Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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Dr. Auschwitz: Josef Mengele 
was aware of others’ reports of his brutality and had “no doubt” about his capacity for it, but added, “never in my presence.” When she went on to wonder whether she might not have had a “humanizing effect” on Mengele and other SS doctors because “I treated everyone [inmates and SS doctors] like a human being,” she was expressing another principle of doubling: the importance for each self of being confirmed by others. The word “double” (or its French equivalent) was actually used by Dr. Alexander O. in his excruciating struggles to come to terms with Mengele:
The double man [l’homme double]. The double [le double], that is to say he had all the sentimental motions, all the human feelings, pity, and so on. But there was in his psyche a hermetically closed cell [une cellule hermétiquement fermée], impenetrable, indestructible cell, which is obedience to the received order. He can throw himself in the water to go and save a Gypsy, try to give him medication. … and then as soon as they are out of the water, … tell him to get in the truck and quickly off to the gas chamber.
Dr. O. identified not only the doubling itself but the central role of Mengele’s ideology (though only hinted at) in the process. As O. went on to explain, “Mengele liked the Gypsies a lot. He loved the Gypsy children, who called him ‘Uncle Mengele.’ ” But he knew that the Reichsführer SS [Himmler] had ordered a slow death of the Gypsies, and Mengele was “the kind of man … to believe that orders had to executed.” Without such a concept, one who, like Teresa W., was exposed to Mengele’s decency but at the same time accepted the truth of reports about his experiments and cruel behavior, has to end up declaring painfully, “I can’t understand him!” Or prisoners might. develop their own racial theory to explain his contradictions: for instance, the rumor that he was kinder to Gypsies than to others because “he himself was of Gypsy origin” — a rumor that was consistent with his dark non-Aryan appearance.

Eva C. told, with considerable sensitivity, how her own psychological experience as an inmate helped her understand Mengele. She pointed out that prisoners also began “to behave like that … with a shell around us,” and how she herself watching grotesquely weak women on the sick block stretching their arms out and pleading, “Help me! Help me!” made her “somewhat embarrassed” because of her feeling “We’re here to die. What do you mean, ‘Help me’?" Then she could add, “The fact that these people actually had retained their sanity [in asking for help] and I was nuts … never entered my mind. You know, I was already touched with [affected by] that whole [Auschwitz] mentality.” C. explained further that both the SS doctors and the prisoners “were being processed — so I could understand Mengele.” Auschwitz was “a different planet” whose rules totally reversed those of ordinary society: according to those rules, “we were there to die and not to live.” And "to be able to accept being where  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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