Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
  Page 392  
Previous Page

Home Page
Home Page  
   Next Page
the other SS doctors in that “he never did [anything] with his [own] hands, but always ordered somebody to do [things] for him. He never operated himself, … never did … anything … not injections, nothing.” When Dr. J. concluded, “I have to say to you that he was probably as bad as the other ones,” it was with a touch of reluctance. Dr. Jan W. was less reluctant to declare, “From the formal point of view, Wirths was responsible for everything that happened in [the medical sections of] the camp from September 1942 until the end of the camp’s existence, so he must have accepted, ideologically, everything that went on in the camp. … Millions were destroyed.” 
A “Correct” Bureaucrat  
Wirths combined bureaucratic skill with a quality of “correctness” (a concept of proper, controlled, relatively impersonal behavior that infuses German culture and character) and reliability in ways that enabled him to help inmates while succeeding within the SS. His organizational loyalty was always clear to other SS observers. Ernst B. looked upon him as little more than a representative of Nazi authority, a man one would do well to stay away from because of his demanding “spirit of the bureaucrat.” Rudolf Höss, observing Wirths more closely, spoke of him as a man with “a strong feeling of duty,” who was “extremely conscientious and … obeyed all orders and directives with painstaking care.” Also “correct” with inmates, the commandant went on, Wirths’s only fault was frequently to be “very soft and good natured” with them and to treat prisoner physicians “as colleagues.” But he was “a good comrade … very popular”; he “helped everyone who came to him,” and “everybody trusted him.”19

For “everybody” to trust Wirths required that he largely accept the Auschwitz situation — as Höss implied in commenting that Wirths never objected to the use of an ambulance marked with a red cross to transport those selected for death to the gas chamber, despite the fact that he “was usually very sensitive about such matters.” Indeed Wirths himself drove about in, a car flying “a white pennant with a red cross.”20

There is a similar implication in a comment made by Helmut Wirths, concerning a horrible scene of extremely emaciated corpses he and his brother had viewed outside of a medical block: “What really bothered me was his [Eduard’s] telling me that these were the dead from natural causes.” Wirths meant of course that they were not victims of the gas chamber or any other means of direct killing — but in calling any deaths in Auschwitz “natural,” he was going quite far in his identification with the institution. :

Wirths’s ideological anti-Semitism contributed to his bureaucratic adaptation to Auschwitz. He could permit Jewish prisoner doctors to do more medical work, but said it would be “impossible” for them to treat  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

Robert J. Lifton
ISBN 0-465-09094
© 1986
Previous Page  Back Page 392 Forward  Next Page