Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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Dr. Auschwitz: Josef Mengele 
that he’s interested in us [as Simon J. put it]. Mengele is God — we found it out very fast.”

Both protector and potential destroyer, he had “terrifying power around him [as] the person who, with his left eyelash, could rub us all out,” in J.’s words. As he went on to explain: “He [Mengele] always carried around him an aura of … some terrifying threat, which is, I suspect, unexplainable to … normal … human beings who didn’t see this. I [have] found ... [it] literally impossible to transmit the edge of this terror.”

Mostly Mengele kept twins alive for his research. Teresa W. claimed never to have been aware of his killing any of those she had measured; and while she might have resisted learning the full truth, it would have been “impossible [for her] not to know.” Similarly, the “twins’ father” (or prisoner leader) of the male group also stated, “As far as I know, none of the twins was gassed or burned.” He pointed out that, in January 1945, the older male twins were evacuated — but the smaller children stayed with him and were with him when the Russians entered the camp.33 But another inmate, who assisted Teresa W. in her anthropological measurements and made wider observations, claimed that “about 15 percent” of the twins were killed, some as a consequence of experiments performed on them, including surgical operations.

Generally speaking, then, Mengele kept intact his two main “data bases” in Auschwitz and Birkenau; killed individual twins (especially when the other had died) or pairs of twins living outside of the twins' blocks (notably Gypsy twins at the time of annihilation of that camp) for post-mortem examinations;* and subjected twins on the children’s block and elsewhere to fatal operations.

The irony remains that, among children, one almost had to be a twin to stay alive. As a survivor stated, “Virtually no one from my school survived, and no one from there of my age except another twin.” The proof of that survival could be seen in the documentary Russian film made at the time of the liberation of Auschwitz.34 In a moving scene, a hundred or more children emerge from inside the camp, most of them twins, including some older ones who had originally been ordered to evacuate but, in the confusion, had been able to hide themselves safely. Simon J. told me proudly, “I'm in that group — I remember that very well.”

Mengele’s relationship to his main professional assistant tells us much about his sense of the project. When Teresa W. was severely ill with typhus, she told Mengele about her anthropological background and
* Certain twins, not on any of the regular twins’ blocks, were subjected to extensive examinations by Mengele’s team of prisoner doctors. One prisoner doctor, in discussing Mengele’s killing of an individual twin for the purpose of the post-mortem findings, told me that he and his prisoner colleagues “knew all these cases because they passed through our hands.” They would receive the post-mortem report — “enormously detailed — all of the organs described in all particulars”; and “every twin in this group had his own file, and the post-mortem examination was the twin’s last document in the file.” The twin had to be killed, at least in certain cases, in order to complete his or her research file.   
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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