The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide

The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide

by Robert Jay Lifton


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780465093397
Publisher: Basic Books
Publication date: 05/16/2017
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 592
Sales rank: 269,309
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.80(d)

About the Author

Robert Jay Lifton is a lecturer in Psychiatry at Columbia University and distinguished professor emeritus of psychiatry and psychology at the City University of New York. He has previously taught at Yale and Harvard medical schools. A leading American Psychiatrist, Lifton is the author of many widely acclaimed works, including Death in Life: Survivors of Hiroshima, winner of the National Book Award.

Table of Contents

Preface to the 2017 Edition vii

Preface to the 2000 Edition xi

Foreword xv

Introduction: "This World Is Not This World" 3

Part I "Life Unworthy of Life": The Genetic Cure

Introduction to Part I 21

1 Sterilization and the Nazi Biomedical Vision 22

2 "Euthenasia": Direct Medical Killing 45

3 Resistance to Direct Medical Killing 80

4 "Wild Euthanasia": The Doctors Take Over 96

5 Participants 103

6 Bringing "Euthanasia" to the Camps: Action Special Treatment 14f13 134

Part II Auschwitz: The Racial Cure

Introduction to Part II 147

7 The Auschwitz Institution 152

8 Selections on the Ramp 163

9 Selection in the Camp 180

10 Socialization to Killing 193

11 Prisoner Doctors: The Agony of Selections 214

12 Prisoner Doctors: Struggles to Heal 226

13 Prisoner Doctors: Collaboration with Nazi Doctors 239

14 Killing with Syringes: Phenol Injections 254

15 The Experimental Impulse 269

16 "A Human Being in an SS Uniform": Ernst B. 303

17 Dr. Auschwitz: Josef Mengele 337

18 Healing-Killing Conflict: Eduard Wirths 384

Part III The Psychology of Genocide

Introduction to Part III 417

19 Doubling: The Faustian Bargain 418

20 The Auschwitz Self: Psychological Themes in Doubling 430

21 Genocide 466

Afterword: Bearing Witness 501

List of Abbreviations 506

Notes 507

Acknowledgments 540

Index 545

What People are Saying About This

Francine du Plessix Gray

A monumental achievement; an awesome account of the ultimate transgression of the Hippocratic Oath; a formidable contribution to Holocaust Studies.

Raul Hilberg

Must reading....The book as a whole stands without competition in the English language.

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Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide 4.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
AxelleDarkleigh on LibraryThing 2 days ago
Wonderfully written and well informing.
aulsmith on LibraryThing 2 days ago
This is a very frightening book about how ordinary people end up doing horrific things. If you think you could never be involved in an atrocity, I recommend reading this book and finding out just how hard it is to avoid given certain coersive circumstances.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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ian75 More than 1 year ago
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.