Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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[inellec… ] tual coherence to do anything more with them. Similarly, Dr. Abraham C. thought Mengele had some ability but that what he did was “not real science” because he held certain ideas that he “considered absolute” and then “he … would simply look for proofs to support them.”

That attitude was reflected in Mengele’s colloquia, which “came out of the questions he asked, the instructions he gave, and the whole body of research he had us do.” After prisoner doctors answered Mengele’s questions, “he would comment, criticize, but not discuss [them] with us.” Dr. C. had the impression that Nyiszli and Professor Epstein were exceptional in that Mengele would occasionally discuss ideas with them, and that Epstein was the only one “who dared contradict him and discuss with [Mengele … various] ideas.” But Epstein, too, avoided going beyond a certain point. Mengele’s essential pattern was to create intellectual interest and a demand for scientific opinion while remaining impermeable to that opinion if it contradicted his views (sometimes he would be quiet in order to wait for the X rays and post-mortem — and if proven wrong, he would be quieter still), all the while maintaining total control over the lives and deaths of prisoner scientific participants. Eva C., the artist, told how Mengele would strain to find “proof” of his views. In his search for Aryan versus non-Aryan qualities, he would attempt to observe whether Gypsies “had a darker area around the waist” (although “a two-piece bathing suit could get the same result”
) and, with some agitation, would insist upon demonstrating that blue eyes found in Gypsies “had little brown freckles … so … they are not pure Aryan blue eyes.” Yet she thought him “earnest and sincere in going about these pursuits.”

Dr. Frédéric E. was more blunt. Referring to an experiment in which Mengele tried to determine whether one twin was more susceptible to poison than another, this doctor called it “a crazy idea of a man who understood nothing about real scientific problems but … had the possibility … to experiment … without any control or restrictions.” Another prisoner doctor called Mengele “a megalomaniac who wanted to become a great scientist and to reach this aim it was best to experiment with human beings.” And still another thought Mengele’s scientific work to be “garbage,” and Mengele a man who “never applied judgment.” Dr. Alexander O. characterized Mengele as “a fanatic … possessed by his pseudoscience.” “Possessed” is an apt term here, suggesting Mengele’s combination of fierce energy along with his mystification in what he did.

There might well have been a third component to that “possession” — the specter of inner doubt. Mengele required of himself the belief that what he did in Auschwitz was warranted by its claim to science. Among the more knowledgeable and intellectually superior prisoner doctors he surrounded himself with, we may suspect that he experienced some inner question about those scientific claims. Part of his desperate motion in Auschwitz might well have come from a struggle to cover over those doubts, to hide them from others capable of making scientific judgments, and above all from himself. Mengele’s combination of science and pseudo
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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