Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
  Page 478  
Previous Page

Home Page
Home Page  
   Next Page
for Germany as victimizer is its function as “the land of anti-Semitic myths.” The myth of the Wandering Jew, while anticipated earlier, took shape in sixteenth- and early-seventeenth-century Germany: the gaunt, old, white-haired man with a long beard condemned to roam the earth until Jesus’ Second Coming for having in his youth mocked him and enthusiastically joined the crowd chanting “Crucify him!” The German term for “Wandering Jew,” der ewige Jude, means “Eternal Jew”; this is an accursed specter, a figure who can neither live nor die and remains an amalgam of murderer, corpse, and survivor-remnant. He is death-tainted but survives everyone (the Wandering Jew was described as having “buried the Egyptians, the Greeks, and the Romans”) and therefore represents the ultimate embodiment of survivor contagion, of a carrier of deadly infection.53 
The Threatened Community 
A second, powerful German cultural emphasis in its historical relation to Jews is its victimization of them on a communal and ultimately biological basis. The situation begins with Jews having not just integrated themselves into modern German culture but having helped to shape it, so that as emancipated Jews gained intellectual respect as Goethe and Kant scholars, they were viewed in another corner of the German mind as “upstarts … sons and grandsons of the ghetto,”54 as a fundamentally alien people all the more threatening because of the depth of their apparent cultural integration.

That tendency to understand the idea of community, or Gemeinschaft, in terms of biological romanticism lent itself readily not only to “race mysticism” but to invoking the authority of science to denigrate the Jews. The German coining of the term “anti-Semitism" (Antisemitismus) in 1879 was in fact a claim to a scientific position of the necessity of excluding Jews from the threatened German Gemeinschaft. And by 1886, Paul de Lagarde, a distinguished professor of oriental studies and a prominent Christian thinker, could denounce Jews as “aliens” and “nothing but carriers of decomposition,” and went on in terms with which we are familiar to declare that “with trichinae and bacilli one does not negotiate, … they are exterminated as quickly and thoroughly as possible.”55 That medical imagery, and other references to the threat of “blood poisoning” by “the new Judaized Germanness,” maintained the claim to science and even to high-minded humanitarianism.56 Thus one turn-of-the- century educational reformer wished to combine an “organic state” overcoming class differences with a means of freeing Germany from the “Jewish spirit.”57 Even the seemingly mild lament by the historian Treitschke — “The Jews are our misfortune” — was part of a Gemeinschaft- centered tract expressing an underlying fear of racial death — a fear verbalized directly by Richard Wagner: “That we Germans especially will perish because of them is certain.”58  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

Robert J. Lifton
ISBN 0-465-09094
© 1986
Previous Page  Back Page 478 Forward  Next Page