Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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The Auschwitz Self: Psychological Themes 
of a precarious Auschwitz self. Initially revolted by selections, Delmotte felt that they violated his strong SS idealism. His being treated gently by his medical superiors and brought slowly around to doing selections was in keeping with Himmler’s dictum of allowance for weakness. I suspect that part of the message conveyed to him by Mengele (as designated head of the “rehabilitation team”) was that a true SS officer — a member of the special SS community — takes on, when necessary for his Führer and his race, precisely those tasks he finds repellent. That powerful argument and related pressures held for Delmotte’s Auschwitz self — the latter also ironically buttressed by “fatherly” support from his prisoner physician-professor-mentor — only for a year or so until the end of the war. Then, with the collapse of the Auschwitz environment, Delmotte’s relatively admirable capacity for guilt, associated with the quick emergence of his humane prior self, undoubtedly contributed greatly to his suicide. But the principle of ordeal on behalf of ethos and community maintained the Auschwitz self sufficiently for Delmotte to perform the deadly task for which he was brought to Auschwitz.*

Here was a vicious circle, in which the very conflicts over killing that may have haunted the Auschwitz self contributed to its sense of ordeal, which in turn diminished further its concern about what it was doing to others. And as the overall ethos took hold in any such Nazi environment, a man could act as he did and promote his Auschwitz self because “it was expected that I do this.”29 An incremental tendency might also be present, so that the “ordeal” of the Auschwitz self could gradually be accepted. 
Biological Renewal 
Nazi doctors were always affected by the unique feature of the revitalization ethos, its focus on biological renewal. They, the medical biologists,
* There are psychological parallels between Delmotte’s case and that of the far more prestigious Nazi, General Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski, who headed the Einsatzgruppen in Central Russia (see page 159). Himmler took a keen interest in the case of his “favorite general,” conferring by telephone with Grawita, whom he severely chastised for failing to convey a full picture of Bach-Zelewski’s condition and for what he considered the doctor’s poor psychological treatment. 26 Nonetheless, the general recovered sufficiently that a few months later he was back killing Jews as the newly appointed overall chief of anti-partisan formations in Russia. His breakdown had been in early March 1942. In September of that year, he wrote to Himmler recommending himself for the new position as the most experienced higher police leader.27 Bach-Zelewski had a reputation, even within the SS, for his unusual brutality in such activities as putting down the Warsaw rebellion.

As solicitous as Himmler was of Bach-Zelewski during his illness, the Reichsführer bristled when the general, at the time of his breakdown, asked whether the killing of Jews might be stopped in the East, and replied angrily, “That is a Führer order. The Jews are the disseminators of Bolshevism. … If you don't keep your nose out of the Jewish business, you'll see what'll happen to you!”28 For one who collapsed under his ordeal, sympathetic therapy was the order of the day — until he could resume that ordeal. Sympathy stopped when the policy behind the ordeal was questioned. We may strongly suspect that both Bach-Zelewski and Delmotte internalized the desire to harden themselves by SS standards as a means of recovering from psychological breakdown.   
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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