Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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Healing-Killing Conflict: Eduard Wirths  
the beginning”65 (partial criticism of Nazi policy, especially perhaps of mass murder). And also affecting that kind of statement was his sense of other possible readers: prisoners to whom he wanted to convey opposition to Nazi excess, and Nazi authorities before whom he did not want to appear disloyal or treasonous. The letter too was a means of adaptation.

The letters to his wife at the end became more desperate because the adaptation could no longer be maintained: approaching Soviet and American troops were associated not only with danger to his life but with a kind of judgment day. He began to invoke God (his brother, said that “he became a religious man in Auschwitz”) and also wishful pictures of a quiet, harmonious family and medical future. Threatened with losing everything, his need to merge with his wife intensified (“I only live in you”). And, after leaving Auschwitz, his affirmation of his “good conscience before God and before man”66 seems wish rather than conviction. He was then, in his brother’s words, “completely broken, a man without hope,” not only because Auschwitz had been his downfall but because he had lost the entire structure, including Auschwitz and the Nazi movement, to which he had been adapting. Only guilt toward his family was manageable, which is why he called it his “greatest guilt.”67

During those last days, he questioned the behavior of his superiors in not having “the necessary courage” that might have enabled them to ease his situation. He was still a man with a crusade, now more tortured, this time to save his own life and his family’s future (getting “the other side” to “understand … [the] strong constraints on me and all the things that … tormented my brain and still torment it”). He was also saying goodbye when he referred to himself as “your Eduard [who] wishes to live and fight only for you and the children and he will be here and with you, with God and you.”68

In contemplating death, he came a little closer to exploring his Auschwitz behavior. He spoke of the suffering of their people “which had to come after all these years of evil.” About himself he was more convoluted, acknowledging profound error and perhaps guilt but still justifying his behavior and invoking a guilt-denying form of religious resignation.69

Although his brother Helmut and others had offered to hide him longer, Wirths was apparently ready to go into British captivity in the hope, as he wrote, that “the way I have now begun is righteous in the eyes of God and of my conscience.”70 The apologia he composed at the time for presentation to Allied authorities was, as we have seen, a mixture of truth, half-truth, distortion, and falsehood presenting the picture of a man unwillingly called into the SS concentration-camp system where he fought the good fight but was always himself being victimized and “robbed of the fruits of my work.” But the claim was in direct conflict with the high evaluations he had always received from his superiors: the Auschwitz commandant’s office had praised him for his “soldierly tenacity”; and Lolling, for filling his position “to the most complete satisfac- […tion]  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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