Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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his relation to meaning, though exaggerated, reflected shared patterns of the Auschwitz self, There was the suggestion, in the flow of omnipotence and of smooth sadism, that this degree of cruel control over inmates was natural and appropriate.

Most meaningful of all was the sense that Mengele did things right: killed without flinching when people had to be killed; insisted upon saving those supposed to be saved, even when they resisted by inadvertently joining the wrong line. Like any talented actor, Mengele inwardly experienced the role and, made the drama believable, thereby helping other performers to feel that similar roles could make sense.

Part of the Mengele style of selections performance was Nazi male macho: immaculately clean black SS uniform with riding boots and riding crop, exaggeratedly straight posture with reserved, dignified bearing, together with a slight military swagger and an aura of absolute authority over everyone. Behind that picture, the Auschwitz self nurtured its detached correctness, its readiness o be tested by death (in Auschwitz mainly by inflicting it), and above all, its cult of heroic hardness, always available to dominate or destroy designated others with an absolute absence of either compassion or empathy. While those designated others in Auschwitz and elsewhere were mostly Jews and sometimes Slays, Gypsies and non Aryans in general, they could be close to home as well — political enemies, homosexuals, subordinates, family members, and women (see the first footnote on page 494).

The Auschwitz self medicalized this overall Nazi male ideal and thereby gave it a further claim to ultimate power and symbolic immortality. In this combination, the Auschwitz self made especially clear how far anti-empathic male power can be mobilized to fend off every form of death anxiety, including that associated with fear of homosexuality and of women, and with the erosion of one's ideology and ethos. This brings us to the realm of killing as a specific means of holding back death (which I shall discuss further in the final chapter), a realm always inhabited by a perverse expression of maleness. 
Other Sources of Meaning 
We know of the Auschwitz self’s additional access to meaning through medical “hobbies,” including experiments, and through other “medical accomplishments.” Both Mengele and Wirths saw Auschwitz as providing an opportunity for scientific breakthrough: the former via his studies of hereditary traits in identical twins, and the latter in his so-called discovery of a dramatic new form of actual disinfection (via Zyklon-B) that could control and prevent typhus epidemics. The idea of scientific breakthrough was equally stirring to the great Auschwitz sterilizers, Schumann and Clauberg, both of whom had the further vision of combining that breakthrough with highly practical achievements in racial politics.

All this suggests that for the Auschwitz self there was sufficient breadth  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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