Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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[the children] from finding out about their future fate of being gassed.” But the larger point was always that, as long as a man acted in accordance with the morass of Auschwitz we cannot judge him negatively now:  
One must be aware that in the Auschwitz milieu where thousands were being killed continuously, such a thing [Mengele’s killing a few twins] was nothing at all extraordinary. Absolutely nothing that might be particularly noticed or come especially to his or anyone else's mind. … But as an outsider one cannot understand this.
Further, Dr. B. rejected evidence of Mengele's cruelty: “I can't believe that …. It would be contrary to … the personal impression I have of him … because through work I had only … purely professional contact with him In slight qualification, B. admitted that he could not observe Mengele in all situations, so that concerning “how he behaved in his own camp and … concerning the selections … I can say nothing.” But B.’s general message was: What I saw was commendable and collegial. What I did not see I cannot comment on. If people say he did bad things, they are exaggerating or fantasizing and I cannot believe them. Mengele was merely acting consistently with Auschwitz principles, whatever he did. And, no one who has not himself experienced Auschwitz can understand or judge these things.

In his overall attempt to restore Mengele’s “good name” Dr. B’s organizing principle was integrity. Mengele behaved according to his convictions. Mengele also did valuable scientific work. Perhaps there was a certain loss of humanity (Dr. B. admitted under my prodding), but “if somebody is as convinced as he was that the Jews had to be exterminated … then one can imagine how this restraint [associated with ordinary humanity] does not exist” — and “always, again, has to be seen under Auschwitz conditions.”

Mengele was no hypocrite, that is, and showed initiative and a sense of responsibility in several ways. As an example, Dr. B. told how Mengele was the only one among the SS doctors who concerned himself with the practical [aspects] of gassing the overburdened facilities and “technical … mistakes” made the whole process “even more inhuman,” so that “as perverse as it may sound, he took the trouble to look into these matters … for humanitarian reasons.”

Contrasting Mengele’s constructive energies with the usual Auschwitz attitude of “that's not my business,” Dr. B. on several occasions told how, at the time of the evacuation of Auschwitz toward the end of the war, when everyone was preoccupied with personal problems, only Mengele had the presence of mind and sense of responsibility to organize the dynamiting of the gas chambers. The task was really “under the jurisdiction of the commandant, not the SS doctor,“ but the commandant “would have been willing to leave the whole stinking mess [Sauerei, slang  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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