Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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Dr. Tadeusz S. stated), the doctor just quoted went further and said, “He himself … often repeated [the point that he] had not enrolled voluntarily in the SS, but only under coercion, which in 1944 was possible.” And a third doctor said similarly, “He told me he was not considered kosher by the SS [because his wife was related to a German officer who defected to an Allied nation] so that is why they put him in this position in the Hygienic Institute … where they could keep close watch on him.” I suspect that these falsehoods (he was, in fact, eager to join up and acknowledged volunteering for the Waffen SS) resulted mainly from his need to achieve maximum acceptance by the prisoner physicians. Possibly also they exaggerated and distorted it out of a need to believe that this SS doctor, who treated them humanely, was not a genuine SS officer — not really “one of them.”

Ernst B. tended to romanticize his integration with the inmates: “After half a year [in Auschwitz], I discussed all personal ... [and] all possible questions openly with the prisoners. [There was] no difference in my social contact with them from with other personnel” — in terms that suggest how far that integration actually did proceed.

He could then attribute what he called a “perverse reaction,” in deciding not to take advantage of an opportunity to be transferred from Auschwitz, to his having become “integrated into the whole thing.” Prisoner doctors to whom he talked about the opportunity of course urged him to stay, and he was referring to his relationship with them within the overall Auschwitz situation when he added that “the situation was so extraordinary that you … could not get out.”

He remembered asking himself, “Is it right to stay, or would it be better to leave?,” and deciding that he should stay: “Here I had impact [Resonanz]* and I felt I could accomplish something positive [in comparison with other possible assignments] …. At least I could do something humane here.” He enumerated other ways in which he could contribute to the lives of prisoners: by turning over to them meat given him for testing and telling SS officials that large “samples” were required; and helping in a project to distill spoiled marmalade to produce orange brandy, which could be, in turn, exchanged with SS men for meat from the slaughterhouse and bakery products, all for inmates. Over time he realized that these maneuverings were safe “because every person there was also corrupt.”

Dr. B. had another dream that expressed his conflicts and the depth of his integration with prisoners — a dream so dangerous that he can remember having had it only after leaving Auschwitz, though I gained the impression that fragments of it may have occurred there as well. The dream involved a young Jewish woman laboratory assistant in the Hygienic Institute who had a talent for making drawings from photographs of the
* The choice of this word — literally, “resonance” — suggests the idea of human interaction rather than mere influence.  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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