Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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Another prisoner doctor was aware of Wirths as a man “from a decent family, who had some moral fiber,” and described his having been given the nickname of “Dr. Unblutig” (Dr. Unbloody), after the trademark of a corn-plaster product showing an old white-haired doctor urging that corn plaster be used in place of surgery. The nickname could imply killing without bloodying one’s own hands, but this prisoner doctor felt that it had more to do with Wirths’s personal mildness and constructive efforts in a “bloody” environment.

Wirths cultivated friendly relationships with certain inmates. Dr. Tadeusz S. told of appearing at Wirths’s office to bring some reports and of Wirths continuing to dictate letters to family members in which he expressed sympathy toward prisoners and unhappiness about the war: “He wanted me to listen to those letters.” Dr. S. believed that, in addition to “wanting to be liked,” Wirths was thinking ahead about what his personal situation would be after Germany’s defeat.

Langbein described a power reversal in these relationships during the last year of the war. In mid-1944, a BBC broadcast, making use of information provided by the Auschwitz underground, included Wirths’s name on a list of Nazi officers involved in the murder apparatus and passed a death sentence on them. Aware from documents that it was the time of his wife’s birthday, Langbein, after discussing the matter with underground colleagues, arranged for flowers (acquired by inmates who did gardening), as well as a painting of her and the children (done by a prisoner artist from a photograph) to be delivered to the chief doctor. The next day, Langbein explained to Wirths that the gift, and especially the family picture, “s to show that the death sentence has been revoked,” and added, “I'm not saying this on my own.” It was the underground's way of declaring its presence to him at an appropriate time. Langbein later recalled that he had written, “Now you are our tool, Chief physician!” But beyond their wish to increase their final influence over him, Langbein and his friends also wished to establish a process that could lead to actually saving the lives of Wirths and his family.

In late 1944 or early 1945, Karl Lill — a Czech Communist who, with Langbein, served as Wirths’s prisoner secretary — sent a note to Wirths (which Lill later described in a letter to Wirths’s father) asking the chief doctor to prevent a Nazi plan (that Lill and others had heard of and that actually did exist), originating in the Political Department, to kill all prisoners. Again with a combination of threat and compassion, Lili declared that, if Wirths were to stay and help, it could then be concluded that “in this unprecedented morass one man, a German officer of the Waffen SS, acted like a human being until the end”; he urged Wirths not to waiver: “For your and your family’s and a far mightier One’s [meaning God’s] sake.” In another letter Lill told how, at their last meeting, Wirths urged him “with tearful eyes” to join the prisoners’ evacuation because he was convinced that should Lill remain in Auschwitz the Russians would  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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