Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
  Page 479  
Previous Page

Home Page
Home Page  
   Next Page
Martin Luther, as “the most German of Germans, the most pious of the pious,”59 combined communal and theological forms of anti-Semitism. Significantly, he was first a defender of the Jews whom he wished to become “of one heart with us.” But when they failed to convert and become part of the Christian-Protestant-German spiritual and biological community, he denounced them as “children of the Devil” who “being foreigners, should possess nothing,” and were, moreover, profoundly dangerous: “Know, O adored Christ … that aside from the Devil, you have no enemy more venomous, more desperate, more bitter, than a true Jew who truly, seeks to be a Jew.” For Luther, Jews were an intolerable reminder of flawed German Christian claims to totalized spiritual and communal immortality. By their very existence, Jews subvert those claims (“These dogs mock us and our religions!”).60 To be sure, Luther stood for much else, including the internalization of conscience — what Erik Erikson called “the meaning of meaning it.”61

But that very achievement deepened the psychological power of his anti-Semitic message. The development of a “Nordic Christianity” four hundred years later could then be said to have “completed Luther’s work,” with Hitler and Luther “partners in the service of the German people’s welfare.”62 The genocidal principle of destroying the Jews in the name of healing the Germans is not new.

Thus perceived as an absolute threat to the continuous life of one’s own people, the victimized group is seen as the bearer of death and therefore the embodiment of evil. More than merely nonhuman or heathen, it is dangerously anti-man and anti-God (or anti-Christ). Its disease takes the form of infecting others with death taint and deadly weakness: Hitler referred contemptuously to “conscience, this Jewish invention” and to Judeo-Christian compassion for weakness. Only genocide, total elimination of the disease, will protect one from that weakness, and in the very act of genocide one overcomes vestiges of the deadly weakness-disease already in one, such as (in the case of the Nazis) “brotherhood … humanity [and] ‘pacifism.’”63 Hence the parallel imagery in genocide: the bearer of deadly disease threatens one’s own people with extinction so one must absolutely extinguish him first. 
The Genocidal Threshold 
There is a threshold in genocide — the step from image to act. The Nazi evidence suggests no single cause or trigger so much as a sequence of events and attitudes and problem solving (dealing with unmanageable ghettos, with rivalries between increasingly dominant SS groups and other Nazi institutions and between individual Nazi leaders) within an increasingly murderous atmosphere (“euthanasia” killing, the expanding concentration-camp system, war fever of early victories, and the pending invasion of Russia). From early 1941, a series of “demoniac orders”64 came from high Nazi authorities that increasingly articulated a policy to  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

Robert J. Lifton
ISBN 0-465-09094
© 1986
Previous Page  Back Page 479 Forward  Next Page