Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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The Auschwitz Self: Psychological Themes 
practitioners of the science of life and life processes — as biologically ordained guides to their own and the world’s biological destiny. Whatever their hubris, and whatever the elements of pseudo science and scientism in what they actually did, they identified themselves with the science of their time.

They drew upon that, science, however, in an apocalyptic, wildly romantic fashion. Hence the merging of the death-haunted, Wagnerian “twilight of the gods” with the most absolute positivism. Whatever the visionary absurdities in projected killing and. healing, the logic of science was always, at least in Nazi eyes, close at hand. This combination, apparently manageable in the abstract, required considerable mental effort when acted upon in places like Auschwitz. That combinatory effort was an important struggle of the Auschwitz self, a struggle made possible by the claim of return to the solid ground of science from the most far-flung, romantic stratosphere. The insistence upon rationality and science was as vehement as it was precarious.

The contribution of the actual scientific tradition to this ethos was exemplified by the quintessentially German figure of Ernst Haeckel, that formidable biologist and convert to Darwinism who combined with ardent advocacy of the Volk and romantic nationalism, racial regeneration, and anti-Semitism.* He was to become what Daniel Gasman has called “Germany's major prophet of political biology.”35 Nonscientific visionaries could combine their Haeckel with occultist racial views of a kind that undoubtedly inspired Hitler and other high-ranking Nazis. Haeckel himself moved in the latter direction when he embellished his own anti-Semitism with a claim that Christ’s merits derived from the fact that he was only half Jewish.†

Haeckel embraced a widely held nineteenth-century theme (found in the English naturalist Alfred Wallace, though not as specifically in Darwin) that each of the major races of humanity can be considered a separate species. Haeckel believed that varied races of mankind are endowed with differing hereditary characteristics not only of color but, more important, of intelligence, and that external physical characteristics are a sign of innate intellectual and moral capacity. He, for instance, considered “woolly-haired” Negroes to be, “incapable of a true inner culture and of a higher mental development.” And the “difference between the reason of a Goethe, a Kant, a Lamarck, or a Darwin, and that of the lowest savage … is much greater than the graduated difference between the reason of the latter and that of the most ‘rational’ mammals, the anthropoid apes.” Haeckel went so far as to say, concerning these “lower races,” that since they are “psychologically nearer to the mammals (apes and
* Haeckel was a constantly cited authority for the Archiv für Rassen- und Gesellschaftsbiologie (Archive of Racial and Social Biology), which was published from 1904 until 1944, and became a chief organ for the dissemination of eugenics ideas and Nazi pseudo science.

† More precisely, Christ’s true father was, according to Haeckel, a “Roman officer who had seduced Mary.”36   
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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