Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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Dr. Auschwitz: Josef Mengele 
by various reports of people meeting and talking with him in Paraguay, reports that suggest he still had influence in a German, if not Nazi, community there, and also that he was preparing his own memoirs defending his actions over the course of his life. Whatever the mixture of truth, exaggeration, and falsehood, the legend grew.

For many survivors, Mengele had so come to represent Auschwitz evil that meaning in their lives could be restored only by his capture and trial. “I would like to live and see this trial and then I could die,” is the way one prisoner doctor put it. In adding that “a human being should know, … should be told that his deeds are evil [because], after all, there is not only heavenly, but also earthly justice,” he was struggling to move beyond the legend to the man. The twin Simon J. made the point more directly: “I would wish to have a good front-row seat and listen to the proceedings [because] I fear him totally. … To me he is the key to my sense of fear from everything that is German.” And then the crux of the matter: “I would be very interested to hear the details and to see him pass [through] this metamorphosis of turning back into a person instead of God Almighty.” Another survivor expressed a similar need for Mengele to come to understand that “this is what happened,” and then added, “After that I hope I can make peace with myself.”

Mengele’s imagined trial, then, involved both the legend and the man: justice for Mengele came to represent a restoration of a just cosmos — a means of overcoming a vast “wound in the order of being,” in Martin Buber’s phrase, that Auschwitz has represented. It also came to signify the desacralization of a terrible deity: the god must be rendered not only human but vulnerable to truth and retribution. Only then, for many survivors who were rendered helpless to the point of feeling their humanity virtually annihilated — only then could they regain freedom from his control, experience a sense of vitality, feel alive. A few of those survivors, while exploring Mengele’s meaning for themselves, insisted on thinking beyond him. Dr. Henri Q., while well aware of Mengele as ‘a terrible man’ and “the name one heard most” in Auschwitz, nonetheless warned me against concentrating too much upon him because Auschwitz had to be understood as “a collective enterprise.” Another prisoner doctor had the same message: “There’s not only one Mengele. They are all part of Mengele — all the doctors.” She was saying that what was so glaring in Mengele, morally and psychologically, was present, perhaps more muted, in all of the SS Auschwitz doctors. We can say, then, that, while Mengele qualifies as the exemplar for “medical Auschwitz,” we should use him to help us unlock, and not ignore, the broader evil of Auschwitz truths.

Other survivors invoked the character of Dorf (in the 1978 television film Holocaust59), an intelligent careerist who rises in the SS hierarchy until he becomes a key figure in the planning of the annihilation of Jews. Dr. Lottie M. said that Mengele, like Dorf, was “very cool,” "clean-cut," a “pretty boy”; and that, although Mengele was more ideological, she could well imagine him doing what Dorf did in the film, providing the  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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