Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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give them special priority, while contributing to a partial sense that one is not murdering people at all but doing something benign. This deamplification of language — with its attendant numbing, denial, and derealization — may extend to the point of relative silence, thereby maintaining the mixture of part-secrecy and “middle knowledge” likely to surround genocide.

Max Weber, though recognizing the necessity of bureaucracies, was acutely aware of their danger, especially to the mind. He equated bureaucracy with the “inanimate machine” of “mind objectified” and saw the phenomenon of bureaucratic organization as “busy fabricating the shell of bondage which men will perhaps be forced to inhabit some day, as powerless as the fellahs of ancient Egypt.”130 The Nazi genocidal project demonstrated that the human structure can be rendered relatively “inanimate” and “machine”-like, and the mind of bureaucratic perpetrators sufficiently “objectified” that the killing was rarely experienced in human terms, as vital beings murdering other vital beings. An important part of bureaucratic function is its sealing off of perpetrators from outside influences, so that intrabureaucratic concerns become the entire universe of discourse. What can result has been termed “group think,” a process by which bureaucracies can make decisions that are disastrous for all concerned and, when viewed retrospectively, wildly inappropriate and irrational. Irving Janis attributes “group think” to the collective need for cohesiveness and unity and to the avoidance of the kind of conflict engendered by dissenting voices.131 But when the group concerned is a genocidal bureaucracy, there is a powerful impulse, both from without and within, to create absolute barriers of thought and feeling between itself and the outside world. Only then can the strange assumptions of virtue within the group be maintained: ideological (“We are doing this for revitalization of our people”), technical (“What is most efficient is best for everyone”), and therapeutic (“We are healing our race and going about it as humanely as possible”).

The genocidal bureaucracy contributes also to collective feelings of inevitability. The elaborateness of the bureaucracy’s organization conveys a sense of the inexorable — that one might as well (as perpetrator or, victim). go along because nothing can be done. The bureaucracy’s structure and function — the murderous flow of its action — becomes itself the rationale, as clarity of cause and effect gives way to a sense not only of inevitability but of necessity.

Ancillary bureaucracies can be all too readily enlisted to carry out the genocide, as in the case of the German railroad organization in transporting Jews to the death camps while holding strictly to its own conventional bureaucratic routine (see page 446).132

Under certain circumstances, victims' bureaucracies can be coerced into participating in their own people’s victimization (as, for instance, Judenrat organizations, and also those prisoner doctors who collaborated closely with the Nazis [see chapter, 13]) Perpetrators’ bureaucratic de- [… amplification  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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