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.  
soldier” because he carried out orders to the letter, Mengele was a “leader of men.” For B., he was a man in the heroic mold. He was intellectually ahead of his time, getting at the “biological basis” for political behavior and leadership in ways that scholars are now beginning address. And he had an “absolutely firm ‘life principle’ [Lebensprinzip] for which he stood up more than anyone else I knew [and] took risks to an incredible degree in order to carry forth his convictions.” B. added “Very few have done that. Mengele was one of them.”

Dr. B.’s testimony in the extradition case against Mengele is consistent in many ways with the patterns I have discussed. He described Mengele as having been convinced that the Jews had to be exterminated; that selections in Auschwitz were imperative and even “humanitarian”; and that Auschwitz was ”only a … partial anticipatory final solution” in terms of what was to come. Although he portrayed Mengele as a man of conviction and said he knew of no fatalities in Mengele’s research with twins, Dr. B.’s detailed testimony on Mengele’s relationship to selections could have been legally damning to his former friend. Now B.’s “harmonizing” was with the German court.

At one point, I asked Dr. B. how he would feel, considering the different paths taken by himself and Mengele, if they had a chance to meet in the future. His reply, while cautious, made clear that he would be glad to see his old friend and to resume their relationship on an even more “rational” basis than before: “And there would result — as I know him — completely emotionless talk. Talk without emotions. Emotions, they remained at Auschwitz. For all of us.” 
Evacuation of Auschwitz and Dr. B.'s Trial  
In preparing for the evacuation of Auschwitz in January 1945, Ernst B. tried to arrange for “his” doctors to survive, whether they were among those making the forced march or those who would stay. A doctor who had been among prisoners able to march out in the regular evacuation noted, “When we passed the laboratory the SS staff was waving us good-bye and wishing us good luck. They seemed to give us a strange sense of  ‘We are in this together.’”

It was decided that the Hygienic Institute should reassemble itself at Dachau; and while “everybody tried to save his skin,” Dr. B. did his best to help organize that laboratory. Though there was talk of preparing for a German “counteroffensive,” it is likely that this focus on rebuilding the Hygienic Institute was in the service of demonstrating to the Occupation the benign nature of Nazi medical activities in the camps, as well as maintaining the medical “as if” situation to the end. In the midst of very bad conditions at Dachau, prisoner physicians there who had formerly worked in the Hygienic Institute were enormously relieved to see Ernst B. and Weber and to hear from them: “We want you to work with us again.” While at this time most SS doctors anticipated the forthcoming  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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