Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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people with him in death) has the future-oriented message that the genocidal cure must go on. In the way that “the blood of Christ in the Sacrament was to be replaced by the blood of the German war dead,” 103 the blood of one’s own people and of oneself must now supplement that mythic blood bank.

The process may be still more paradoxical: just as one reasserts immortalizing principles in killing oneself, so may the self-genocide of the people, mainly engendered by a leader, seek to assert the immortalization of the whole people. The perpetrating individual or the group, that is, is cured by its own self-destruction. Then there can be no danger of hidden infection, of “inner Judaization.” Purification and sacrifice are absolute. Self-destruction may well be the only logical outcome of truly committed genocide. 
Medical Fundamentalism 
If you are curing a sickness, anything is permissible. That image of cure lends itself to the restorative myth of state violence and to the literal enactment of that myth. Attitudes associated with modern nationalism — the healing of the wounds of one’s own extended biological group or family — can readily move the myth into the territory of genocide. The myth of collective cure can then become associated with a cosmology and even approach a biologically centered state religion. Rites and rituals are established, which increasingly organize the meaning of life for individual people around the struggle to cure the wounded race by assaulting relentlessly the source of its infection. Differing nationalisms may give their own coloration to the process — “Each country develops its own sickness, medicine, and doctor”104 — but the genocidal reach is associated with the image of killing to cure.

We may then speak of a medical fundamentalism. In all fundamentalisms, and they are usually religious or political, there is the sense of profound threat to what are considered fundamental beliefs and symbols, and a compensatory invocation of a sacred text (the Bible, the Koran, Mein Kampf) as a literal guide to every form of action.105 History stops so that murderous therapy can be applied. While medicine does not provide the sacred text, one can revert to ancient practices of shamans, witch doctors, and tricksters who could be expected to kill in order to heal. For physicians as well as charismatic spiritual physicians, there is a release from Hippocratic restraint. George Santayana wrote in 1915, “The Germans have been groping for four hundred years toward a restoration of their primitive heathenism,”106 and we may say that they found the means of doing so in their medical fundamentalism.

Susan Sontag has written that “the concept of disease is never innocent,” and that “to describe a phenomenon as a cancer is an incitement to violence.”107 Armenians were described as “a canker, a malignance which looks like a small pimple from the outside, which, if not removed  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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