Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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direct and pragmatic. So much so that he could chide her for having attempted to help Jews (“How could you hope to have been successful?”) when she told him why she had been arrested and even to tell her that she must have been “a little schizoid” for having made these attempts.

Dr. Magda V. also said that “you could talk to him” and “give a more or less intelligent answer” when a medical issue arose: “We had a working relationship up to a point.” That relationship involved a certain degree of mutuality: on the one hand, “He knew I would not do anything not one hundred percent correct,” and she could count on his protection. Dr. V. was convinced that, during the last days of Auschwitz, only Mengele’s protection prevented her from being shot for knowing so much about the camp’s inner workings; yet also that “if he [had been given] the order to shoot me, I think he would have done it without thinking.” Even the control he exerted over her was within a context of relative friendliness (“The joker knew me better than I knew myself”), and she remained grateful to him for having treated her with a measure of respect and for having kept her alive.

Women prisoner doctors seemed to have observed Mengele more closely and perhaps understood him better than did their male counterparts, but two men had what were probably the most excruciating relationships with him. One was Dr. Nyiszli, the pathologist; who described such moments of closeness as: “A long afternoon in deep discussion with Dr. Mengele, trying to clear up a certain number of doubtful points [during which] I was no longer a humble … prisoner, and I … defended and explained my point of view as though this were a medical conference of which I were a full-fledged member.” Friendly gestures from Mengele came to mean a great deal to Nyiszli, as they seemed to transport the two men out of the master-slave relationship into one of colleagues: “I know men, and it seemed to me that my firm attitude, my measured sentences, and even my silences were qualities by which I had succeeded in making Dr. Mengele, before whom the SS themselves trembled, offer me a cigarette in the course of a particularly animated discussion, proving he forgot for a moment the circumstances of our relation ship.”51, Also, one survivor observed Nyiszli and Mengele to have been “very close to each other” and “very comfortable together."

But Nyiszli was anything but comfortable in describing that relationship, along with some of Mengele’s crimes, in his deposition of 28 January 1945 and his later book (published in 1960). That discomfort probably contributed to certain discrepancies between the two documents. But Nyiszli’s most powerful suggestion of the ambiguity of his function as Mengele’s pathologist was his later declaration that “I would begin practicing, yes, … but I swore that as long as I lived I would never lift a scalpel again.”52 In other words, while Mengele had been good to him in Auschwitz, Nyiszli felt that the price of that friendliness had been his own medical integrity.

Dr. Alexander O. spoke animatedly of his first encounters with Men- […gele]  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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