Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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placed together, separated by a burlap sheet, and both then subjected to these various examinations and tests, including injection of material into the spine and the clamping of some part of the body "to see how long you could stand the pressure.”

This particular description could well include procedures one was subjected to, those thought to have been applied to other prisoners, and those unclearly seen or feared. Given the nature of the Auschwitz environment, however, virtually any detail described could have considerable truth; and even those less than fully accurately rendered, considerable psychic truth.*
Within the Auschwitz twins’ subculture, there was an odd atmosphere that combined sanctuary with terror. As Simon J. put it, twins got the message “If we do what is wanted from us, … we would come to no harm, because we are the subject of an investigation headed by Dr. Mengele.” That is, “We were not allowed to be beaten” because the word was out “not to ruin us physically.” J. could even say that twins felt themselves “completely elevated, segregated from the hurlyburly of the camp.” Even a twin who was caught in such an ordinarily “ultimate sin” as stealing food would, instead of being severely beaten or sent to the gas chambers, be merely rebuked or punished mildly. The twins became aware that, unlike most other prisoners, their lives had existential value: “A single thing kept us [alive]: … his experiments,” is the way Tomas A. put it. Their existential value was immediately apparent in the matter of hair: they could retain theirs for the research reason that hair characteristics, including color, had to be recorded.

Hence they were given desirable jobs that did not expose them to the most severe kinds of physical abuse; children among them could serve as a “runner” (Läufer) or messenger, or sometimes simply as a helper. Many were permitted to move relatively freely about the camp, and therefore had valuable opportunities for “organizing” (buying and selling, mostly food), to be privy to useful information, and to create what one of them called a “thriving economy” on the twin block.

They were rewarded for their cooperation, as A. tells us: “[After being] measured and measured, … we had white bread and … milk with Lukchen [a macaroni-like mixture, considered a great delicacy in the camp],” for the ostensible purpose of compensating for the blood that had to be taken from them. In the Auschwitz context, that was “marvelous,” and was combined with other advantages: “the best clothes … through Mengele”; and as a survivor twin explained, “We had our hair … [so] they [other prisoners] said, ‘At least, you look . . . human.’”

It was equally clear, however, that this sanctuary was more than a matter of Mengele’s whim: “We should count [ourselves] as very lucky  
* But most descriptions by survivors could be in general terms confirmed, and unless otherwise indicated, I consider them to be essentially accurate.  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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