Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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Isaiah Berlin stresses nationalism as a response to “wounds inflicted upon one society by another,” but a response that requires as well  “a new vision of life” around which to organize collective experience. In that way images of nationalism could replace “the church or the prince or the rule of law or other sources of ultimate values,” could “relieve … the pain of the wound to group consciousness, whoever may have inflicted it,” and become “incarnations of men’s conceptions of themselves as a community, a Gemeinschaft.” To ignore nationalism, then, is to ignore “the explosive power generated by the combination of unhealed mental wounds, however caused, with the image of the nation as a society of the living, the dead and those yet unborn.”21

The Nazis drew upon images of German racial and cultural substance — whether of myths or Teutonic knights or Germanic emperors (Charlemagne and Frederick the Great) or physicians (Paracelsus) — culminating in Hitler’s commandment: “Thou shalt have no other God but Germany!” 22

Hitler and the Nazis provided a vision of cure that focused upon nation but did much more. While it was in one sense an “expressionist shriek,”23 it was also a powerful message to Germans that, in the face of those who have “deliberately ruined Germany, … I will lead you all, every single one of you, to a glorious future.”24 He offered a vision that enabled most Germans to view his accession to power “not as the creation of an authoritarian police state but as the dawn of an era of recuperation and regeneration of German community life.”25 In other words, among the various contemporary visions, Hitler’s most powerfully provided the promise of vitality and national immortality — a grandiose promise of cure for the “deadly sickness.”

To move in a genocidal direction, that cure must be total. It becomes an all-or-none matter, equally absolute in its claim to truth and in its rejection of alternative claims.

The cultural climate of post-First World War Germany was compatible with totalism: a mood of extremity, of “often ludicrous immoderation” in literary and artistic expressionism. Whatever the impressive achievements of the time, many artistic experiments came to be consumed by a death-saturated confusion, within which it was unclear whether brutality was being protested against or joined. A typical Expressionist play might have included any of the following events: 
Skeletons go on parade as soldiers and roll skulls by numbers; a severed head in a sack converses with its former owner; a woman bleats her Dionysiac love to a billy-goat; a father horsewhips his son, a son chases lustfully round the table after his mother, a society is formed for the Brutalization of the Ego. A man earns his living by eating live mice. … A bank-cashier stands with arms outstretched in front of a crucifix, his dying gasps accidentally suggesting the words “Ecco Homo.”26  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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