Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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sometimes feminine strength) as well as with a special commitment and self-sacrifice: in Himmler’s term, not just ordinary soldiers but “ideological fighters.” They are encouraged, and embrace the opportunity, to view their genocidal project as a military operation: one of subduing “partisans,” as in the case of the Einsatzgruppen; or of “fighting” on the “racial battlefield” against the “dangerous Jewish enemy.”

Himmler was not without psychological accuracy when, in speaking of killer troops, he referred to “the road between the two … possibilities — either to become too brutal … heartless and no longer respect human life, or to become weak and be pushed to the point of a nervous breakdown”; he added that “the road between this Scylla and Charybdis is frightfully narrow.” While he was wrong in his conclusion that the road had been taken “without any mental and spiritual harm to our men and our leaders,”119 he was exploring the limits of the human capacity for numbing and doubling on behalf of mass killing. Nor were numbing and doubling rendered superfluous by the higher technology of Auschwitz killing, as suggested by a drunken Birkenau Blockführer who was overheard to say: “Mother, if you knew that your son has become a murderer!”120

Genocidal organizers are likely to combine corps spirit with literal mobilization of criminality. The Turks made extensive use of criminals in their genocide against Armenians, and the Nazis did the same in bringing to Auschwitz a large contingent of criminals to help set up and run the camp. Traditional criminality and corps spirit can of course be combined, as they were when the SS adopted a policy of welcoming criminals to its ranks and using them for murderous tasks. The Nazis made extensive use of other outside groups, including ethnic Germans from various parts of Europe, Ukranians, Latvians, and Lithuanians.

Men are drawn to these groups of professional killers by destructive psychological traits that can be considered psychopathic, but also by omnipotence and sadism, aggressiveness and violence, and inclinations toward numbing and doubling that are within an ordinary social range. Such is the potential human store of these traits that they can be all too readily combined with elements of ideology and military discipline to form efficient killing units. 
The “Half-Educated Man”  
Professionals who kill and professional killers in many ways merge. One link is the “half-educated man” or “half-intellectual” common among the Nazis (see page 452). He can assume prominence in genocide by bringing to the project certain necessary elements: the smattering of knowledge that can enable one to ideologize radically the professional sphere and to embrace wholeheartedly false theories; rage and bitter envy toward those with authentic professional qualifications; and tendencies toward destructive and violent behavior (sometimes full psychopa- […thy]  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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