Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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which it was carrying out the laws of “the natural history and biology of man.”63 Rather than being a mere anti-Semite like everyone else, the Nazi could see himself in the forefront of what came to be called “biological anti-Judaism.” Even if a bit troubled by mass killing, he could see it as part of the necessary combination of destruction and creation always stressed in Nazi imagery. Whatever meaning one gave these events, it was not that of murder, because as a former Nazi doctor said in reference to “euthanasia,” “there was a certain … sensibility that this couldn’t be, … [that] one cannot simply murder a mentally ill or … old person or an imbecile. Do you understand me?” That “sensibility” was what I have called derealization and disavowal: the meaning within the killing center or within Auschwitz was not that helpless people were being murdered but something else: one was doing one’s duty, one was achieving heroic hardness, one was being the ultimate biological soldier. 
Blaming the Victim 
The meaning structure of the Auschwitz self depended greatly upon the pattern of “blaming the victim.”64 Mengele’s insistence that the Gypsies were genetically responsible for their fatal noma tumors, Ernst B.’s disgust with the Gypsies for not distributing their food equitably among themselves, the repeated blame placed on prisoner doctors for the terrible condition of their patients and the frequent deaths among them — all these were psychologically of a piece. The blame could be deadly: a group of Polish prisoner doctors were sent to almost certain death in the punishment Kommando, together with their infectious patients, because of a small trachoma outbreak. As Dr. Henri Q. commented, the approach was “at the very least original,” did succeed in stopping the trachoma epidemic, and permitted the “innocent Germans” to do their killing. The meaning structure imposed was that the Germans bore no guilt because they had been “forced” by the medical negligence of the prisoner doctors to take stern measures.

The imagery also closely parallels Hitler’s own in his famous “warning” issued on 30 January 1939: “If international finance Jewry within Europe and abroad should succeed once more in plunging the peoples into a world war, then the consequence will not be Bolshevization of the world and therewith a victory of Jewry, but on the contrary, the destruction of the Jewish race in Europe.”65 The usual psychological explanation to the effect that Hitler was “projecting” his own intention onto the Jews is true enough. But probably more important was the narrative (or collective meaning experience) Hitler was constructing, in which the designated victims, already identified as the source of the world's “fundamental evil,” could now be seen as posing a military threat to the Aryan nation, and therefore as the group responsible for the ensuing bloodbath.  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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