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. 
often used in the camp] standing.” Each time Dr. B. spoke of it, he praised the act, though he gave it different meanings: an expression of Mengele’s “disapproval of the entire annihilation structure as a disgrace to SS principles and to his own religious beliefs”; to conceal the “filth” from the occupiers as an expression of his “belief in the German race”; and because he “didn't want to leave anything behind that would make the SS look bad.”

In our last interview, Dr. B. spoke again with intensity about the “utter chaos” at the time, with everybody fleeing and “Mengele … the only one who noticed [the SS command] left the crematoria standing,” and returned with a few underlings “to blast them as thoroughly as possible.”

If Mengele followed a pattern (which I could demonstrate to B.) of alternating between civility and cruelty to prisoners or of relegating a healthy twin to the gas chamber for experimental purposes, then “for him [Mengele] there was no discrepancy.” Here B. invoked Rudolf Höss, “who… made Auschwitz what it was” but, at the same time, “was in his private life a person of absolute integrity.” (For a discussion of the principle involved and of distortions in B.‘s example, see page 201.) B.’s point seems to be that a genuine believer in the Nazi project could engage in cruelty and murder with “absolute integrity.”

To Dr. B., Mengele was a free spirit of “optimistic character,” who acted on his own beliefs even when contrary to official Auschwitz policy. As an example, B. spoke of Mengele’s strong stand against the annihilation of the Gypsy camp. Set up as a family camp, the Gypsy unit rapidly deteriorated and became extraordinarily filthy and unhygienic even for Auschwitz, a place of starving babies, children, and adults. B. insisted that there were “sufficient rations ... delivered to the camp for all of them to survive,” but that certain adult Gypsies of high standing kept most of the food, thus denying it to all others, including hungry children. The Auschwitz leaders, “shocked” by the situation, came to the conclusion that it was virtually impossible to change it and that the only solution was to “gas the entire camp.” According to B., Mengele strongly opposed that decision, made several trips to Berlin to try to get it reversed, and went so far as to declare to other Auschwitz authorities that annihilating the Gypsy camp would be “a crime.”

Ernst B. himself told of becoming deeply interested in the Gypsy situation, and was appalled by what he described as scenes of fathers and mothers eating while permitting their own children to starve: conditions “were atrocious, … worse than in all other camps,” and constituted "a very great problem." He added, “Since I survived [überlebt] that Gypsy camp, I have developed the worst possible opinion of Gypsies. And when I see a Gypsy I make sure to get away quickly …. I can’t stand to hear Gypsy music.”

The phenomenon of blaming the victim is at the center of Dr. B.’s perception of the event. The intensity of his involvement and of his aversion to Gypsies, suggests that he struggles with guilt feelings  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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