Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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Dr. Auschwitz: Josef Mengele 
face.” And the rumors of his impotence, the impression that he had “no sense for women” — whether or not true, these reflected the prisoners’ strong impression of his general lack of human feeling.

Sadism suggests pleasure in causing pain, and we have seen many different expressions of that tendency in Mengele. Even his style of dress and display could be understood as something close to sadism in that environment. It is also what is frequently called “narcissism” — in popular usage, extreme self-absorption, as opposed to the psychoanalytic technical meaning of sexual energy (or “libido”) directed at one’s own body or person. Of Mengele one has the impression that both his “narcissism” and sadism were bound up with his profound impulse toward omnipotence, toward total control of his environment, and specifically the kind of life-death control available to an SS doctor in Auschwitz.

Indeed, the importance of the Auschwitz environment in activating all of these traits — schizoid tendencies, numbing, and the sadism-omnipotence combination — cannot be overemphasized. Several prisoner professionals emphasized that, were it not for Auschwitz, Mengele could undoubtedly have followed a successful academic career. As Dr. Magda V. put it, “In ordinary times he could have been a slightly sadistic German professor.”

None of Mengele's behavior — least of all his capacity to inflict pain and feel nothing for victims — can be understood separately from his involvement in ideology. Unlike most SS doctors, Mengele was a true ideologue: a man who understood his life to be in the service of a larger vision. He undoubtedly viewed himself as a Nazi revolutionary, a man committed to the bold task of remaking his people and ultimately the people of the world. He and those like him differed from previous revolutionaries in their invocation of biology: Mengele exemplified the Nazi biological revolutionary. He was part of a vanguard that saw its mission as noble and viewed courage and cruelty (or “hardness,” as the Nazis were fond of saying) toward enemies or impediments of any kind as personal virtues. For a man like Mengele, the ideological mission justified everything.

That is why Dr. V. could call him “the most absolutely convinced Nazi among them”; Dr. Lottie M. could speak of him as an "intellectual true believer," capable of complaining about stupidity of individual SS personnel "and yet believe in absurd ... [racial] theories"; Eva C. could say that “next to Hitler he was the most convinced”; and Dr. O. could call him “Hitler's robot.”

As his friend Dr. B. constantly stressed, Mengele was an extreme anti-Semite. He viewed the Jews as a highly gifted people who were locked in a life-and-death struggle with Aryan German. His anti-Semitism was part of the broad ideological sweep of racial theory: Dr. B. put it clearly when he said that Mengele “was fully convinced that the annihilation of the Jews was a provision for the recovery of the world, and Germany.” And Dr. Jacob R. understood Mengele as an SS mystic who believed that “if all the Jews were annihilated, victory would come [of] itself.”  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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