Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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Mengele’s anti-Semitism was both sweeping and immediate. Among SS doctors, according to Dr. B., Mengele would speak derisively of catering too much to Jewish inmates and of Auschwitz becoming a “Jewish sanitorium.” Dr. Magda V. said, “I think really he hated us” and “treated Jews like laboratory animals — not quite human” because “we were really biologically inferior in his eyes.”

Ideologues like Mengele can appear to be “cold cynics” in that they need not feel others’ pain if it is in the service of a “higher purpose.” They can also have pockets of pragmatism for the same reason — certainly the case with Mengele. Nor is ideological fanaticism incompatible with personal ambition. While Mengele might have been a “good soldier” for the SS (as Dr. B. put it), one who lacked “fake SS ambitions,” we know him to have had very real ambitions that had to do with his ideology and with his overweening desire to become recognized as a great scientist.

Few would question. Dr. Nyiszli's observation concerning "so much cynicism" and "so much evil" in Mengele, or his verdict on him as "a criminal doctor."56 But that cynicism and criminality, the numbing and the omnipotence — all these were bound up with what all too many people in Germany and elsewhere at the time experienced as a compelling, even ennobling vision of the future.  
The Ultimate Auschwitz Self: Physician-Killer-Researcher  
More than any other SS doctor, Mengele realized himself in Auschwitz. There he came into his own — found expression for his talents, so that what had been potential became actual. Intelligent but hardly an intellectual giant, Mengele found expression and recognition in Auschwitz beyond his talent. The all-important Auschwitz dimension was added to his prior psychological traits and ideological convictions to create a uniquely intense version of the Auschwitz self as physician-killer-researcher.

Mengele took hold of and maximized the omnipotent authority held by any SS doctor in Auschwitz. He could give a forceful and flowing performance in displaying that omnipotence because it blended so readily with the traits and ideology he brought to the camp. In Auschwitz, Mengele was the “right man in the right place at the right time.” His energies no less than his ambition were galvanized by this Auschwitz synchronization of all his faculties. Hence the comment by a prisoner (quoted earlier) that “he always had the air of … [a] man …doing his job and doing it well and [who] hasn’t got the slightest doubt about the job.” Or as Dr. Jan W. put it: “This was his big thing there, his Auschwitz, and he enjoyed doing it.”

However atypical for an SS camp doctor, Mengele became the spirit of Auschwitz, the one most in tune with the place, an example for others. That is why he was chosen by Wirths and Weber (despite his conflicts with the former) to be Delmotte’s mentor, the person who could convince this reluctant doctor of the virtue and necessity of doing selections. And that  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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