|The form of witness too is unusual in that it concerns
perpetrators and stems largely from their words, and yet differs radically from
the witness most of them wished me to bear. What made it possible for me to
bear a different witness were the contributions of victims and survivors.
Physician survivors, in the observations and perspective they provided, lent
support to my own sense of self and to my way of bearing witness.
I have tried to chart is a particular sequence of human actions involved in a
particular form of mass murder and genocide that of medicalized killing.
My witness is to the fact that doctors killed and did so in the name. of
healing, and includes questions of how, in what way, and why.
witness does not end with the Nazis. I want to extract from what they did
whatever can be psychologically useful for us to know now. Nazi doctors doubled
in murderous ways; so can others. Doubling provides a connecting principle
between the murderous behavior of Nazi doctors and the universal potential for
just such behavior. The same is true of the capacity to murder endlessly in the
name of national-racial cure. Under certain conditions, just about anyone can
join a collective call to eliminate every last one of the alleged group of
carriers of the germ of death.
Yet my conclusion is by no
means that we are all Nazis. We are not all Nazis. That accusation
eliminates precisely the kind of moral distinctions we need to make. One of
these distinctions concerns how, with our universal potential for murder and
genocide, we for the most part hold back from such evil. A sensitive healer
aghast at discovering her own impulses to slap a patient who had become unruly
wrote to me of this problem of our daily humanity. But we learn
from the Nazis not only the crucial distinction between impulse and act, but
the critical importance of larger ideological currents in connecting the two in
ways that result in mass evil. Those connections and steps are my witness
not the undifferentiated moral condemnation of everybody.
there is an additional witness I cannot avoid making: the bearing of this study
on the nuclear technology of genocide which now haunts us all. The Holocaust we
have been examining can help us avoid the next one. We need consider only the
possible transfer to the nuclear-weapons threat not only of individual doubling
but of all of these genocidal principles: the fear of the germ of
death, of a contagious illness (Soviet communism or American capitalism)
threatening the life of the group (the United States or the Soviet Union); a
promise of revitalizing cure via an absolutized vision (of American virtue and
Soviet evil, or the reverse) that justifies killing them all and
excludes the suicidal dimension of that vision; the mobilization of claims of
spiritual altruism and scientific. truth, and of opportunities for
transcendence, as one presses toward mass killing in the name of healing; the
designation of killing professionals and professional killers for the task,
along with increasingly perfected technology and high bureaucratic organization
that radically deamplify the genocidal actions; and finally, the creation of a