Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
  Page 404  
Previous Page

Home Page
Home Page  
   Next Page
cruelties.” Helmut said that until the end his brother “believed [in] Hitler as a good man” and “couldn’t believe that they [the Nazis] wouldn’t win.”

Earlier: Wirths had shown Langbein a plan for extensive expansion of Auschwitz “after the victory.” Langbein commented that Wirths “feared' a defeat of National Socialism even though he had become familiar with its true face at Auschwitz more clearly than anybody else”; Wirths held to the Führer’s ignorance about the extermination camps because “he probably needed this [thought] construction in order to justify for himself his membership in the National Socialist movement.” When Langbein, in their last conversation toward the end, stated that the war had been completely lost, Wirths said, “That's horrible,” and when Langbein said, “That's good, doctor,” Wirths responded, “How can you say that? You’re a German too.”55

In his apologia, Wirths exaggerated his alienation from others in the Auschwitz hierarchy and the degree to which he took "refuge in … illness.” His heart and kidney problems did undoubtedly intensify under the stress of his conflicts, and we know that actual antagonisms with other SS officers led him to suggest to Höss that he wished to be transferred,56 though he apparently never made anything on the order of an all-out effort to leave. His later claim that he “worked for the Polish Resistance … movement” is a falsehood built upon the tiniest kernel of truth (his having worked supportively with Poles and others whom he suspected or knew were part of the Resistance) and his probably accurate claim that toward the end he was accused by the Gestapo of “demoralization of the people,” when he made a statement that the German armies could no longer resist, was the kind of experience Karl Brandt also had (see footnote on page 115) and one typical for a “decent Nazi” at the end.57

And though he went into hiding after the surrender, he held to his duty, virtually to the end, long after others (like Mengele) had fled. He could thus write to his wife on 13 January 1945, with considerable truth (defending himself against negative allegations made by Grabner): “I can say that I have always done my duty and have never done anything contrary to what was expected of me.”58 
Wirths’s Medical Self  
Beyond his crusade from within and his Nazi loyalties, Wirths adapted to Auschwitz by clinging to the sense of himself as a physician. The healing image of the physician helped him deny his and other Auschwitz physicians’ actual killing. He could attribute that killing to “the camp authorities” who, he wrote in his apologia, would appear secretly “without notifying the physician or at times when one knew the physician was absent, or at night” and then have “the sick and weak removed from camp in order to kill them with poison gas.” In defending that falsehood, Wirths articulated the healing-killing paradox with exquisite accuracy: “It was insane that people whom one has saved through the efforts and art
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

Robert J. Lifton
ISBN 0-465-09094
© 1986
Previous Page  Back Page 404 Forward  Next Page