Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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in individual psychology, but … it willfully experiences cosmic-spiritual laws.”99

Genocidal projects are likely to seek strong psychological connections with such. “cosmic-spiritual laws” rather than utilize an exact psychological system or approach. Indeed the Nazis were on guard against the kind of experimentation with the self — what I call Protean man or woman (see page 499) — that psychology is likely to document or even encourage.100 Moreover, both psychology and experimentation with the self were associated in their eyes with Jewish influence, as well as being antithetical to the monolithic vision of self, people, and polity.*

The proposed cure is impossible to achieve, but genocide can appear, at least for a time, to be approaching that cure and solving important problems. The Nazis, for instance, did solve the problem of the “leaking ghettos” and did enable large numbers of people to internalize the idea of the Reich as a mystical community.101 Within that mystical frame, the killing of most of the Jews could re-create for Hitler and other Nazis a quality of experience reminiscent of the shared transcendence at the time of the beginning of the First World War. While none of this was enough to render the cure continuously successful, it helped the Nazis in general and Auschwitz doctors in particular to sufficiently overcome conflicts they experienced to be able to continue with their contribution to the killing.

Was the therapeutic killing aimed ultimately at all Germans no less than at all Jews? This is the issue contained in the question of whether Hitler’s path, from the beginning, included a Götterdämmerung — a “twilight of the gods” or massive self-destruction — of his own people.

Certainly Hitler ordered such a Götterdämmerung at the end, the demolition of all industrial, transportation, communications, and supply facilities; and had not Speer and others intervened there would have been death on so massive a scale as to approach self-genocide.102 Hitler had always totalized the genocidal cure: either the Aryan or the Jewish race would be destroyed. He told Speer that, if the war were lost, the German people too were “lost” so one need not worry about their needs for survival. That is, the cure had failed: they had shown themselves weak and unworthy. In that light, the final words of his testament reasserting the necessity of destroying the Jews was a defense of correct therapy proven not quite good enough. Hitler’s own suicide could be understood as part of the necessity he felt for the entire German people to share a similar sacrificial fate, possibly on behalf of future political resurrection.

The perpetrator of genocide kills to cure himself as well as his people. As complete cure eludes him — he can never quite kill them all or eliminate the source of the infection — he must use his own people and himself to continue the flow of victims. His vision of cure then becomes still more confused; he may turn his violence inward to act on a deserved fate as a final purification. Now collective suicide (actually the leader taking his
* Yet perpetrators of genocide may themselves take on Protean characteristics as they. experiment with limitless human manipulation and violence.   
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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