Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
  Page 333  
Previous Page

Home Page
Home Page  
   Next Page
“A Human Being in an SS Uniform”: Ernst B. 
where they were so hated. Dr. B. commented that the Germans and the Jews were now the two most hated peoples in the world. While none of this was overtly anti-Jewish, it was consistent with the earlier German attitude of viewing the Jews as “the problem.” What both of them said was also probably related to their impression that I was Jewish. If so, her meaning was probably something like: “Why don't you help your fellow Jews — who are still the most hated of peoples and therefore need the help — and leave my husband alone?” While we cannot identify Dr. B’s views precisely with those of his wife — she had always been more anti-Nazi than he — his words at the time suggested agreement and were also consistent with tendencies we have observed in him of blaming the victim. The suspicion that I was a Jew could also have contributed both to his intensity in seeking an accommodation with me during the interviews and to his reactive ambivalence once he had done so. And it could have contributed as well to his wife’s worries.

Dr. B.’s attitudes toward Jews included espousal of “understanding,” if not sympathy, for advocacy of the Final Solution, as well as for the Nazi polarity of National-Socialist “world blessing” and Jewish “ultimate evil.” Those draconian attitudes were intrinsic to the Nazi context he shared, but were much less operative in him than was his capacity to respond humanely to individual Jews. Whatever these conflicts and contradictions, this capacity, when expressed in an institution whose purpose was the annihilation of Jews, was exemplary and, for many, life-sustaining. 
Dr. B.’s Postwar Self 
An important part of B.’s post-Auschwitz self and worldview is his unfinished business with Auschwitz. His conflicting needs are both to continue to explore his Auschwitz experience and to avoid coming to grips with its moral significance. His insistence that Auschwitz was not understandable serves the psychological function of rejecting any coherent explanation or narrative for the events in which he was involved. He thus remains stuck in an odd post-traumatic pattern: unable either to absorb (by finding narrative and meaning) or to free himself from Auschwitz images.

Yet he does require psychological maneuvers to fend off the extremity of Auschwitz evil. One of these is equating Auschwitz with other collective examples of hypocrisy and failed ideals, such as the schizophrenic situation of the Christian church in doing “things that had nothing to do with ‘love thy neighbor.’” Auschwitz is thereby reduced to something historically ordinary, and he is enabled to acknowledge a little more of his Auschwitz self.

His language and style of discussion during the interviews was consistent with that kind of maneuver, especially in its exclusion of the moral domain. While intelligent and articulate, he avoided almost completely  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

Robert J. Lifton
ISBN 0-465-09094
© 1986
Previous Page  Back Page 333 Forward  Next Page