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. 
 
[institu … ] tional attribution “From the Hygienic Institute of the Concentration Camp Auschwitz.” Years later, after the professor had died, I was able to talk to his daughter, who knew a great deal about her father’s relationship to Ernst B., especially how he had saved her father’s life on three separate occasions. Dr. B. had taken on, as a result, an almost mythical quality in her mind: she thought of him not as an SS doctor but “as my father’s savior,” imagined meeting him sometime in Germany, and went so far as to say that when her father died Dr. B. seemed in certain ways to replace him in her feelings.

She was puzzled, however, by one aspect of the relationship. She had seen the warm correspondence between the two men, including Dr. B.’s grateful letter following his acquittal. After that, her father wrote back saying in effect (in her words), “You saved my life — I saved your life — now we are even.” She noted that the two men then stopped corresponding; and when she asked her father why he did not write the German doctor again, he told her, “Well, we saved each other’s life. That’s all. What more could we talk about?”

I suspect that her father did experience the matter as a true exchange. First, he had mobilized full energy and influence on behalf of acquittal and liberty for a man who had previously been within the category (but not the mentality) of the professor’s own concentration-camp jailor Then he must have needed to step back from the Auschwitz-derived dependency on and gratitude toward Dr. B., as well as from his own Auschwitz involvements and compromises, in order to assert finally an unbridgeable area in the separate terrains of prisoner physician and SS doctor in Auschwitz. 
 
 
Dr. B.’s “Auschwitz Confession” 
 
Ernst B.’s most powerful prison experience had to do with “a roomful of files” from the Hygienic Institute, which the examining judge, by now favorably disposed toward him, asked him to examine. B. plunged into a study of such questions as how long an ill prisoner and prisoners in general could survive in Auschwitz on the diet provided them. He went about the task energetically and methodically, studying nutritional components of diets for various kinds of prisoner, including those suffering from different diseases, and concluding that seriously ill inmates had life expectancy of no more than fourteen days and the general life expectancy of an ordinary prisoner was no more than three months. His findings, which were used by the court and by other researchers, were published. He stressed to me that, beyond these statistics, “What is important is that for months I was alone in a room [cell] with these files and nothing else,” and that “through dealing with these papers I established a special contact with Auschwitz.” Before that, in a group cell, “one used every opportunity to suppress these memories,” but in that room “confronting the problem … in a different way, … one could deal with  
 
THE NAZI DOCTORS:
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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