Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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(Thüringisches Landesamt für Rassenwesen) in Weimar because, as he wrote on an SS form in 1936, “I was particularly interested in human genetics and racial hygiene.” He wrote also of his “love for the biological tasks set by the SS.” Although brought up as a Catholic and initially identifying himself as such on official forms, he later reverted to the Nazi-preferred category of “believer in God.”4

From the late 1930s, he divided his time between his country practice (in which he was said to be so conscientious that he sterilized his own instruments), state medical positions (where one was close to the regime), medical work with ethnic Germans being “resettled” in Germany from Eastern areas, and military service for which he volunteered. He entered the Waffen SS in 1939. He served in Norway and saw combat on the Russian front until, in April 1942, he was declared medically unfit for combat duty because of a cardiac condition and possible additional ailments.

Wirths’s early attitude toward Jews was contradictory. His family was not anti-Semitic, and he not only had Jewish patients but continued to treat them even after it became illegal for Aryan doctors to do so. With no Jewish doctors in the area, Jews would sneak into his consulting room at night, sometimes for injuries sustained in Nazi persecutions. At the same time, Wirths clearly embraced some of the broader Nazi anti-Semitic worldview, came to believe that “the Jews were a danger to Germany,” and apparently retained this ideological anti-Jewishness until his death.5  
Chief Auschwitz Doctor
Wirths spent short periods of time at Dachau and Neuengamme, two concentration camps within Germany, before being sent to Auschwitz in September 1942. He was probably sent there as chief doctor because of his medical reputation, as others before him in that position had failed to stop persistent typhus epidemics that increasingly affected SS personnel. Langbein later described Wirths as “a competent physician with a strongly developed sense of duty and extremely conscientious and careful”; and even Lolling, his antagonistic and incompetent superior, described him as “the best physician in all the concentration camps,” to which Commandant Höss added: “During my 10 years of service in concentration-camp affairs, I have never encountered a better one.”6 While Wirths’s medical humanity — concern about and friendliness toward prisoner patients — was certainly not a reason for his appointment to a high post in Auschwitz, it did, according to Langbein, come to mean a great deal to many inmates there.

Wirths lived up to expectations in stopping the typhus epidemics by means of widespread disinfection procedures and enlisting the cooperation of prisoner physicians in identifying isolating and treating typhus  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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