Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide

Overview


A brilliant analysis and history of the crucial role that German doctors played in Nazi genocide.

This powerful study, the result of ten years of painstaking research and extensive interviews, casts new light not only on the origins of the Holocaust, but explains how physicians, sworn by oath and conviction to ease suffering, were transformed from healers to systematic killers.

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Overview


A brilliant analysis and history of the crucial role that German doctors played in Nazi genocide.

This powerful study, the result of ten years of painstaking research and extensive interviews, casts new light not only on the origins of the Holocaust, but explains how physicians, sworn by oath and conviction to ease suffering, were transformed from healers to systematic killers.

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Editorial Reviews

Boston Globe
The renowned psychiatrist's most powerful and important book-a brilliant analysis and history of the crucial role that German doctors played in Nazi genocide. In a new introduction, Lifton considers the medicalized killing of more recent mass murders and how ordinary people become socialized to genocide.
Robert Coles
A powerful reminder not only of what happened, but of the monumental evil done by particular human beings who were trained to heal and cure.
—The Boston Globe
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465049059
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 4/28/1988
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 2000
  • Pages: 500
  • Sales rank: 234,271
  • Lexile: 1460L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 9.20 (w) x 6.08 (h) x 1.48 (d)

Meet the Author


Robert Jay Lifton is Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology at John Jay College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, and at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. He is also director of the Center on Violence and Human Survival. Dr. Lifton is the author of many books, including The Nazi Doctors and Death in Life: Survivors of Hiroshima, which won the National Book Award.
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 24, 2006

    Must Reading on the Holocaust

    This is a straightforward examination of the Auschwitz 'healing-killing balance' that medical doctors, nurses, and others, participated in during the Nazi reign of power. The author, a Jewish Psychiatrist, interviewed numerous participants, including SS doctors, prisoner-doctors, nurses and survivors, and examined exhaustive historical documents in compiling the work. The book begins with a fact-based approach to inform the reader of exactly what did happen in the camp and takes great care to separate fact from fiction. All of the facts are here concerning the gas chamber mass executions, the ramp selections at the train station where a physician decided in an instant who was to live and who was to die, isolated death injections, the killing of children and adults with physical impairments or disabilities ('life unworthy of life'), forced slave labor, starvation, and medical experiments on human beings. The author then turns to an examination of the key participants in the atrocities, including the infamous Josef Mengele - 'the Angel of Death.' Finally, the author examines Auschwitz from the psychological perspective of the perpetrators. A thorough discussion of 'enabling' factors that were key in desensitizing the doctors to such an extent that they could kill innocent human beings, either individuals or groups at a time. Additionally, the various psychological coping mechanisms employed by the doctors are also identified and discussed, including distancing, doubling, ideology-based rationalization, and others. This work is altogether the best I've read on the subject. It is not for the faint of heart and the descriptions are quite graphic. I consider this book a 'must read' on the subjects of German History, Nazi History, World War II, or Military Psychology. This is a comprehensive, complete analysis of the subject that pulls no punches.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 3, 2003

    Medical Care Turned Upside Down

    This book is well written and easy to understand without being dumbed-down. While explaining possible causes for the holocaust after extensive interviews, Lifton doesn't excuse it. He doesn't focus on the atrocities but on the psychology that brought about the holocaust. Lifton proposes that when an outside threat is combined with fear of an internal moral breakdown, citizens willingly give up their liberties to a strong leader. He explains that the U.S.A. was the leader in forced sterilization and the Nazi's followed our lead. Then Nazis began the extermination of handicapped and mentally ill Germans under the pretext of emptying hospitals for the military if a war started. Lifton tells the heart breaking story about a doctor who assumed that his mental patients would have to do forced labor, so he stated that they were infirm. The next time he was given paper work, he stated that they were physically capable of doing labor. Lifton makes it clear that some German gentile physicians were prisoners at camps, and the camps were first developed for German gentiles. He focuses on prisoner and SS physicians in Auschwitz. By being convinced that Jews were an external medical plague, the SS physicians felt that they were ridding Germany of a disease. Because of the loss of qualified medical instructors, SS doctors lacked basic skills, such as gall bladder surgery. They learned these skills in camps, which helped them to feel that the camps were large medical training centers. Lifton tells of herioc efforts by prisoner physicians to save people and the unusual relationships that developed between prisoner physicians and their physician captors.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 3, 2010

    "This world is not our world"

    This book describes the Holocaust from the time of Hitler's rise to the liberation of the last concentration camps, all from the "doctors" perspective. The killing started with the sterilization of the weak chosen by a board of doctors. It escalated to the "euthanasia" of the mentally ill and those with large bodily mutations. This escalated to the killing of everyone considered "Life unworthy of Life" hence the killing of the Jews. Due to the slow progression that this medical killing took the doctors were okay with doing it. They were not able to consider the ethics of the situation and what they were doing.
    Robert Lifton uses a unique writing style for this book, in order to get a firm understanding on the subject he had to conduct many interviews, in order to view the situation from all angles. Lifton writes about the Holocaust in chronological order and from as many angles as possible but exploring the doctors' view the most. It is a slow book, I think, due to how much information is needed to explain each step of the Holocaust. This information is presented in a very monogamous tone throughout the book. This makes the book much harder to read. There are a few parts in which Lifton tells stories that are absolutely riveting; however, they are only pepper throughout the book. If you have a hard time staying into books then this is not one for you. I was very interested in the subject before reading and am now much more aware of the subject, and unfortunately much less interested. If you are interested in this subject this is a book you should consider reading, because you will be able to see it in a whole different light which can sometimes make you consider what you thought about the Holocaust before incorrect.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 6, 2012

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 26, 2011

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