Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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[psychopa…] thy) as well as doubling and numbing. These half-educated men abound among both the killing professionals and the professional killers.

As we have learned from Nazi doctors and their assistants, functions can be reversed: killing professionals can murder directly, and professional killers can contribute to planning and technology. Everybody can join the killing. As we evoke images of Dr. Pfannmüller demonstrating to visitors an emaciated infant he was starving to death, of Mengele utilizing scrupulous medical technique as he injected phenol into a victim’s heart, or of Klehr performing the same injection without benefit of a medical education — we are hard put to distinguish one killer from another.

Indeed, the two groups are drawn together by the shared secret that is not quite a secret; by a mix of ideology, ethos, corruptibility; and by accumulated evil. Together they constitute a killing élite. They are given special privileges and take on a more-than-natural aura. Even as they kill they can be looked upon as the standard for the endless purification justifying the killing, as the “children of the gods.” The SS, for instance, was to constitute the ideal Nordic type as well as to take responsibility for eliminating. virtually all others. And should more of one’s own people be included in the genocidal project, always a possibility, the élite killers would be expected to survive, or at least be the last to die. On the one hand their taint of death and evil is likely to increase, in their own as well as in others’ eyes. But on the other hand they become the carriers of the immortal racial-cultural substance. Only by either dying heroically or endlessly surviving — the two patterns are closely related — can they promote and articulate the immortalizing project they serve. 
The Technology of Genocide 
One cannot say that any particular level of technology is required for genocide: the Turks killed about one million Armenians by means of shooting, clubbing, beating, slave labor, starvation, and other forms of torture. The Nazis killed millions of Jews by the same crude methods, even without benefit of gas chambers.

Higher technologies render the killing more efficient, in time and numbers, and in easing the psychological burden of the perpetrators. A clear example is the Nazi sequence from face-to-face shooting to fatal injections and carbon monoxide gas chambers to cyanide gas: the sequence, to paraphrase Ernst B., from pre-craftsmanship to craftsmanship to modern technology. The sequence helps eliminate the impediment of empathy, of experiencing one’s victims as fellow human beings.

As Auschwitz achieved its peak function of killing more than twenty thousand Jews in one twenty-four-hour period, with their bodies burned either in crematoria or open pits, “the capacity for destruction was approaching the point of being unlimited.” Now after years “ in constant  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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