Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
 
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AUSCHWITZ: THE RACIAL CURE 
 
certainly is a painting.”18 Allowing for retrospective exaggeration and fantasy, there is the reliable consistent impression of a man on the ramp at home with his task, with both fierce adherence to the rules and almost casual solipsism. 
 
 
On the Hospital Block 
 
On the hospital blocks he could also be flamboyantly casual and comfortable in his selections activity. Dr. Lengyel called him a selections “specialist” who “could show up suddenly at any hour, day or night, … when we least expected him.”19 According to one prisoner doctor, “he had no problems — not with his conscience, not with anybody, not with anything.” For, as Dr. Magda V. said, “he was absolutely convinced he was doing the right thing.” Prisoners would “march before him with their arms in the air,” Dr. Lengyel tells us, “while he continued to whistle his Wagner” — or it might be Verdi or Johann Strauss. It was a mannered detachment: “like an automaton, a gentleman carrying out indifferent functions,”20 and (according to Dr. Marie L.) “very cold … in German, sachlich [meaning ‘businesslike, matter-of-fact’].”

According to Dr. L., he, would change signals (thumb up instead of thumb down) to indicate those being sent to the gas chamber. And he always bordered on sadism: “He had a special kind of smile, … even joking, that bastard!” More overtly, there are many stories of his striking people with his long riding crop, in one case running it over tattoos on the bosoms of Russian women, as a Polish woman survivor described, “then striking them there,” while “not at all excited but … casual, just playing around a little as though it were a little funny.”

Most of all his ward selections were done with relentless conscientiousness and “responsibility.” It mattered to Mengele that, among people he thought should be selected; every last one be tracked down — “like a bloodhound” was the way another survivor put it.

One might expect that someone so intent upon absolute personal control would disdain the involvement of prisoner doctors in selections, but that was not the case. Mengele encouraged or demanded their participation and by so encompassing them broadened rather than diminished his own control Dr. Marek P. stated that Mengele would not listen to the Polish doctors at all and Dr. Magda V., who became skilled at handling SS doctors, said of Mengele, “I don’t think that for a moment I could manipulate him, ever, ever.”

Among inmates on the medical blocks, Mengele inspired both intense up-close observations and the most elaborate fantasy, or combinations of both. People focused on his eyes: he was “a very bad person, … and you saw it … in his eyes, … brown and bloodshot,” according to one survivor; or he violated the principle a woman survivor described having learned from her mother, that “whoever has nice eyes has a nice soul”;  
 
THE NAZI DOCTORS:
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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