Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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principle of everyone’s having “dirt on his walking stick,” he moved closer not only to the heart of Auschwitz but also to his own connection with the camp and its functions. In other words, by probing more deeply and becoming increasingly candid, he was forced to reveal aspects of his involvement that would no longer fit into the comfortably controlled narrative a part of himself wished to construct. That is why he seemed more tense during this interview than in others; and at the end he tried to retreat from his own impasse by focusing on the issue of Auschwitz overcrowding on how there were as many as 140,000 prisoners in the camp at times, and how scientific experiments with mice in crowded cages revealed extreme behavior, including cannibalism.

The fourth interview took place nine months after the third, the delay caused by a number of factors, but mainly by reluctance on his part, apparently due to his wife’s continuing objections. As a compromise we met in a small university office I had access to in Munich requiring that he drive several hours to meet me. Although still affable his tone was significantly different. He told me that his attitude about Auschwitz and related issues had hardened. He now insisted upon recognizing what was good about the Nazis as well as what was bad and upon looking at other forms of cruel behavior in history and thereby seeing the Nazis as by no means unique.

He had in fact hardened toward me and the interview situation as well becoming increasingly assertive in expressing the Nazi point of view at the time in ways that left doubt about how removed he was from that point of view, then and even now. There was an element of contempt in his dismissal of any possible comparison between violent contemporary cults (in particular the one led by Jim Jones, which culminated in the mass suicide murder of more than nine hundred of its followers in 1978) and the Nazi Auschwitz structure. And there was a tone of defiance in his stress on the “logic” of the Nazi killing in Auschwitz for those doctors who believed in the vision of National Socialism as a “world blessing” (Weitbeglückung) and Jews as the fundamental evil (Grundübel). His language became more crude — for instance in his use of the term “home-baked problems” (hausbackene Problemen) to describe routine problems. He seemed assertively unapologetic, at times almost enthusiastic, as he took me on a journey through the foulest Auschwitz realms. And in stressing that Nazi doctors saw such tasks as offering advice on the burning of bodies as not an ethical problem at all — just technical, he seemed to be rejecting any moral perspective on Auschwitz. At the end of the interview, when comparing Nazi times with the present, he, said that, despite the “full liberalization” today, there is an absence of “ideals for youth a lack of commitment which leads to chaotic conditions and the absence of "a coherent community.” The Nazis “overdid it” in the opposite direction, he acknowledged, but in Hitler’s admittedly “primitive methods” there was “something right,” something that “was good with the Nazis.”  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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