Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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recommendation for promotion, this remains, to say the least, a rousing endorsement. It could even be seen as a contribution to the Mengele legend from the side of the SS.

We can look more closely at Mengele’s Auschwitz existence by examining his involvement in selections, in “scientific research,”* and in his varied relationships (with his SS colleagues and with prisoner doctors), and also his overall psychological characteristics and continuing significance for others. 
Mengele on the Ramp 
For many inmates, Mengele embodied the selections process. As one prisoner doctor put it, “I … think that Mengele developed an idée fixe: selections, selections, and more selections.” He tended to be identified as (in Dr. Peter D.’s words) “the chief of those who did the selections.” Or as another prisoner doctor said, “Everything in Auschwitz was under … Mengele. … Mengele was the one, who was present at all the transports. Usually he alone, himself, stood on the ramp and he made the selections When he couldn’t do it he sent another clever SS doctor [to do it].”

The strength of that impression is conveyed by a witness in the Frankfurt Auschwitz Trial who had worked in the Canada Kommando unloading prisoner transports, and who remembered only the name of Mengele When the judge commented, “Mengele cannot have been there all the time,” the witness answered, “In my opinion always. Night and day.”13 Dr. Olga Lengyel, speaking less specifically, caught the overall feeling of inmates in her description of Mengele as “far and away the chief provider for the gas chamber and the crematory ovens.”14

Actually, the evidence we have is that Mengele took his duty turn on the ramp like everyone else. But the impression that he did all, or almost all, selections was fed by at least two factors: he frequently went to the ramp when not selecting in order to see that twins were being collected and saved for him and he brought such verve and energy to the selections task that his image became. most associated with it.

Former inmates described him as an elegant figure on the ramp — handsome, well groomed, extremely upright in posture. They sometimes misperceived him as “very Aryan-looking” or “tall and blond,” when he was actually of medium height and had dark hair and complexion. His attractiveness hid Auschwitz truths: he “conveyed the impression of a gentle and cultured man who had nothing whatever to do with selections, phenol and Zyklon B"15 A survivor described him to me as “the false front for the crematorium.”

He had an easy rhythm in his conduct of large-scale selections: “a
* In subsequent discussions, I refrain from using quotation marks with “research,” but it should be understood that I view Mengele’s work as always lacking full scientific responsibility (see especially pages 365-69).   
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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