Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
  Page 434  
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Ideology and Ethos 
Very important to doubling was a Nazi doctor’s previous idea structure, his ideology and ethos. Even ideological fragments — which were all many doctors held in the way of ideology — could promote the process because they became part of an older, more inclusive image structure, or ethos. “Ethos” includes ideology and is often used to suggest the governing or central principle in a movement, but its earlier meaning is the belief, structure, evolved over centuries, of a specific cultural group.

Consider the more or less typical Nazi doctor who sought from the movement a form of national renewal; who laughed at the more extreme claims of Nazi racial theory but was drawn to “scientific racism” with its emphasis on German unity; who considered the Nordic race generally superior, and feared racial mixture; who considered himself a rational rather than a fanatical anti-Semite and was critical of the number and prominence of Jewish doctors in German cities; who had not marched in the streets with the Nazis but came to offer them obedience and service in exchange for rank and a military uniform; who volunteered no great personal sacrifice on behalf of the Nazi cause but respected those who did; and who sought maximum professional and personal success within this newly dominant national movement. Such a doctor, despite a seemingly restrained relationship to ideology, could experience the mystical power of the German-Nazi ethos. He could also respond in some degree to the call of Auschwitz.

One was asked to double in Auschwitz on behalf of revitalization that was communal (with doctors the racial mediators between the hero leader and the larger Aryan community) and sacred (claiming its ultimate sanction from the dead of the First World War). Hitler was specific about this, declaring with “icy clarity” his doctrine of the nothingness … of the individual human being and of his continued existence in the visible immortality  “of the nation”;16 as was Alfred Rosenberg in his insistence that human personality is achieved only insofar as one “is integrated, mind and soul into an organic succession of thousands of his race"17*

Here is the powerful lure of immortalizing racial cultural substance. In young doctors response to that lure, enthusiasm for practical Nazi achievements merged with a sense of mythic communal power. Communal ethos was so strong that, even when one was deeply troubled by Nazi policies, one hesitated to oppose them because that meant you become a traitor and stab your own people in the back. One either adheres to the sacred community or is seen (and sees oneself) as a murderous, cowardly traitor.
* Rosenberg added that “the new German style … is the style of a marching column, no matter where or to what end this marching column may be directed.”18 The marching column perfectly represents the merging of individuals into an aggressively omnipotent, perfectly disciplined community, always ready for violence and always on the move.   
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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