Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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The Auschwitz Self: Psychological Themes 
of the kind of continual involvement of the self in experiences that would ordinarily produce lots of feeling (see footnote on page 161). 
Killing without Killing  
The language of the Auschwitz self, and of the Nazis in general, was crucial to the numbing. A leading scholar of the Holocaust told of examining “tens of thousands” of Nazi documents without once encountering the word “killing,” until, after many years he finally did discover the word — in reference to an edict concerning dogs.43

For what was being done to the Jews, there were different words, words that perpetuated the numbing of the Auschwitz self by rendering murder nonmurderous. For the doctors specifically, these words suggested responsible military-medical behavior: “ramp duty” (Rampendienst) or sometimes even “medical ramp duty” (ärztlicher Rampendienst) or “[prisoners] presenting themselves to a doctor” (Arztvorstellern). For what was being done to the Jews in general, there was, of course, the “Final Solution of the Jewish question” (Endlösung der judenfrage), “possible solutions” (Lösungsmöglichkeiten), “evacuation” (Aussiedlung or Evakuierung), “transfer” (Überstellung), and “resettlement” (Umsiedlung, the German word suggesting removal from a danger area). Even when they spoke of a “gassing Kommando ” (Vergasungskommando), it had the ostensible function of disinfection. The word “selection” (Selektion) could imply sorting out the healthy from the sick, or even some form of Darwinian scientific function having to do with “natural selection” (natürliche Auswahl), certainly nothing to do with killing.

The Nazi doctor did not literally believe these euphemisms. Even a well-developed Auschwitz self was aware that Jews were not being resettled but killed, and that the “Final Solution” meant killing all of them. But at the same time the language used gave Nazi doctors a discourse in which killing was no longer killing; and need not be experienced, or even perceived, as killing. As they lived increasingly within that language — and they used it with each other — Nazi doctors became imaginatively bound to a psychic realm of derealization, disavowal, and nonfeeling.

As one gradually became habituated to Auschwitz, the Auschwitz self internalized its own requirements. Group support for the adaptation was always present, and life there became “like the weather,” except more predictable: part nature, an enveloping reality. When Dr. Magda V. told me, “The thing was, there were never very many Germans around,” she was not only commenting on the small number of SS personnel needed to control the camp but also suggesting a sense of automated natural power. As the Auschwitz self enabled a Nazi doctor to go on selecting, with his assistants taking care of all the details and inmates keeping records of all that took place in the camp; as transports arrived and the crematoria smoked; as winter gave way to spring and spring to summer — if the Auschwitz self did not exactly feel that “God is in His heaven,”  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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