Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
  Page 399  
Previous Page

Home Page
Home Page  
   Next Page
Healing-Killing Conflict: Eduard Wirths 
Reflecting back on the situation as an adult, she spoke of “these two worlds, his family and this … job of his.” She felt that his family “was the only thing that kept him going,” and that “he desperately needed his family there to keep his sanity.” There were certainly problems for Wirths and his wife when she was there: according to Kremer, a confidant of Wirths viewed him as a man who “had all sorts of trouble with his wife and children.”42 There was always a conflict between his "having his job there and his family who weren't supposed to notice anything." Of course, with his family present, he was able to notice less of Auschwitz. While it is also probably true that there were moments when their presence intensified his awareness of his killing function, even then he could, as we have seen, deflect the target of his potential guilt onto his family, especially to his wife for exposing her to such a place.

Over time, Auschwitz became a kind of home for Wirths, even a sanctuary. Only at Auschwitz could he live with his wife and children, at least for a time; only there could they have a “family home.” Commenting on his “sniffling and coughing” in the cold of the camp in late November, he once wrote: “In summer one ought to live in Auschwitz, but in autumn and winter one ought to be at home.” In the same letter, he expressed sadness that “a piece of wild romantic life” near Auschwitz would be lost because of the reconstruction of a riverbed.43

He maintained his own domesticity in Auschwitz and wrote sadly to his wife of the death of their dog Basco, who “suffered a lot so I gave him Mo [morphine],” adding, “It is good that he died; he was in the end blind in both eyes.”44 If one asks how it was possible for Wirths to describe that incident without in any way associating it with Auschwitz selections, the answer is that the psychological function of his “euthanasia” of the dog provided an alternative source of moral concern and thereby increased his numbing toward selections.

And about two weeks before the appearance of Soviet troops, he invoked Auschwitz’s advantages as a way of sympathizing with his wife’s sense of isolation: “You are right, my love, that here one is in the midst of life, and that you at home … can gather no experiences.” He then urged her to “come again to me in Auschwitz when the Soviet offensive has ended.”45 He had also written to his brother Helmut to come to Auschwitz “because it would be more [safe] than in Hamburg.” While there was geographical and military truth to that claim (Hamburg was largely destroyed by Allied bombing, and Auschwitz hardly touched), the psychological theme is that of the perpetrators’ sense of sanctuary in the place where they have been wielding absolute power over life and death. 
Father and Younger Brother 
Other family members, especially his father and his younger brother, were also of great importance to Wirths in connection with Auschwitz. The latter, encountering Wirths in Berlin soon after the latter had arrived  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

Robert J. Lifton
ISBN 0-465-09094
© 1986
Previous Page  Back Page 399 Forward  Next Page