Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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not only the technology of genocide but much of its ideological rationale, moral climate, and organizational process.

Ironically, these very professional groups, lumped together as “intellectuals,” are likely to be a particular object of scorn for the genocidal regime. Rolf Hochhuth, for instance, has spoken of Hitler as the culmination of  “a long tradition of contempt for intellectuals, for reason and the things of the mind.” Indeed; the regime’s leaders were likely to equate this educated group with those who must be victimized: “The moment Goebbels began to equate Jews with intellectuals his hatred of them became homicidal.”112

Hitler recognized the regime’s need for particular professional groups, and its determination to make functionaries of those professionals; he issued a call to healers and thinkers to take leadership in destroying healing and thinking as they had known them. For the principle of annihilation of the mind, orchestrated by the most educated, precedes, accompanies, and motivates genocide throughout.

The susceptibility of professionals to extreme environments, including genocidal ones, is suggested by the sequence now familiar to us in one German profession: from ordinary doctors (before 1933), to Nazi doctors (1933-45), to ordinary doctors (after 1945). Doctors reflect the more general tendency to claim virtue for maintaining under duress the function of a profession, especially a healing profession, even when that duress includes participating in genocide.

Recall the description of Heyde, the psychiatrist in charge of direct medical killing, as “a Nazi who was not really a scientist but who with the help of science became the mouthpiece for the Nazis.” When that “help of science” includes a healing claim, professionals can move to the farthest shore of evil. That journey requires the kind of immersion in ideology with its promise of a unified worldview and of knowledge put to passionate purpose, an immersion toward which the educated are especially inclined.

Consider two Nobel Prize winners’ embrace of the concept of “Aryan physics,” and a great psychoanalyst’s insistence upon sharp distinctions between “Aryan” and “Jewish” psychology.113 Intellectuals can all too readily welcome relief from the burden of thought, as described by Karl Stern in depicting “a peculiar brand of irrationalism” that took hold of German colleagues at the psychiatric institute where he worked — a “mysticism which opposed itself to Reason” — but, we may add, came to do so always in the name of science.114

Even members of the victimized group can join in this process of taking science almost anywhere. Otto Weininger, himself a Jew, described Judaism as “the greatest negation,” as “the abyss over which Christianity is erected,” and as Christ's own “original sin.”115* Not only is Weininger expressing extraordinary self-hate, but he shows how far psychology and
* Weininger’s Sex and Character, published in 1903, was said to have been admired by Hitler in its polarity of Aryan attributes and Jewish nonhumanity.116   
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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