Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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[de…] amplification can contribute to that participation of victims, and to victims’ own distancing from, and resistance to, the truth about the mass murder of their fellows. (Hence the failure of many Jews in Germany and Europe to recognize the danger they faced, and the relative inactivity of most American Jews despite increasing evidence of Jewish genocide in Europe.)

The combination of relative silence and organizational reach puts the bureaucracy in the best position to plan the details of genocide. That original involvement in planning contributes in turn to the bureaucracy's normalization of a genocidal universe.133 Mass murder is everywhere but at the same time (through the efforts of the bureaucracy) nowhere. There is only a flow of events to which most people in the environment (as Dr. B. said of Auschwitz doctors) come to say yes. To say no would take one outside that flow, outside of normal social existence, outside of reality. One seeks instead the most “humane” path within the going project.

Yet it is a mistake to speak of bureaucracy as “faceless” and “monolithic.” The faces are there, even if hidden and merged into a mass. And the apparent monolith can encompass divergent and contending positions. These conflicts make up part of the dynamic of any bureaucracy, even in totalistic circumstances. People vary considerably in how they function in bureaucracies, and the bureaucracies themselves vary in their relationships to political regimes. Bureaucracies can give rise to initiative for pursuing genocide, even at relatively low levels (as we have seen to be the case with Nazi bureaucrats, including doctors). That initiative is. likely, to reflect an individual or a group’s keen sense of what is desired by the regime’s leaders, to whom bureaucracies, at least totalistic ones, are likely to be closely attuned.

Bureaucratic practice also contributes to the later cover-up of genocide by not only dampening everyone’s responses but also serving to hide individual perpetrators. The attempt of German doctors to suppress the truth of their profound involvement in Nazi genocide is a case in point, even if that attempt eventually failed; there were similar patterns in Armenian genocide.

Bureaucracy, then, does much to render into a machine the human killing network and to deamplify the killing process for all concerned: the experience of killing for perpetrators, and the actuality of killing for bystanders and potential victims. But bureaucratic deamplification and hiding should not be confused with nonresponsibility.  
The Genocidal Self 
No individual self is inherently evil, murderous, genocidal. Yet under certain conditions virtually any self is capable of becoming all of these. A self is not a thing or a person but an inclusive representation or symboliza- […tion]  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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