Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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Healing-Killing Conflict: Eduard Wirths 
who had visited Eduard first in Dachau and then in Auschwitz, later described the latter visit in uneasy, defensive terms. He remembered seeing prisoners who seemed to be “semi-free,” and two young Jewish women working in his son’s office who were “basically cheerful,” and noted of inmates that “in the morning they went out singing and came back at night singing”; he claimed to have learned only later on that “they had to sing!” Even after coming to understand much of the truth of Auschwitz, including “how the people died there of … sicknesses and … were exterminated,” he declared to his son, ”There is no place in the whole world where you can do as much good as in Auschwitz. Endure.”46

Whatever good they hoped Eduard could achieve in Auschwitz and whatever their own relationship to Nazi ideology, his brother and father were caught up in the same German commitments to duty and obedience that affected Eduard himself. Their advice gave his Auschwitz stay a family sanction, and at the same time furthered the kind of moral displacement we have been discussing: the issue became more a struggle with family values and family obedience and less with Auschwitz mass murder. 
Moral Crusade: Rectitude and Compromise 
Important to Wirths’s adjustment in Auschwitz was his sense of being on a continuing moral crusade. The purpose of the crusade could be amorphous — the transformation of the primitive Auschwitz environment with “German work” but was always in the context of war and survival (“Yes there is war, and it is a hard, the hardest, time”). His crusade could become more concrete, and more inwardly credible, when it focused on a version of “medical humanity.” In his apologia, he speaks of “my difficult struggle,” which was against disease and especially typhus epidemics, and on behalf of better medical care for prisoners, including accurate medical reports depicting true conditions at Auschwitz, expanded facilities and improved equipment and supplies, utilization of a division of Jewish prisoner doctors, replacing brutal ordinary criminals with more decent political prisoners, eliminating fatal phenol injections on the medical blocks and cutting down on selections there, and bringing about a significant decline in the death rate among those living in the camp, The Auschwitz command’s frequent opposition to him gave this crusade further meaning for him, as did the slogan “Manpower” [Arbeitskräfte] he claimed to have stressed. In his apologia, he went so far as to claim that he was doing God’s work (he had “a sign from above [that] I should and must fight on”) in preserving Jews, and that “it probably can be credited to me that Jews are alive in Europe at all today.”47

One reason Wirths could almost believe this was that in his feelings he did oppose — as was known to Höss and others — the very mass killing of Jews he supervised. On 29 November 1944, Wirths wrote to his wife: Can you imagine my dear how wonderful it is that I am no longer  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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