Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
  Page 472  
Previous Page

Home Page
Home Page  
   Next Page
Many artists struggled against this totalism by opening themselves to pain and death (Max Beckmann’s painting from his “spiritual wound” of the First World War) and maintaining a spirit of exploration and play. Other artists felt the lure of the absolute. It was Hans Johst, an Expressionist novelist and playwright and later head of the Nazi Chamber of Literature, who first used the phrase later made famous by Göring: “When I hear the word culture, I draw my revolver.”* That was the only cure for Germany’s disease.  
The Dispensing of Existence 
Totalistic ideology avoids the sting of death in its claim to invincibility and omnipotence. It puts forward its own claim to immortality and exclusive truth in specific psychological manipulations of the environment I have delineated elsewhere; milieu control (of all communication); mystical manipulation (continuous efforts at behavior control from above while maintaining the appearance of spontaneity from below); demand for purity (constant accusations of guilt and shame in the name of an unrealizable ideal of absolute devotion and self-sacrifice); the cult of confession (ritual self-exposure to the totalistic “owner” of every sell); the sacred science (combining deification of the Word with the claim of equally absolute secular scientific authority); loading, of the language (into definitive, thought-terminating solutions for the most complex human problems); doctrine over person (so that the evidence of individual experience must be subsumed to or negated by the idea system); and the dispensing of existence (the ultimate and inevitable line drawn between those with a right to exist and those who possess no such right)28 The last, the dispensing of existence, is the larger principle that encompasses all of the others, whether expressed in merely metaphorical or, as in the case of the Nazis in directly murderous ways.

Indeed, the Nazi movement brought a new literalism to the dispensing of existence by making the existence of each individual a matter of either harm or benefit to the biological health of the group.

Only this totalized approach can heal the sickness, so that the Führer principle, the apex of Nazi totalism, could be embraced not only by the uneducated but by intellectuals who felt keenly their “torn condition” — as by the internationally known economist and economic historian who declared in 1935: 
The art of discussion is gone. Not discussion but decision now dominates the scene. The creation of a political will comes about today by quite another way. It is no longer the indirect way of influencing public opinion but the direct way of the Führer principle. This is a fact which
* Johst’s original phrase was: “When I hear the word culture, I slip back the safety catch of my revolver.”
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

Robert J. Lifton
ISBN 0-465-09094
© 1986
Previous Page  Back Page 472 Forward  Next Page