Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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Dr. Auschwitz: Josef Mengele  
or his eyes had a "cruel expression" or were "the eyes of a fish," or "dead eyes," "wild eyes," or eyes that never looked at one's own.

Some survivors spoke of his odor. One described him as "young, ... elegant, ... smart, ... smelling of eau de cologne,” and as “very sensitive about bad smells”: “Before his arrival the doors and windows had to be opened.” And more generally, Marianne F., who worked on the medical block, spoke of his “white coat over his uniform — shining new white” and characterized him as “Clean, clean, clean!”

Mengele’s passion for cleanliness and perfection carried over into a selections aesthetic: he would send people with skin blemishes to the gas chamber or those with small abcesses. or even old appendectomy scars. “My two cousins were sent in front of my eyes by Mengele to their deaths because they had small wounds on their bodies,” was the way one survivor put it. Limited evidence of scabies, or rashes or scars from scarlet fever, or even rubella (German measles) on: the skin of children could have the same effect.

Specific prisoner responses to Mengele’s selections were dominated by a special quality of fear and helplessness. Dr. Gisella Perl wrote, “We feared these visits more than anything else, because … we never knew whether we would be permitted to continue to live. … He was free to do whatever he pleased with us.”21 It was significant that many survivors who had witnessed the annihilation of the Gypsy camp considered that decision to have been Mengele’s — an understandable assumption, both because the policy seemed consistent with the man and because Mengele was relentless in tracking down Gypsies, especially children, who tried to escape their fate. Though the assumption was factually wrong, its psychic truth lay in Mengele’s inexorable commitment to the Nazi principle of murder-selection.

Dr. Lengyel speaks of prisoners’ rage: “How we hated this charlatan! … How we despised his detached haughty air, his continual whistling, his absurd orders, his frigid cruelty!” She described the temptation on one occasion, when seeing lying on a table his briefcase whose contours clearly revealed the revolver inside, to “seize the gun and slaughter the assassin.”22 While full awareness of that rage might not come for many inmates until their liberation from Auschwitz, it was certainly building while they were there. Mengele could also be perceived, almost in the manner of Hochhuth’s portrayal of him, as a nonhuman evil force. Dr. Wanda J., in commenting that she never spoke to him because he never addressed her or her colleagues, added, “The devil should speak to him.” And another prisoner doctor spoke of Mengele as “the lord of life and death.” Such figures of speech meant more in Auschwitz than in other places. The perceived ratio of Mengele’s beauty and evil could become a mystical indicator. Marianne F., observing Mengele on the medical block, describes how she “played this little game”: “If the sun rises red you'll live this day, because it's beautiful and you detach the image of [Mengele] from what you knew  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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