically wounded while serving as a military physician. The uncle was described as possessing qualities that lent readily to legend: a “completely model doctor” who was also gifted in the arts, a man who died in his late twenties but had already produced a standard medical work still highly regarded.

A central theme of Ernst B.’s early, life, carried through into adolescence and adulthood, was his struggle to make what he constantly referred to as “contact” (Kontakt) with other people. He felt difficulty in doing so with other children, including his younger sister and brother. He sought it in vague religious stirrings having to do with what he called “religious communication,” as exemplified in his experience by Christmas feelings and sermons of  “harmony and peace” and a subsequent belief that one should belong to some religion — feelings that went beyond his father’s post-Protestant atheism and his mother’s concession to the need for some religion while being antagonistic to both Catholics and Protestants. He had a similar attraction as a schoolboy to the utopian thought of Thomas More and even to the communist ideas of the 1920s: for a short time “the basic connection was made for me between early Christianity and communism.”

As he entered adolescence, however, he was influenced by his mother’s fiercely nationalistic opposition to such ideas, and by her allegiance to anti-revolutionary groups on the right that stressed “national and military activity” and were “very, very emotionally German.” Her group, the Jungdeutscher Orden (Young Germans’ Order), drew upon the earlier romantic back-to-nature youth movement or Wandervögel (literally, “bird of passage”), in which his mother had been strongly involved. He went to political gatherings with her, where he did not especially enjoy the marching, "but the drinking afterward was very good.”

Drinking, in fact, had become important to Ernst B. from about the age of fifteen — in his view, “very early in comparison to others” though “not really very unusual.” He drank “to have contact” with his peers at a time when life seemed to be a series of defeats. At school he was “a very bad … very lazy pupil.” At home he was removed emotionally from his father — and his mother “sort of overdid it in the other direction” — while feeling himself inadequate in relation to the “very high standard” of culture, especially music, in his, home. “So all I could do was drink with … young people.” Of this period in his life, he said, “I had problems in general
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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