Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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nonetheless — as also perhaps does his arrogating for himself the term “survivor.” He expressed considerable sympathy for the camp officials faced with the intractable problem of the Gypsy camp, even as he both admired Mengele for boldly opposing its annihilation and thought it natural for him to join actively in that annihilation once the decision was made. Mengele remained for Dr. B. a profound source of connection to the Auschwitz atmosphere.

Dr. B. gave an elaborate description of Mengele’s “early SS ideology”: the main currents of European culture taking shape from such “Germanic” groups as the ancient Greeks as well as the Normans and Vikings that emerging culture undermined by Christian morality of Jewish origin, culminating in a vast historic threat posed by Jewish influence to the Germanic race; the need to revert to ancient German myth in creating a contemporary SS Order at the heart of the Nazi movement, a major goal of which was the elimination of Jewish influence In Dr. B’s recitation of all this, there was an intensity, perhaps even enthusiasm, suggesting that it invoked the presence of his friend and that something in him [B.] was drawn to the message. Indeed B. claimed that Mengele “didn’t preach,” and that all these matters were discussed between the two men “very objectively.” B. had a way of domesticating Mengele’s wildly visionary ideas both because they were not entirely alien to himself and because he could invoke Mengele the scientist and “researcher on racial matters.”

Dr. B.’s psychic struggles with what Mengele represented were reflected in his contradictory descriptions of Mengele’s views on exterminating the Jews. He sometimes spoke as though Mengele strongly opposed the Auschwitz killing project, and quoted him as terming it a form of  “absolute idiocy” and “stupidity” and even declared that “Mengele would never have joined the SS if Hitler had announced in advance that we shall let the Jews go through the smokestacks as soon as we have triumphed.” Yet later Dr. B. stressed that Mengele was “fully convinced that the annihilation of the Jews was a provision for the recovery of the world, and Germany,” the only open question being the method to be used. The latter view is undoubtedly closer to the truth. But my point here is that Mengele became something of a mouthpiece for Dr. B.’s own inner contradictions about the “Jewish problem”: at times B. could refer to the overall issue of annihilating the Jews as though it were a serious question for men of good will to contemplate, disagree upon to some extent but approach with an open mind and with “rational discussion.” And when he summed up the traits of character he so admired in Mengele (“a good soldier no phony ambitions within the SS,” and “did not hesitate to oppose … openly [whatever] … he felt was wrong”), these were the qualities that B. had been brought up to admire and found in his father, and that, ironically, he believed gave him the strength to behave decently in Auschwitz.

In that vein he attributed something more to Mengele — a genuine leadership principle. In contrast to Höss, whom Dr. B. saw as “a perfect  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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