Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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choice for which one is responsible, whatever the level of consciousness involved.* By means of doubling, Nazi doctors made a Faustian choice for evil: in the process of doubling, in fact, lies an overall key to human evil.  
Varieties of Doubling 
While individual Nazi doctors in Auschwitz doubled in different ways, all of them doubled. Ernst B., for instance, limited his doubling; in avoiding selections, he was resisting a full-blown Auschwitz self. Yet his conscious desire to adapt to Auschwitz was an accession to at least a certain amount of doubling: it was he, after all, who said that “one could react like a normal human being in Auschwitz only for the first few hours”; after that, “you were caught and had to go along,” which meant that you had to double. His own doubling was evident in his sympathy for Mengele and, at least to some extent, for the most extreme expressions of the Nazi ethos (the image of the Nazis as a “world blessing” and of Jews as the world's “fundamental evil”). And despite the limit to his doubling, he retains aspects of his Auschwitz self to this day in his way of judging Auschwitz behavior.

In contrast Mengele’s embrace of the Auschwitz self gave the impression of a quick adaptive affinity, causing one to wonder whether he required any doubling at all. But doubling was indeed required in a man who befriended children to an unusual degree and then drove some of them personally to the gas chamber; or by a man so “collegial” in his relationship to prisoner doctors and so ruthlessly flamboyant in his conduct of selections. Whatever his affinity for Auschwitz, a man who could be pictured under ordinary conditions  “as a slightly sadistic German professor” had to form a new self to become an energetic killer. The point about Mengele’s doubling was that his prior self could be readily absorbed into the Auschwitz self and his continuing allegiance to the Nazi ideology and project probably enabled his Auschwitz self, more than in the case of other Nazi doctors, to remain active over the years after the Second World War.

Wirths’s doubling was neither limited (like Dr. B .’s) nor harmonious (like Mengele’s) it was both strong and conflicted. We see Auschwitz’s chief doctor as a divided self because both selves retained their power. Yet his doubling was the most successful of all from the standpoint of the Auschwitz institution and the Nazi project. Even his suicide was a mark of that success: while the Nazi defeat enabled him to equate his Auschwitz self more clearly with evil he nonetheless retained responsibility to that  
* James S. Grotstein speaks of the development of  “a separate being living within one that has been preconsciously split off and has an independent existence with independent motivation separate agenda etc and from which can emanate evil sadism and destructiveness” or even “demoniacal possession.” He calls this aspect of the self a “mind parasite” (after Colin Wilson) and attributes its development to those elements of the self that have been artificially suppressed and disavowed early in life.26  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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