Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
  Page 485  
Previous Page

Home Page
Home Page  
   Next Page
identity and collective zeal” in political matters and “fanaticism … [and] tireless dynamism” in military combat.85

But the historical differences are important: for the Aztecs, the mass killing was always carried out in ritual fashion as an extension of a long-standing ideology and ethos; while for the Nazis, the killing was carried out through technology and was an unprecedented historical step. Nazi genocide was kept secret, except from the SS inner élite, while Aztec sacrificial killing was open and celebrated.

For the Nazis as for the Aztecs, “human sacrifice was ’an alchemy by which life was made out of death.’” The therapeutic component in both was strong: for the Nazis, therapy to the Aryan race; and for the Aztecs, to gods whose weakened or ailing state, or displeasure at not having been sufficiently nourished, had led to disasters and other untoward events (“The prescription to cure such supernatural ailments was inevitably more sacrifice, requiring new victories to obtain captives”).86 In both cases, whatever the more-than-natural imagery, the therapy was ultimately for the life power of one’s own group.

Both groups killed and went on killing in the face of increasing evidence that the killing itself interfered with the survival of the state: with the conduct of the war, in the case of the Nazis; and with the entire social and economic existence of an exhausted empire, in the case of the Aztecs. Both had to continue “killing” death. For it was as true of the Nazi as of the Aztec that each “could insist on offering blood in return for life until his whole religion became an emotional bulwark around the specter of death.”87

The Nazi perversion of primal human psychological forces was prefigured by Joseph de Maistre, an early-nineteenth-century Catholic reactionary, who was to influence the later development of European fascism:  
from maggots up to man, the universal law is the violent destruction of human beings. The whole earth, continually steeped in blood, is nothing but an immense altar on which every living thing must be sacrificed without end, without restraint, without respite. until the consummation of the world, the extinction of evil, the death of death.88
In order to extinguish evil and kill death, that is, we require not just violence but violence without end — some form of genocide.89 
Götterdämmerung and Self-Genocide  
As it becomes total — that is, genocidal — the violent cure draws upon all facets of the perpetrators’ culture.

The Nazis drew upon powerful German cultural impulses toward a unified, fully merged polity, society, and person. The individual self was no longer to be haunted by its own fear of disintegration, or by conflicts  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

Robert J. Lifton
ISBN 0-465-09094
© 1986
Previous Page  Back Page 485 Forward  Next Page