Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
 
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Healing-Killing Conflict: Eduard Wirths 
 
uniform"; and in summing up what Wirths did in Auschwitz, Langbein declared, “All I can say is that for us it was good, for him it was probably bad.” He told me that he believed Wirths killed himself “because he had a conscience.” In public commentaries, Langbein stopped short of definitive moral evaluation, saying on one occasion, “Who wants to be the judge? Who wants to condemn? Not me.” Unlike Langbein, Lill was unqualified in his favorable judgment of Wirths, sought to locate him in 1945 in order to help him, and wrote to his wife the following year praising Wirths’s “courage and great astuteness” in helping prisoners. Lill called Wirths “our best ally” and declared, “Your husband fought the good battle and he was alone.”76* That would have been Wirths’s own idealized version of his personal crusade.

Other prisoners were considerably less complimentary. Dr. Tadeusz S. told me that “Langbein said he would defend Wirths, and I like Langbein but I said I would testify against Wirths.” Dr. Marie L. spoke of Wirths with something. approaching disdain. Dr. Jan W., who appreciated Wirths’s help but insisted he be included among “the mass murderers,” said that Wirths killed himself not as an act of conscience but “because he couldn't face the responsibility [of what he had done].” And Dr. Wanda J., grateful for his help but judging him “a criminal,” summed up her view by saying, “Anyhow, he did the decent thing. He killed himself.”

Two SS doctors I spoke to considered him an SS bureaucrat. One described him as “correct” and “under the control of the camp commandant.” The other considered him a man without much imagination, “rather sterile. … [and] factual.”

And an additional judgment was expressed during a television documentary, by a childhood friend of Wirths trained in law and theology, who was a bitter anti-Nazi. He spoke warmly of Wirths as “among us the most good-natured, softhearted, most capable of pity,” but had broken early with him because of their radically different response to the Nazis. In judging father and son, the old friend, who had left the law for theology under National Socialism, put the matter sadly but clearly: “To defend his father I would be the right lawyer. To defend Eduard I would have inhibitions.”78

Wirths’s family members have had to make the most troubled evaluations of all.

His widow tried to cling to a sense of his virtue, avoided any discussions about Auschwitz with the children, and told them “only about personal things.” As it became necessary to speak about the subject, she emphasized that Wirths “could do a lot of good, and that they would not have
__________
* In the same correspondence with the family, Lill spoke of Wirths as a man of “rare nobility”; and in one extraordinary letter to Wirths’s wife in 1976, Lill, as a dedicated Communist, imagined ideal “human beings of the future” as possessing “the courage, the astuteness, and the self-control” of Wirths, whom Lili “half-jocular[ly]” characterized as “an ‘educated Marxist’ … a comrade Albert Schweitzer.”77   
 
THE NAZI DOCTORS:
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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