Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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work on genetic abnormalities and indirectly on twins (he did not use twin studies but referred to their importance). He was sufficiently deferential to his teachers to confirm prior work by Lenz and Verschuer on the existence in this area of an “irregularly dominant hereditary process,” and associated the deformity studied with a wide variety of additional deformities and anomalies in the same families. His method was essentially genealogical.7

His third publication was entitled “Hereditary Transmission of Fistulae Auris” (an abnormal opening in the cartilage of the ear), identified as a publication from the Frankfurt Institute for Hereditary Biology and Racial Hygiene directed by Verschuer, and published in a journal Der Erbarzt [“The Genetic Physician”] edited by him. This is a brief case report on hereditary transmission of this kind of fistula, again by means of the Lenz-Verschuer, principle of  “irregular, dominant hereditary process.” Mengele also makes a point of the simultaneous occurrence of these fistulae. with dimples of the chin (he himself was said to have had such a dimple).8

All three studies are consistent with hereditary emphases supported by the Nazis but by no means intellectually initiated by them. The studies are full of charts, diagrams, and photographs that claim more than they prove, but could probably nonetheless be considered relatively respectable scientific works of that time even outside of Nazi Germany. What they all suggest is Mengele’s commitment to bringing science into the service of the Nazi vision.

Mengele was apparently headed for an academic career, and was looked upon favorably by Verschuer, who in a letter of recommendation praised his reliability, combined background in anthropology and medicine, and capacity for clear verbal presentation of difficult intellectual problems.9 Mengele’s choice of a professor’s daughter as wife was also in keeping with his academic aspirations.

His military experience loomed large in his life: six months in 1938-39 with a specially trained mountain light-infantry regiment in the Tyrol, then considered a rather elegant form of service, including skiing and mountain climbing; and from 1940, service in the reserve medical corps, and then three years with a Waffen SS unit mostly in the East including action in Russia with the Viking division, a wound that led to his being declared medically unfit for combat, and four decorations, including the Iron Cross First Class and Second Class. He was said to have “acquitted himself brilliantly in the face of the enemy during the Eastern Campaign,” and was promoted to the rank of captain (Hauptsturmführer). The only doctor in Auschwitz to possess that array of medals, he was enormously proud of them and known to refer frequently to his combat experience as a source of authority on various matters. In a semi-comical incident, one of the Iron Crosses fell from his uniform while he was riding through the camp on his bicycle, and was recovered only after a frantic search by a group of prisoners.  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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