Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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Doubling: The Faustian Bargain 
resistance and in fact made use of his original skills (in this case, medical-scientific).11*

Rank stressed the death symbolism of the double as “symptomatic of the disintegration of the modern personality type.” That disintegration leads to a need for “self-perpetuation in one’s own image”13 — what I would call a literalized form of immortality — as compared with “the perpetuation of the self in work reflecting one’s personality” or a creative-symbolic form of immortality. Rank saw the Narcissus legend as depicting both the danger of the literalized mode and the necessity of the shift to the creative mode (as embodied by the “artist-hero”).† But the Nazi movement encouraged its would-be artist-hero, the physician, to remain, like Narcissus, in thralldom to his own image. Here Mengele comes immediately to mind, his extreme narcissism in the service of his quest for omnipotence, and his exemplification to the point of caricature of the general situation of Nazi doctors in Auschwitz.15

The way in which doubling allowed Nazi doctors to avoid guilt was not by the elimination of conscience but by what can be called the transfer of conscience. The requirements of conscience were transferred to the Auschwitz self, which placed it within its own criteria for good (duty, loyalty to group, “improving” Auschwitz conditions, etc.), thereby freeing the original self from responsibility for actions there. Rank spoke similarly of guilt “which forces the hero no longer to accept the responsibility for certain actions of his ego, but to place it upon another ego, a double, who is either personified by the devil himself or is created by making a diabolical pact”16; that is, the Faustian bargain of Nazi doctors mentioned earlier. Rank spoke of a “powerful consciousness of guilt” as initiating the transfer;17 but for most Nazi doctors, the doubling maneuver seemed to fend off that sense of guilt prior to its developing, or to its reaching conscious dimensions.

There is an inevitable connection between death and guilt. Rank equates the opposing self with a “form of evil which represents the perishable and mortal part of the personality.”18 The double is evil in that it represents one’s own death. The Auschwitz self of the Nazi doctor similarly assumed the death issue for him but at the same time used its evil project as a way of staving off awareness of his own “perishable and  
* Rank’s viewing of The Student of Prague, during a revival in the mid-1920s, was the original stimulus for a lifelong preoccupation with the theme of the double. Rank noted that the screenplay’s author, Hanns Heinz Ewers, had drawn heavily on E. T. A. Hoffmann’s “Story of the Lost Reflection.”12

† In his earlier work, Rank followed Freud in connecting the legend with the concept of “narcissism,” of libido directed toward one’s own self. But Rank gave the impression that he did so uneasily, always stressing the issue of death and immortality as lurking beneath the narcissism. In his later adaptation, he boldly embraced the death theme as the earlier and more fundamental one in the Narcissus legend and spoke somewhat disdainfully of “some modern psychologists [who] claimed to have found a symbolization of their self-love principle” in it.14 By then he had broken with Freud and established his own intellectual position.  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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