Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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[se…] crecy tinged with shame and pride of achievement as the genocidal radius moves outward into an increasingly enveloping system of order and policy, of bureaucratic and technological arrangement. The grand triage is always present: in Himmler’s juxtaposition of “annihilation of the Jewish people,” with painstaking programs “to select the Nordic-Germanic blood” in order to promote “the creative, heroic and life-preserving qualities of our people.”68 That image of absolute revitalization applied to both genocidal rehearsal and larger act.  
Purification and Human Sacrifice 
The Nazis tapped mythic relationships between healing and killing that have had ancient expression in shamanism, religious purification, and human sacrifice, and evoked all three in ways that reveal more about their psychological motivation. Thus, the shaman of central and northern Asia, though mainly a healer-making use of ecstatic rites, is also a “psycho-pomp” or conveyor of the souls of the dead to the underworld. Some cultures distinguish “white” shamans, who have relations with the gods, from “black” shamans, who may be involved with “evil spirits” and are consequently dangerous.69 Generally, the white shaman applies healing magic; and the black shaman, killing magic.

German culture, with its tendency toward death-haunted, apocalyptic historical visions, is more likely than most to seize upon this relationship between killing and healing and between the dead and the living. The Germans developed a particularly strong “cult of the fallen” after the First World War, stressing the continuing contribution of the dead, as soldiers who fight and kill, to the Fatherland. The German War Graves Commission contrasted the sea of flowers and modest acknowledgment of the dead in British, American, and French cemeteries with the German “tragic-heroic” motif and “celebration of heroic sacrifice.”70 But since death had to be conquered, one Nazi educator deplored photographs of the dead and wounded because these “cannot show the joy they felt in making the final sacrifice.”71

As a sixteenth-century version of a good shaman, the Nazis had available both the historical figure and the mythology of Paracelsus. In one Nazi version, the Swiss-German physician-alchemist overcomes great suffering, severe illness, and despair on behalf of a utopian völkisch vision. And in another, he struggles valiantly, his struggles “centered upon the overcoming of death” (see page 31).72 As biological soldiers, all Nazi physicians were to be in the front line in the struggle to kill death. All Nazi doctors, that is, were to become shamans, many of them black shamans in their ritualistic participation in killing processes in the name of healing the tribe or people.

Genocide is a response to collective fear of pollution and defilement. It depends upon an impulse toward purification resembling that given collective expression in primitive cultures. But it brings to that impulse  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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