Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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a modern, much more deadly stress on health and hygiene — for the Nazis, racial hygiene. Mary Douglas has shown that concern with pollution, whether we call it magical or religious, has to do with symbolic systems dealing with the “relation of order to disorder, being to non-being, form to formlessness, life to death.”73 In primitive purification rituals combating defilement, “uncleanness or dirt is that which must not be included if a pattern is to be maintained.”74 And the ultimate issue is death: “Just as the focus of all pollution symbolism is the body, the final problem to which the perspective of pollution leads is bodily disintegration.”75

Pollution imagery is associated with many forms of victimization involving class and caste as well as color and race. The traditional Japanese group of outcasts bear the name “Eta,” whose literal meaning is “full of pollution,” “full of filth,” or “abundant defilement.” The word itself is taboo, as if threatening the speaker with some of the disturbing taint of the outcast group itself. As in the case of many such victimized groups, the Eta have long been associated with despised and defiling occupations, including those connected with slaughter of animals and with handling human waste, animal skins, and corpses — that is, those “centered … around blood, death, and dirt.76

Jews have also been frequently associated with death and defilement, but in ways even more dangerous to others accusations of being well poisoners and plague spreaders of practicing necromancy and in ceremonial drinking of blood or ritual murder of Christian children as sacrifices for a black mass. Jews have also over the course of their history been confined to the same defiling professions in which the Eta engage, as well as forced to associate with money or “usury,” the term meaning “lending money with interest” but conveying a sense of dishonesty, ugliness, and taboo very close to defilement. The symbolism of money as “filthy lucre,” “evil excrescence,” and also “immortal stuff” (mystical and magical) suggests its relation both to feces and death on the one hand and to an immortalizing mode on the other. But by becoming bound up with what was generally perceived as an illegitimate and tainted mode of immortality, the Jews became further vulnerable to victimization. German Jews could be viewed as élite victims as in the case of Gerson von Bleichroder, the banker to Bismarck and the “German Rothschild.” Both respected and reviled, he became an arch example for the anti-Semites of the 1870s who saw in him "Jewish power [that] had become a mortal menace to German life.”77 Having, by means of earlier victimization, relegated the Jews to this defiled, death-tainted immortality system, the victimizers came to feel nonetheless “out-immortalized” by them. Hence, subsequent German cruelties could be seen as revictimization of the Jews, still in connection with purification.

Nazi genocide can, in fact, be understood as a fierce purification procedure. But purifying principles were subsumed to the modern principle of “medical materialism”: that of invoking bodily hygienic explanations for spiritual and psychological matters. The classical retrospective example  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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