|AUSCHWITZ: THE RACIAL CURE
| others the evil project he himself was part of. Both
Gerstein and Wirths demonstrate that doubling can enable a man to be a
passionate advocate of both killing and healing (see footnote on pages 161-62).
Wirthss suicide did not result from a breakdown in the doubling
itself, or from resistance to the killing project. Rather it was a consequence
of both the doubling and the project. Dr. Jan W.s claim that Wirths
killed himself because he couldnt face the responsibility for
what he had done was therefore true. Suddenly stripped of his official-medical
place in the immortalizing Nazi project, Wirths was vulnerable to the
inevitably harsh consequences (trial, condemnation, death) of his actions.
Yet Langbein may also be correct in saying that Wirths killed himself
because he had a conscience. He had more of a conscience than most
Nazi doctors and possibly most human beings. But that conscience had been
harnessed to the Nazi movement itself, to which he gave devoted service; it
could not be dislodged from that movement even in Auschwitz, and even though a
portion of that conscience was applied to saving the lives of prisoners.
His message to the future via his suicide also contains an expression
of conscience: the principle that he who becomes involved in mass killing must
himself pay with his life; and the accompanying principle, more dubious in our
eyes but strongly felt, of maintaining the purity of the future of
ones family by destroying its tainted component oneself. Yet there
may have been still a third principle, related to the other two: the
reassertion of the healing ethos by destroying the physician (himself) who had
become tainted with killing.