Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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to be under absolute control. She did not think Mengele extraordinary but “just a very charismatic man” — with the implication that only in Auschwitz could he develop that charisma and become “Mengele.” For C. thought he had “star quality”: “Marilyn Monroe flashed through my mind,” here referring to his fetish about appearance and his eroticizing the contrast between his own physical perfection and the impaired state of inmates. She did not speak bitterly of him — he had on the whole been pleasant to her and had enabled her to thrive by Auschwitz standards — but at the end she said something characteristic in regard to Mengele and his control: “I was going to ask you not to reveal my whereabouts because I know he’s still alive, and he might not be very happy knowing that I was.”

There was much sexual speculation about Mengele among the inmates. There were many stories of women prisoners finding him extremely attractive, but Eva C. told me that “he had no sense for women.” Although he did sometimes manifest prurient interest in sexual details when questioning pregnant women (according to Dr. Lengyel, he “never missed the chance to ask the women indiscreet and improper questions”), 53 he seemed to others distant and puritanical. C. told of an incident when, seeing a hefty prisoner from the rear stripped to the waist in front of a block, Mengele called angrily, “What is that man doing there?” Then the prisoner, turning around, revealed herself to be a woman (she was a German lesbian). Despite the fact that she spoke arrogantly to him, Mengele “just got terribly, terribly red, … blushed, and said, ‘Oh, carry on,’ and turned away and marched out of there.” Dr. Lottie M. similarly recalled Mengele being much more concerned than the other SS doctors about lesbianism in the women’s camp as well as about homosexuality in the men’s camp.

Prisoners varied in their impression of whether Mengele could be influenced and whether he was corruptible. A group of them officially congratulated him upon learning that his wife had given birth to a son, but neither becoming a father nor the congratulations seemed to change Mengele’s attitudes. It was widely believed that, like most SS personnel, he had enriched himself in Auschwitz (contrary to Ernst B.’s emphasis on his complete integrity) but that (as one survivor put it), while most of the SS doctors would “both take and give,” Mengele would “only take.” His attitudes often confused prisoners because, as Dr. Marie L. observed, “Nobody understood what he wanted.”

Despite Mengele’s apparent overtures of colleagueship, most prisoner doctors maintained no illusions of equality. The relationship was exemplified by an incident in which he carefully examined the wounded buttocks of a Polish prisoner physician and prescribed medication for washing and treating the area — after he himself had ordered that the man be given twenty-five lashes for an alleged infraction, and then observed the punishment.

Though generally thought of as being in control of others and himself,  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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