Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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to respect human life [that is, to develop a highly functional Auschwitz self] or to be weak and to get to the point of a nervous breakdown [that is, to hold onto one’s prior self, which in Auschwitz was nonfunctional] ”28 But in the Nazi doctor, the doubling was particularly stark in that a prior healing self gave rise to a killing self that should have been, but functionally was not, in direct opposition to it. And as in any atrocity-producing situation, Nazi doctors found themselves in a psychological climate where they were virtually certain to choose evil: they were propelled that is, toward murder. 
Doubling — Nazi and Medical 
Beyond Auschwitz, there was much in the Nazi movement that promoted doubling. The overall Nazi project, replete with cruelty, required constant doubling in the service of carrying out that cruelty. The doubling could take the form of a gradual process of “slippery slope” compromises: the slow emergence of a functional “Nazi self” via a series of destructive actions, at first agreed to grudgingly, followed by a sequence of assigned tasks each more incriminating, if not more murderous, than the previous ones.

Doubling could also be more dramatic, infused with transcendence, the sense (described by a French fascist who joined the SS) of being someone entering a religious order “who must now divest himself of his past,” and of being “reborn into a new European race.”29 That new Nazi self could take on a sense of mystical fusion with the German Volk, with “destiny,” and with immortalizing powers. Always there was the combination noted earlier of idealism and terror, imagery of destruction and renewal, so that “gods … appear as both destroyers and culture-heroes, just as the Führer could appear as front comrade and master builder.”30 Himmler, especially in his speeches to his SS leaders within their “oath-bound community,”31 called for the kind of doubling necessary to engage in what he considered to be heroic cruelty, especially in the killing of Jews.

The degree of doubling was not necessarily equivalent to Nazi Party membership thus, Hochhuth could claim that “the great divide was between Nazis [meaning those with well-developed Nazi selves] and decent people, not between Party members and other Germans.”32 But probably never has a political movement demanded doubling with the intensity and scale of the Nazis.

Doctors as a group may be more susceptible to doubling than others. For example, a former Nazi doctor claimed that the anatomist’s insensitivity toward skeletons and corpses accounted for his friend Hirt’s grotesque “anthropological” collection of Jewish skulls (see pages 284-87). While hardly a satisfactory explanations, this doctor was referring to a genuine pattern not just of numbing but of medical doubling. That doubling usually begins with the student’s encounter with the corpse he or  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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