|THE PSYCHOLOGY OF GENOCIDE
|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 selfs 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
All this suggests that for the Auschwitz self there was