Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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as “infecting” the “German national body,” and as (in the last three words of Hitler’s testament) “deadly Jewish poison.” Similarly, “Kultur-poisoning Jews” were infiltrating the art world, and the general danger of “inner Judaization” and “racial pollution” was perceived as a fundamental threat to German biological and biosocial continuity and immortality.47 In addition, Jews — or the concept of “the Jew” — were equated with every form of death-associated degeneracy and decomposition, including homosexuality, urban confusion, liberalism, capitalism, and Marxism. Goebbels could use straight medical imagery in declaring, “Our task here is surgical ... drastic incisions, or some day Europe will perish of the Jewish disease.”48

There may also be a universalization of the alleged evil of the victim — as in Hitler’s claim, “If … the Jew conquers the nations of this world, his crown will become the funeral wreath of humanity, and once again this planet, empty of mankind, will move through the ether as it did thousands of years ago.”* The victim will destroy not only the perpetrator, it is claimed, but everyone and everything else. Where the threat is so absolute and so ultimate — where the struggle becomes “fighting between humans and subhumans,” in Himmler’s phrase — genocide becomes not only appropriate but an urgent necessity. Such a struggle must be “fought to the last man, until one side or the other is eliminated without trace” (italics added). Once that genocidal necessity is established, perpetrators can take the more casual tone of Himmler’s suggestion that “anti-Semitism is exactly the same as delousing.”50

In other work I have spoken of rival claims to immortality — to ultimate spiritual power — as a source of victimization. For some Christian groups, Jews are both the originators and the destroyers of the Christian theological mode of immortality, in the sense that Jews are seen as rejectors, betrayers, or murderers of Jesus. To this general pattern the Germans brought a status described by Freud as “badly christened Christians,” as people who held tenaciously in the face of their own apparent Christianization to their heathen, pre-Christian feelings and modes of being.51 This could well have been a source of German vulnerability, over centuries, to threats to their Christian belief system, and ultimately to their, sense of immortality.

For instance, during the plagues of the Middle Ages, Jews everywhere in Europe were accused of responsibility for the Black Death, often specifically of having poisoned drinking wells. But although the mortality in Germany was relatively lower than in some other countries, anti-Jewish pogroms arose there with special ferocity, as did the phenomenon of the flagellants, fanatical bands of Christians who beat themselves ritually and mercilessly and also turned violently upon theJews.52 More significant
* The quotation is from Mein Kampf. Eberhard Jackel points out that, in later editions, the phrase was “appropriately” changed to “millions of years ago.” 49 This suggests that Hitler or his sympathetic editors believed in the concept sufficiently to present it in its most “reasonable” form.   
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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