Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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you reconcile that with your [Hippocratic] oath as a doctor?” His answer was, “Of course I am a doctor and I want to preserve life. And out of respect for human life, I would remove a gangrenous appendix from a diseased body. The Jew is the gangrenous appendix in the body of mankind.”9

The medical imagery was still broader. Just as Turkey during the nineteenth century (because of the extreme decline of the Ottoman empire) was known as the “sick man of Europe,” so did pre-Hitler ideologues and Hitler himself interpret Germany’s post-First World War chaos and demoralization as an “illness,” especially of the Aryan race. Hitler wrote in Mein Kampf, in the mid-1920s, that “anyone who wants to cure this era, which is inwardly sick and rotten, must first of all summon up the courage to make clear the causes of this disease.10 The diagnosis was racial. The only genuine “culture-creating” race, the Aryans, had permitted themselves to be weakened to the point of endangered survival by the “destroyers of culture,” characterized as “the Jew.” The Jews were agents of “racial pollution” and “racial tuberculosis,” as well as parasites and bacteria causing sickness, deterioration, and death in the host peoples they infested. They were the “eternal bloodsucker,” “vampire,” “germ carrier,” “peoples’ parasite,” and “maggot in a rotting corpse.” The cure had to be radical: that is (as one scholar put it), by “cutting out the ‘canker of decay,’ propagating the worthwhile elements and letting the less valuable wither away, . . . [and] ‘the extirpation of all those categories of people considered to be worthless or dangerous.’” 12

Medical metaphor blended with concrete biomedical ideology in the Nazi sequence from coercive sterilization to direct medical killing to the death camps. The unifying principle of the biomedical ideology was that of a deadly racial disease, the sickness of the Aryan race; the cure, the killing of all Jews.

Thus, for Hans Frank, jurist and General Governor of Poland during the Nazi occupation, “the Jews were a lower species of life, a kind of vermin, which upon contact infected the German people with deadly diseases.” When the Jews in the area he ruled had been killed, he declared that “now a sick Europe would become healthy again.”13 It was a religion of the will — the will as “an all-encompassing metaphysical principle”; 14 and what the Nazis “willed” was nothing less than total control over life and death. While this view is often referred to as “social Darwinism,” the term applies only loosely, mostly to the Nazi stress on natural “struggle” and on “survival of the fittest." The regime actually rejected much of Darwinism; since evolutionary theory is more or less democratic in its assumption of a common beginning for all races, it is therefore at odds with the Nazi principle of inherent Aryan racial virtue.15

Even more specific to the biomedical vision was the crude genetic imagery, combined with still cruder eugenic visions (see pages 23-24). Here Heinrich Himmler, as high priest, spoke of the leadership’s task as being “like the plant-breeding specialist who, when he wants to breed a pure  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

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