Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
  Page 400  
Previous Page

Home Page
Home Page  
   Next Page
in Auschwitz, remembered him saying that he had “seen such terrible things, things that were unimaginable, [that he could] never go home again and look into the eyes of [his] children.” Eduard told his brother of dreadful scenes of thousands of dead bodies lying in shallow ditches, but said nothing at the time about selections.

We know that Helmut Wirths later went to Auschwitz to collaborate with his brother on cancer experiments. But although Eduard did want help with the cancer studies, Helmut later stressed (possibly partly for reasons of self-exculpation) that he went less for that reason than to offer him personal support: “I knew of his immense misery”: “My personal view is that my brother didn't want ... me there for those materials [the research] ... [but] only needed ... a human being to speak with.” Helmut said “[At least at first] I admired him [because] I would not have been able to do it [stay at Auschwitz and perform selections]. … I would have run amok.”

There was a painful interplay in Auschwitz between the two, brothers concerning selections. Eduard asked Helmut to accompany him to selections, for the ostensible purpose of seeing the full horror of the place. Helmut, who by this time had learned what they were, said he just could not do that. Since, when Eduard had talked about leaving Auschwitz, Helmut and their father had urged him to remain and do whatever good there he could, he now replied angrily, “You tell me I have to stay here [and be here] every day, and you will not [come even] one time to see [a selection].” Later Eduard (according to Helmut) said that he did not really want to take him there but just wished to see if he would agree to go with him. That kind of confused exchange could well have occurred, though many other things were undoubtedly said. One suspects not that Eduard was determined to leave, but rather that he stressed to his brother and father, almost petulantly, the negative side of his ambivalence about staying, and in so doing could also deflect the Auschwitz problem and place it on family psychological terrain.

Helmut, who had planned to stay about two weeks, said that he left after only a few days because he was so revolted by the place. He described getting into difficulty with an SS officer when the latter, at the casino the first night asked him how he liked their Sommerfrische (vacation; literally, “summer air”), and he angrily answered,. “Shame on you to say such a thing in this place!” According to Helmut, Eduard had to calm the situation, and shortly after advised his brother to leave.

Helmut has confirmed that he and his father did urge Eduard to remain there, and claimed that they thought that he could help people by doing, so — “but it was theoretical,” Helmut added regretfully, meaning that the advice did not take into account the concrete horrors of Auschwitz.

Their father’s advice to Eduard to remain undoubtedly had great weight. We know the father to have been a demanding but respected patriarchal figure, and Eduard to have been the older son who almost always obeyed and followed the straight and narrow path. The father,  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

Robert J. Lifton
ISBN 0-465-09094
© 1986
Previous Page  Back Page 400 Forward  Next Page