Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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Healing-Killing Conflict: Eduard Wirths 
several occasions, and pointed always to the good he had done for prisoners as contrasted with the fearful uncertainty of a potential replacement. These efforts culminated in a Christmas card Langbein arranged to have hand-lettered for Wirths and delivered by a camp messenger. The card included two lines from Franz Griliparzer, the Viennese nineteenth-century dramatist, which read: 
One human life, alas, is so little,
One human fate, however, is so much! 
There followed: “In the past year you have saved here the lives of 93,000 people. We do not have the right to tell you our wishes. But we wish for ourselves that you stay here in the coming year.” The card was signed: “One speaking for the prisoners of Auschwitz.” Knowing that Wirths “was not able to escape the influence of the murderous atmosphere at Auschwitz,” Langbein feared “that he [Wirths] might get discouraged,” and wrote the card in order to encourage him to stay and continue measures on behalf of inmates. The figure of 93,000 was drawn from the difference in mortality rate among prisoners in 1943 as compared with that during the summer of 1942.14 The relationship between Wirths and Langbein could not escape the Auschwitz paradox operating in all such relatively humane relationships between prisoners (including prisoner doctors) and the SS: while contributing to the saving of many lives, it helped the SS doctor adapt to his central function within the death factory.  
Prisoner Doctors’ Recollections 
Most prisoner doctors and other inmates who had contact with Wirths remembered him favorably, and he had directly saved the lives of several. Dr. Tadeusz S., for instance, admitted that his views were colored by “personal feelings” because Wirths saved him on two occasions, once from the punishment bunker which usually meant death. He characterized Wirths accurately as “very intellectual … and broadly cultivated, unlike the other SS people who were primitive, but… a Nazi ideologist … who did not like the methods of the gas chamber, … [who] wanted the Nazis to win but not in this way. … Surely a Nazi in spirit but not a cruel one.”

Dr. Wanda J., installed by Wirths as head of Block 10, was grateful both for his sponsorship and protection and because “everything I asked Wirths to do he agreed.” That patronage had saved her from the bunker as well and had helped her to save a number of young women by keeping them on her block as “maids.” Her ultimate judgment of him had to be ambivalent: “He was a Nazi … from head to toe [as well as] a criminal … because he was choosing women … and men for the gas.” Yet he had saved her life: “I must say that toward me he behaved like a gentleman.”
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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