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. 
years of subsequent medical work: important medical positions came to be “occupied by political people,” and even his father’s professional eminence did not protect him from close scrutiny by Nazi-appointed assistants on the lookout for potential political deviance.

Dr. B. did not consider himself a Nazi ideologue but, like many Germans of the time, held “a positive attitude toward [the Nazis’] economic successes and toward the possibility of reform [of society].” What made him uneasy was the idea of people looking on him as someone who has been able to get ahead because he “has [politically] cooperated,” and he was especially intent upon convincing his mother and his future wife that such was not the case. When the war broke out, that conflict contributed to a sense of shame — sometimes aggravated by casual remarks people made — that a healthy young man like himself was not “among the soldiers” fighting for his country.  
Helping Prisoner Doctors  
Once over his selections crisis, Dr. B. had no major difficulties in Auschwitz. He consolidated a remarkable set of relationships with prisoner doctors, about a hundred of whom were assigned to the Hygienic Institute. While their situation was relatively benign for Auschwitz even prior to his arrival, he went further than anyone else in concern for their well-being. When they were sick he made. provisions for their medications and general care and visited them himself. He helped them send messages to, and arrange visits with, wives and friends in other parts of the camp. He contributed to their survival by keeping them closely informed about various Auschwitz currents and plans. And he directly saved lives in additional ways: by protecting prisoner doctors from selections, by finding them and rescuing them from the gas chamber when, they had, been selected, and by the benign experiments discussed in chapter 15.

Prisoner doctors came to view him as a very special figure — “perhaps the only one,” according to Dr. Erich G., “mentally … consciously opposed to [Auschwitz and the Nazis], …. the only one who really behaved [in a] friendly [way] to doctors.” Another prisoner doctor thought Dr. B. “oddly out of place in the SS,” was moved by both his concern when he was severely ill, and B.’s later insistence that he not go back to work too soon but “just lie outside in the sun and rest.” While a third doctor considered Dr. B. “an educated research worker,” a fourth thought him “a very kind man” but not especially bright: “We decided that … he was stupid ... because he was so nice with us.”

That decency had a powerful impact on inmates (“Anyone who has never experienced the camp cannot know how much real value such things have for morale”), according to one doctor. And seeing Ernst B. as a man out of place in Auschwitz and the SS in general, they searched for explanations of his being part of both. While they were reasonably accurate in seeing him as “ordered there" (to Auschwitz) by the SS (as  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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