Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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Dr. Auschwitz: Josef Mengele 
nice-looking man with a stick [riding crop] in his hand … [who] looked at the bodies and the faces [for] just a couple of seconds [and said], … ‘Links [“left”], … Rechts [“right”], Links, Rechts. ’” And another observant inmate contrasted Dr. Franz Lucas’s deliberate manner on the ramp with Mengele‘s “graceful and quick movement” (see pages 194-95).

Some described a quality of playfulness in his detachment, his “walking back and forth … [with a] cheerful expression on his face, … almost like he had fun, … routine fun. … He was very playful.” But observant survivors could see that he was playing a role; noted the prominence with which he displayed at least one Iron Cross, and the intensity with which he seemed to wish to contrast his own elegance with the prisoners’ barely human state; and spoke of him as “like a Hollywood actor,” “like Clark Gable,” or “a Rudolph Valentino type.”

At the same time, prisoners were struck by the contrast between what he looked like and what he was. One survivor, describing him as “good-looking, … very cultivated,” declared that “he really didn’t look like a murderer,” but immediately added, “He hit my father with his stick on his neck and sent him in a certain direction [to the gas chambers].” Or, “He was brutal but in a gentlemanly, depraved way.” For Mengele’s studied detachment could be interrupted by outbreaks of rage and violence, especially when encountering resistance to his sense of the Auschwitz rules. For instance, an arriving teenager, directed by Mengele to the right while her mother and younger sisters were sent to the left, “begged and wept” because she did not want to be separated from them: “[Mengele then] grabbed me by the hair, dragged me on the ground, and beat me. When my mother also tried to beg him, he beat her with his cane [riding crop].”

In another, similar case in which a mother did not want to be separated from her thirteen- or fourteen-year-old daughter, and bit and scratched the face of the SS man who tried to force her to her assigned line, Mengele drew his gun and shot both the woman and the child. As a blanket punishment, he then sent to the gas all people from that transport who had previously been selected for work, with the comment: “Away with this shit!”16

He could also express cruelty and violence in response to signs of orthodox Judaism. A woman described how he ridiculed her mother’s wig (the Scheitel worn by orthodox Jews) and “picked it [off her head] with his stick.” And there were endless stories of his smooth deceptions: a promise to a woman, who asked to do her father’s work for him, that “father would be very well and the air would make him healthy”: “In that same night my parents were gassed.” And deadly sarcasm to a man asking for “light work”: Mengele answered, “You’ll get light work,” and sent him to the gas chamber.17

He could occasionally break his own rules, on what appeared to be a whim: saving, for instance, a mother and eleven-year-old daughter because he was struck by their beauty, and reportedly commenting, “That  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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